By Sophia Kim
For most people, ninth grade is a difficult, yet memorable year that can be looked back on for a lifetime. Despite these difficulties or perhaps because of them, however, in the process, students make new memories and learn lessons that make them stronger human beings.
The following are some of my own reflections of this year as a freshman student at Council Rock North, as well as some insights from a few of my classmates.
Expectations vs Reality
As an upcoming ninth grader, I had some fears for high school, as most people do. I was mostly concerned about the change in workload, sleep schedule, and teachers. I feared that homework would take up most of my free time after school, isolating me from friends and classmates. Although I did struggle in managing time, I found that my classmates and I naturally communicated and worked together more than in we did in middle school. After school, we asked each other questions or reminded each other of due dates.
Waking up earlier than I had been for the past two years also concerned me. In the beginning of the year, the new wake-up time proved to be difficult to adjust to. Nevertheless, as the year progressed, my sleep schedule became more natural and I got used to sleeping less.
Before I started to settle in, I expected classes to be fast-paced and for teachers to be stricter than those in middle school. In contrast, I saw that teachers at North were extremely helpful and encouraging. They always offered times for students to get extra help and encouraged them to ask questions before moving on to new topics.
As a freshman, I faced a variety of problems that I did not experience as a middle schooler. For example, in past years, my habit of procrastinating did not affect me much. It was possible to put off homework and assignments and still complete them in a reasonable manner. In contrast, this year, my poor time management resulted in a great deal of stress and frustration. Due to the constant workload of all classes, procrastinating led to many late nights doing homework and ineffectively studying for tests, an unsustainable lifestyle.
Michael Moldavchuk, a 9th grader at North, stated that the most difficult aspect of this year for him was “adapting to the much higher workload of high school and managing my time to complete it.”
Julianna Trahey and Kate Logan faced a different predicament relating to time management: maintaining a balance between school work and home life.
Trahey commented that a challenging aspect of freshman year was “balancing a social life with academics.” Logan further explained that “every second could have been filled with homework and studying, but my family and friends are just as and even more important than getting straight A’s.”
When school work is so demanding, the normal routine inevitably must change. Adjusting to a more school-oriented schedule is tough for students who never experienced such a high level of stress before.
As freshman Alex Liu described, “The most difficult part [of this year] was adapting to the new workload and different lifestyle of high school.”
Nonetheless, through these challenges, students of the class of 2022 discovered a great number of meaningful lessons that will be useful for the future.
One of the most important values I learned this year was acceptance. In 7th and 8th grade, I developed a habit of thinking that I needed to put my absolute best work forward at all times. Although this mindset can help students reach their full potential and encourage them to be more productive, this way of thinking can also be detrimental.
The fast-moving environment of high school changed my attitude toward my grades. It is not humanly possible to always put your full effort into everything. It is more important to prioritize certain assignments over others and to work yourself only to a certain point.
As Julia LaPlante reflected, “I learned to not stress myself out over everything.” I learned to accept a lower grade once in a while. Additionally, I recognized that allowing a bad grade to motivate me is much more productive than letting it bring me down.
Logan seemed to have a similar realization. She said, “I learned that in order to be happy, you have to go through rough patches, because if you don’t, you will take happiness for granted. I also learned that sometimes you have to let go and be okay with a bad grade because nobody is perfect.”
I walked into freshman year ready to tackle whatever was thrown at me. Oftentimes I prioritized work over sleep and saw negative results. I was tired and irritable the next day and found it hard to stay awake in my afternoon classes. When I began to go to bed earlier and got a reasonable amount of sleep, my attitude drastically improved and I could be mentally present throughout the entire school day.
I realized that even if I hadn’t accomplished everything I wanted to get done in one day, I could at least be refreshed and ready for the next. Through difficult experiences, I learned the importance of sleep and taking care of my brain in that way.
A final lesson that I took away from freshman year was the power of staying connected with my peers and teachers. Throughout our first year of high school, my classmates and I went through hardships that we never tackled before. However, with assistance from friends and teachers, we could deal with problems more efficiently and with less stress than if we dealt with them alone.
Jamie Perera stated that she learned the importance of “seeking help when [she] needed it” while Liu learned a lot about “collaboration with peers.” Freshman year taught me about working as a team with my classmates and helping each other when possible. The high school experience is much more memorable that way.
If I could go back and fix certain aspects of my freshman year, I would be more organized and disciplined with my homework. I brought unneeded stress on myself by not planning and spreading out work throughout the course of a week. If I had been more diligent in working on certain assignments every day, some even little by little, I would have been much more productive and prepared for school every day.
Many of my classmates can attest to this same experience. For example, Abhi Bolisetti said that he saw “how important it is to prioritize tasks because not everything can be accomplished in one day.”
In addition, Moldavchuk, Trahey, and Liu all felt that this year they were tested with learning proper time management.
When reflecting upon my freshman year at North, I also regret coming into school many days with a negative mindset. Whether I was anxious for a test or simply still tired in the morning, I made my day more stressful by focusing on the negatives rather than the positives. When I came into school letting go of certain shortcomings I felt, I performed better on tests and could pay better attention in class.
I also wish I would have joined more clubs at CRN. In the few clubs that I joined this year, I met people of different ages and interests. Meeting new people broadened my perspective on my fellow students at North and helped me better involve myself in my school community.
Most Memorable Aspects of the Year
Something I will always remember about ninth grade is how close I felt with my classmates. As we journeyed through the new school together, we all faced similar hardships. All of us experienced difficulty in adjusting to the school. Recognizing our similar experiences was in itself encouraging and helped us move forward. Additionally, it was amazing to see my classmates learn to navigate the building that would be our school for the next three years.
Caitlin Leach and Bolisetti both recalled how being with friends helped the year go more smoothly for them. Leach stated, “Even though there was a lot of work, I had fun being with my friends and going to activities.”
According to Bolisetti, “The high school experience is much better if you join clubs and activities you enjoy with friends.”
While sticking to familiar faces is comforting, we met so many new friends that we will share our high school journey with as well. Perera described that “there were people I wouldn’t have met [otherwise] who turned out to be some of the coolest friends…”
Freshman year is finally over, and it turned out to be both one of the most difficult and eye-opening experiences of my life.