Through the eyes of a freshman

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Merry Schlarman

These eyes tell a story when you observe them closely. If you look in the reflection of the eye you can see some of the things that freshmen have missed out on this year due to COVID-19 including: Watching school sports, pep rallies, assemblies and exen meeting new people and having conversations.

Stay on the first floor instead of going up because upstairs is confusing; then go left, right, right, left. Repeating these words in her head as she entered the school building, Sydney Martine, freshman, arrives on her first day of school, early to avoid traffic. While she waits to leave her sister’s car, she listens to music to calm her nerves. When she finally gets to her class, there is an awkward silence. Martine stares across the room and sees her friend’s familiar face, but she is sitting too far away for Martine to feel comfortable saying “Hi.” Instead, Martine sits silently waiting for her class to start

On the first day of school, the Class of 2024 was not greeted by crowds of seniors; rather, they walked through the halls alone, met only by their unfamiliar, new teachers. Instead of starting the year full of Pioneer traditions, they were left without the upperclassmen’s staple booing at the first assembly of the year.

Unfortunately, [freshman] are missing out on some of the things we take for granted in a normal year…”

— Joe Fisch

“I think that everybody is doing the best they can and trying to make the best out of this,” Joe Fisch, freshman class counselor said. “I think that many kids are just happy to be back in school and that is the first step. Unfortunately, [freshman] are missing out on some of the things we take for granted in a normal year like opening day, assemblies, going to a football game, going to a dance or taking part in a club that isn’t virtual.” 

Elizabeth Niedringhaus, freshman, said she especially misses being able to have lunch with her friends, as well as working on group projects with her classmates. She also said the changes made to keep students safe during the pandemic haven’t ruined the way that she feels about school.

I’ve missed out on all the fun things Kirkwood does like pep-rallies and being able to go to football games.”

— Elizabeth Niedringhaus

“I’ve missed out on all the fun things  Kirkwood does like pep-rallies [and] being able to go to basketball and football games,” Niedringhaus said. “Also, [I’ve missed out on] being able to [go] up and talk to people whenever I want. [But] it doesn’t really [change the way I feel about school] because it wasn’t like I had experienced it in the first place and then had it taken away from me.”

Martine also misses attending the usual events Kirkwood hosts, but joining the Kirkwood Girls Volleyball Program has helped her feel a sense of normalcy. Because of volleyball, she was able to meet girls both in her own grade and in grades above her. 

“[Playing volleyball for Kirkwood] was good because I met a lot of girls from Nipher I probably wouldn’t have met [otherwise],” Martine said. “This made me feel [the] sense of family I had heard returning players talk about during our summer Zooms. I was sad [the season] was over because I liked going to practice every day. It was fun for me.”

Fisch said being a freshman at a big public high school like KHS puts you in situations where you have to deal with meeting new people, but in a way where you can grow from it. Fisch also said, when entering high school, you begin a lot of new relationships with different people. And when conversations at school occur, there are masks over students’ faces preventing students from reading facial expressions. This makes the process of making new friends at school more difficult. 

I’m not able to interact with other people or do homework together with them as easily, which makes school harder for me.”

— Sydney Martine

“I think being in a classroom with a teacher every day has so much value because they’re constantly teaching [students] good habits,” Fisch said. “When [students] are virtual, those interactions don’t happen as much. This year, turning in work, reaching out to teachers, asking questions and being proactive are all great skills to learn moving forward. I think the freshmen who are having to learn these skills on the fly are struggling more.” 

Martine feels the students who attend in-person school are given an advantage. She said when she attends in-person school she is more excited to be in class and listen to lessons. 

“Usually, whenever I would come home [after school] and sit at my desk to do homework I would be very motivated to get it all done,” Martine said. “But now since I am sitting at my desk to attend virtual classes after lunch, I’m not able to interact with other people or do homework together with them as easily, which makes [school] harder [for me].”

Fisch said that he is always available to help kids who feel like they are struggling or are falling behind. He also said that he hopes students who are feeling overwhelmed with school or with life, in general, feel comfortable reaching out to him for help.

“When you add COVID-19 on top of getting to know your teachers, the high school system, your counselors and your principals,” said Fisch, “you are just adding a layer that makes things even more challenging to understand.”