Updated: Aug 31, 2022
by Iris Poncin
You find yourself at a strange school, despite it being summer. A giant campus yet you’ve been instructed to take classes in a singular hallway of petite buildings. The sea of young and unaware faces greet you warmly, but you can tell they’re just as scared as you are. The shaking crowd filters into their respective rooms, class starts as normal, and freshman year slowly melts into senior graduation. This is what you expected your first day of high school to be, but 2020 has another plan for you. The month of villains, monsters under our beds, and pumpkin-themed everything, October, marks the first quarterly freshman check-in. This year the monsters were invited to creep into the comfort of SOAR homes, but what chills our freshmen to the bone?
“What's your biggest fear?”
“Getting bad grades.”, said every SOAR student ever. The general anxiety of both upper and lower classmen to perform well has often been perceived as over the top efforts, but most have grown to use it as motivation.
After polling 21 freshmen, it became extremely clear that most among the class of 24 fear failure, only second to loneliness, and third to common fears like snakes, spiders, clowns, and drowning. Select SOAR freshmen were questioned to find out if these fears are unanimous between the class of 24.
How many of us have experienced drowning in piles of homework, under the sea of expectations? How many times have you gasped for another hour of sleep because it's the only real break you get? Angelica Ruiz says, “For breaks, I create to-do lists of everything...I thought starting high school and college was super scary, but I just have to stay on top of my work.”, but is this really a break? Spending time off of class to focus on how to handle more classwork is hardly the break freshmen deserve. Occurring more than any year before, freshmen have been highly exposed to overworking themselves whilst under-expecting breaks. Far too many SOAR students have grown to expect this, and it starts with our freshman habits.
So what needs to be done to protect freshmen from falling into these traps? “I feel like teachers are giving so much more work than they would normally because they think that we are just at home doing nothing.” says an anonymous freshman. Over half of the students polled agree with this statement, requesting more flexibility on assignments and mental health checkups from teachers. Virtual classrooms have not been taking the load off of students’ backs as everyone originally thought. Expressing that the freshman class has been put at a disadvantage, Matthew Ochoa notes that there are too many variables to ensure that all freshmen are receiving the best care possible. However, online schooling requires students to be more responsible than they’ve ever had to be before. With meetings scheduled on Zoom and Google Classroom, it has become more and more popular to assume SOAR students can take on more responsibilities and be available at any whim. Sure SOAR has had a mental health awareness month, but when do teachers give extensions on assignments for these issues like they would any physical illness? When are students empowered to ask for what they need when school has always triggered and been made difficult by a deeper issue?
Nevertheless, 89% of freshmen reported feeling excited for Halloween. “The worst thing about starting high-school is having no social interaction,” says Matthew Ochoa. Several participants mentioned that freshmen are having a hard time making friends with one another, that they’re being isolated their first year at SOAR. Halloween provides the opportunity for students to finally interact with each other, a day to look at and feel excited about, a short-term goalpost. In 2020 Halloween is guaranteed to leave an impression, so let’s make sure that we give the freshmen something to be excited about.