Just Across the Lawn

Eighth grade students and teacher share challenges of transitioning to high school

Even though it’s only down the street, eighth grade students said they have trouble processing the reality they’ll be moving on to a new school next year.

The unknown anxiety of walking into Blue Valley Southwest’s front door makes some never want to leave the comfort of their friends, classes and activities. But with the school year halfway through, the anticipation of the transition builds more and more.

“I’m really going to miss all the teachers,” said Ryder Smith, an eighth grader at Aubry Bend Middle School. “Because they’ve been really nice to me.”

With everything from the musical to Wolverine Night — a place where the students get together to play games and dance — Smith hopes to carry every memory close as he moves on to high school.

“I’m going to miss the musical, I’m [going] [to] miss the clubs,” Smith said. “It’ll be sentimental to me.”

As the days pass, Smith prepares more and more for the switch, his teachers becoming a key asset.

“[The teachers] taught us a lot of note taking strategies and homework strategies,” Smith said. “And how to handle the workload.”

While the learning is part of the struggle, the social aspect of high school has been known to be as hard as the academics, if not harder.

Jake Schmidt, an eighth grade social studies teacher, emphasized the importance of maturity when transitioning to high school.

“[Maturity is] when it’s time to flip that switch and kind of lock it in to get the job done and to work hard,” Schmidt said. “And that’s a skill that I try to help all my students with.”

Schmidt said he loves seeing how much his students have grown over the years when eighth grade graduation comes around. However, he still enjoys getting to know each of his students, even though it comes at the cost of them leaving to move on to bigger things.

“I feel like I can’t do my job very well as a teacher unless I’ve developed those relationships to know my learners,” Schmidt said.

But, looking outside the classroom window and seeing Blue Valley Southwest so close, students look forward to what awaits them.

Jordyn LyBarger, an eighth grade student at Aubry Bend, has been looking forward to high school with each passing day.

“There’s a lot more you can do,” LyBarger said. “And a lot more classes you can take.”

Smith, too, knows he’ll enjoy the increase of freedom high school offers.

“It’s going to be so great to have the freedom to choose what you learn,” Smith said. “As opposed to just being sat in the class and just being taught against your will.”

But, following a different aspect, Schmidt said he wants his students to follow their dreams in high school and beyond.

“I really hope my students have chased their dreams, taken opportunities to take classes and get involved in activities they’ve always had an interest in,” Schmidt said. “Or they’re confident in themselves in high school and they go with what they want to do.”

And Schmidt’s not the only one who’s been thinking that far in the future. LyBarger has started trimming away at job opportunities, relating the high school classes offered to her potential career.

“I’ve been looking a little more at what I want to do,” LyBarger said. “And what I enjoy.”

While she said she’ll definitely miss choir class, LyBarger sees the chances just across the lawn. But she’s also not blind to the challenges that lie ahead.

“The teachers are a lot harder with late work and grading,” LyBarger said.

Another pondering eighth grade students have been dealing with is if high school is anything like the movies, if the stereotypes are real.

“In the media, you get ‘there’s so many cliques’ or ‘it’s really hard to get to class on time,’ or ‘the teachers hate you for no good reason,’” Smith said. “But I don’t know if that’s true or not.”

Running head first into the unknown, these students have to go off of what they hear and of what people tell them.

“[Eighth graders] are making choices as an eighth grader that impacts [their] freshman year and sophomore year and beyond,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said he feels a wide variety of sympathy and respect for his students, but he feels grateful to know what they’re going through from his pastime in order to help them transition.

“I think one of the biggest struggles was finding people that also supported me and what I did,” Schmidt said. “But I think a lot of my former students and all high school students go through this still, but in the end you gravitate with the people you know [who] fit your ideals and support you.”

Packing up all the information they’ve learned in middle school and carrying it down the road, Smith and his classmates acknowledge the troubles that lie ahead, the privileges of the heavy doors and the ever more stronger they’ll appear to the world looking in.

“I am really looking forward to [high school],” Smith said. “Because there’s just going to  be so many places for me to go and explore.”