Many 8th Grade students across the country have recently completed the high school application process and are slowly turning their focus to a new school year in a new school. With the uncertainty of the pandemic still lingering, families may not know exactly what to expect of this significant transition. We have collected some advice from six Woods alumni who started high school this past fall amid the disorder of the pandemic.
Their guidance and thoughts cover a range of topics from meeting new friends to time management to the biggest challenges they faced in their new learning environments. Their words of wisdom may just be the relief that frazzled students and families need to hear right now.
Meeting New Friends
Remember that every one of your classmates will be in the same position as you - nervous about meeting people and making connections. Reach out to your classmates via social media or your school email when you recognize that you have something in common. Participate in the orientations and other beginning of the school year activities that your high school has planned. Given the circumstances of the pandemic, the various high schools went above and beyond planning opportunities for the new first-year students to get to know the school and the community.
Connecting with Teachers
In most cases, your new high school will be much larger than your previous middle school. It will be more challenging to connect with teachers because you will not see them as often, especially if you begin the school year with some form of virtual learning. Be sure to participate in class. That is the best way for your teachers to get to know you. Also, take advantage of office hours or chances to stay after class to talk with your teachers one-on-one. Introduce yourself to your teachers via email, if necessary.
Most everyone assumes that high school will be a step up from middle school. The schedule, the workload, the teacher expectations will all increase. The best way to manage all of this is to fill up your schedule. Get involved in the community and fill your time with meaningful activities. Use a planner to schedule your days and weeks. Take advantage of short breaks you may have during the school day, between classes, or after school before extracurricular activities. Most importantly, put your phone away when you are doing homework or studying.
As mentioned above, filling your schedule with meaningful activities is the best way to manage your time. Joining clubs is a great way to connect with students that have passions and interests similar to yours, meet new friends especially upper-class students, and get to know other faculty members. Many clubs are meeting virtually even though students are attending classes in person which makes participation even easier.
Sports are another great way to connect with students and faculty members in your new high school. Even during the pandemic, high schools are offering modified sports seasons as well as other extracurricular activities that focus on health and wellness.
'Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy'
As long as you stay positive, the easiest thing about starting high school during a pandemic will be the transition to your new community. The students, faculty, and administration will be welcoming and understanding making sure you have what you need to be successful. Remember, you are in the same boat as all of your classmates.
'Stressed Depressed Lemon Zest'
Heads up! The workload in high school is intense. Do not be shocked. Be prepared. That is where the time management tips come into play. You may also find that the various class schedules and teacher expectations are quite different from middle school. Knowing and expecting this can make all the difference when the school year starts.
The Big Picture
Regardless of the current health crisis, it is important to look at high school long-term, a four-year adventure. While many will start their high school career with COVID-19 still in the headlines, realize that there will be time at your new school that is not overshadowed by the pandemic. Think of all the possibilities that await you in high school. Do not be afraid to try new things and step outside your comfort zone. Know that you have been well-prepared by the teachers and your experiences at The Woods Academy.
The above advice was originally shared via "Starting High School During a Pandemic" a webinar hosted by The Woods Academy on December 9, 2020 for our Grade 8 families.
Special thanks to Head of School Joe Powers, High School Placement Coordinator JP Clubbs, and our student panelists from the Class of 2020 Mia Priest (St. John's), Alexa Powers (Holy Child), Daniel Gaul (Georgetown Prep), Charlie Wooters (Gonzaga), Ariana Plotas (Stone Ridge), and Becky Island (Georgetown Visitation) for participating in the event.