The View From the Middle: Pre-High School Perceptions of Acalanes

By Mason Archer and Liam McGlynn, Sports Editor and News Editor

// Transitions are never easy. One of the most complicated life changes can be entering a new school. As eighth-graders progress from middle school to high school, this stressful transition places burdens on students as they try to adjust to a new environment.

   Along with the difficulty of this transition, many middle-schoolers already arrive in high school with worries perpetuated by predetermined stereotypes.

   Common stereotypes such as academic rigor, partying, intimidating upperclassmen and more lead eighth-graders to construct various perceptions of what high school will be like.

   But while the views of many eighth-graders tend to be consistent with reality in high school, after attending Acalanes for several months, many freshmen discovered that their expectations of high school varied from reality.

   “I definitely expected a heavier workload, but that didn’t end up being true,” freshman Zach Snyder said.

   With tensions growing in anticipation of entering high school, eighth graders are often anxious about what high school will bring.

   “I was a little nervous; changing schools is always a bit nerve-racking just because it is a new place and you are not used to it,” sophomore Mason Fish said. 

   However, after becoming acclimated to the high school environment, many students at Acalanes find it easy to adjust to their surroundings.

   “After the first semester of freshman year, I was completely settled in and familiar with everything and had met a lot of new people so it definitely didn’t take too long to settle in,” Fish said.

   One major aspect many middle schoolers focus on is the rigor of high school academics.

   “I think the academic level will become more demanding because there will be more work and a lot of studying to do,” eighth-grader Roan Kuiken said.

   Despite the common perspective many eighth-graders share, by the end of the first semester, most freshmen believe that their academics aren’t overwhelming. 

   “I expected a lot more homework and work in general, I think our teachers did a good job leading us into high school and preparing us for the work we are going to get in the next few years.  It was certainly easier than I expected to come to high school,” Snyder said.

   Along with the increase in academic difficulty, interactions between high school teachers and their students differ from those between middle school teachers and their students.

   “I think the teachers talk to us more maturely, I feel like we can have real conversations with them,” Snyder said.

   Hoping to ease the transition between middle school and Acalanes, Acalanes administrators, teachers and counselors organize events to welcome the incoming students into the high school environment. 

   “In the past few years, a couple of teachers and administrators have taken the lead in organizing New Crew with activities for new students on Dons Day and throughout the year.  That definitely helps get things started in a positive way,” counselor Anne Schonauer said.

   Along with the various welcoming activities, freshmen attend several seminars at the beginning of the school year to try and help break the ice as well as gain any additional guidance needed.

   “I think the New Crew and Freshman Seminar activities were helpful; I think it might have gone a little long but it was helpful to understand how the campus works and to understand how to get help if you need it,” Snyder said.

   In addition to the different welcoming activities, counselors meet with each incoming student to provide a safe space at Acalanes.

   “Counselors are a friendly face to help eighth-graders and their parents get to know the school and feel that they have a contact at the school as they get started. For counselors, it’s a great way to start to get to know our students and start building some rapport,” Schonauer said.

  Many eighth-graders find these meetings to be extremely helpful in aiding the transition between schools.

   “It made me feel like I have a place to come to no matter what. It also made me more excited to go to high school knowing there is someone guiding me. All of my small questions about high school were answered, and even though the counselors aren’t students they know a lot about what goes on,” eighth-grader Abbie Palmer said.

   As students enter a new environment, intimidation can also play a considerable role in the way they choose to present themselves.

   “I remember I was worried that the upperclassmen would be scary and that the classes would be extremely hard,” senior Lauren Kobashigawa said.

   Many incoming middle school students also believe that upperclassmen are intimidating, and that they do not want to lose their top-dog status.

   “I know that it will be slightly different because I won’t be at the top of the school anymore, there will be more older kids, and I will definitely be nervous,” Palmer said.

   However, over the course of their freshmen year, many begin to see that upperclassmen are actually friendly and looking to develop relationships.

   “I feel like I have made a lot of new friends, especially upperclassmen that I would not ordinarily get to meet,” Snyder said.

By Allie Marcu

Despite everything that is prevalent among high school culture, partying may be the most prominent difference between middle school and high school.

   “There’s a lot of parties, but it’s high school. I don’t think that many of the parties go too far,” Fish said.

   While current students are well aware of the partying atmosphere at Acalanes, incoming students are often more naive.

   “I don’t think partying plays a big role, but I feel like it’s one of those things where it’s a decision someone has to make for themselves,” eighth-grade Stanley student Ellie Hutson said.

   Though partying is one of the more negative aspects of high school culture, sports also play a big role at Acalanes. One of the most exciting activities that students look forward to is participating in the various sports that Acalanes offers.

   “I am looking forward to playing sports next year, I hope to play three sports my freshman year,” eighth-grader Henry Souza said. 

   Beyond the initial groups that develop at Acalanes, sports remain a popular activity among the student body. With a large number of students participating in sports at Acalanes, many new relationships and bonds form between teammates.

   “Playing sports at Acalanes is great because you can meet new people and learn new abilities,” senior Eddie Gray said.

   After spending four years at Acalanes, many students reflect on having had many positive experiences throughout their high school careers.

   “My experience surpassed my expectations as an 8th grader. I’ve had a great time at Acalanes and wouldn’t trade the past four years for anything,” Kobashigawa said.

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