Freshman vs. High School


Freshmen experience high school life in all sorts of ways. High school is the place where you get the chance to discover yourself and pursue many of your likes and interests, and it all starts with freshmen year. These freshman finally get to grasp concepts like freedom and maturity. However, anytime someone begins a new chapter in life, things have the potential to feel strange and uncomfortable.

Prior to entering high school, incoming freshmen tend to have many stereotypical expectations of what the year is going to be like. For example, being bullied, having a heavy work load, and getting lost. Being the youngest of the four different grades, freshmen tend to feel “unwanted”  or intimidated by upperclassmen. With the size difference, and the fact that the upperclassmen have much more high school experience, these novices stand out amongst the crowd and unknowingly act as targets for potential bullying. Stereotypically, walking the hallways of high school as a freshman is like walking through a lightning storm while holding a metal rod expecting something bad to happen. Another stereotypical expectation most freshman have before entering high school is having a heavy work load. High school teachers tend to have higher expectations for high school students as opposed to middle school students, which implies the idea of “more work and less play” on these incoming freshmen. Freshmen expect to be spending countless hours on homework and less time with extra curricular activities. This higher expectation also tends to influence the importance of grades on these their minds which can cause stress and anxiety while trying to make the adjustment to high school life. The third and most common stereotypical expectation for incoming freshmen is getting lost. Even though many schools hold special “move up days” to show the freshmen around the school beforehand, the stress of not being able to locate their classes and not getting to class on time worries freshmen the most. There is nothing worse than roaming the halls of high school alone and not knowing where to go next. The question is however, how did the freshmen of Ipswich High School feel upon entering high school, and how well were their expectations met? Also, have any freshmen teachers taken these stereotypical expectations the freshmen might have into consideration, and what actions do these teachers typically take to make the freshmen feel welcomed here?

I had the chance to talk to Ipswich’s own freshmen, Rachel Jaeger and Nell Hanna who both stated, “I thought high school was going to be really hard before I actually got to experience it for a month.” Like most freshman, Rachel and Nell both had the impressions that high school was going to be a big change for them, expecting a heavier work load and a tougher grading system. Before high school they also expected to experience a sense of isolation from upperclassmen, “I thought each grade would be by themselves instead of being all mixed together,” said Nell. In one of Rachel’s closing statements regarding how well her expectations for high school were met she said, “I thought there would be more homework and tests than there actually are.” Even though it is still early in the school year, Rachel and Nell seem to be adjusting to high school life better than they had expected.

For Mrs. Whitman, one of Ipswich High School’s math teachers, freshmen are of great importance. When I had a chance to chat with Mrs. Whitman she explained about a specific program called the RTI program when asked about freshman and taking their expectations into consideration. “The RTI program at Ipswich is run by Mr. Fitzgerald, and its goal is to catch any obvious struggling freshman and get them on the right track.” Mrs. Whitman has also taken the expectations of freshmen into consideration herself. “I have excessive contact with freshmen parents as a way of accommodating them, especially first semester students, so that they have a better transition into high school.” When asked how she felt about the freshman’s overall transition into high school so far, she stated, “when they first entered high school their behavior was fine, but they now appear to be not as nervous and more comfortable.” The expectations of freshmen at Ipswich High School prior to their entry closely matched the stereotypical expectations freshmen tend to have, but teachers like Mrs. Mrs. Whitman (center) and studentsWhitman and the ones active in the RTI program have made all the difference in helping these students take the first few steps in the right direction in their four year journey through high school.