For Harvard-Westlake (HW), though the 2020-2021 school year brings unprecedented change to everyone in our community, no one has to adapt more than the new seventh graders, who are starting middle school, at a brand new school with unfamiliar faces. A typical seventh grade year involves meeting new friends, exploring the campus, and trying new things. However, this year, with the crisis of Covid-19, things are different for new students.
There are many different components in the HW experience- a big one being homework. “There is definitely more but I think it is manageable so far,” says Alix Grube, who comes from Lincoln Middle School. Rael Kreiz, who comes from Brawerman Elementary, elaborated further, and said, “I think it’s an OK amount, but it is a bit hard because the day ends pretty late, so I feel like I don’t have enough time to do other stuff, like sleep, workout, and play sports.”
This balance is a common theme for many students, old and new alike. “I think routine is key,” says Seventh Grade Dean Emily Reola.“Writing in when you can take a break in your schedule is important too- it is productive to have breaks. Keep your routine going, and separate school from home- try to maintain that healthiness of establishing free time and school time for yourself.”
Another aspect of HW life is making friends. So many interactions that students would have at school, whether that is through classes, clubs, sports, etc., are missed while virtual. However, seventh graders are still finding different ways to make new friends.
Some students have been added to a group chat with other HW students, like Kreiz and Grube, and they said they’ve made a couple of friends there each.
Peyton Colon, who comes from UCLA Lab School, says that she has made some friends through actual classes as well.
“In breakout rooms in Zoom we’ve done a lot of icebreakers,” she said. “I’ve gotten contact info from people, and once I get their info I text or email and say hi.”
Seventh Grade Dean Jonathan Carroll says that is something teachers and deans are also trying to take into consideration so students can meet each other. “We are figuring out ways to put kids in smaller groups. We are finishing up a series of groups of around 15-17 kids during sixth and seventh period,” he said. “We also encourage kids to exchange information.”
When asked how they’ve adjusted, on a scale of 1-10 , from one being not adjusted at all and 10 being completely adjusted, Colon who likes science and English, says, “I would give a rating of 8.5. I use the planner that they gave us, it helps adjust to the schedule because it has the times and periods.”
Meanwhile, Grube who has an older brother in 12th grade at HW, says, “I would say 6, because I don’t think I’m super good at managing my time, but I’m still able to do the homework pretty quickly, and I try to prioritize which homework assignments I should do first so it isn’t as stressful.”
And finally, Kreiz, who had previously noted that Brawerman Elementary had only assigned around 30 minutes of homework a day, says, “I’d say seven because the homework is still a little new to me, but I use the planner they give me and I also downloaded the I HW app so I could see how long I have for my next class if I don’t have my computer, which has been helpful.”
In terms of staying organized, Reola says, “Since we aren’t at school and new students don’t have to navigate the new campus, this is a great time to solidify organization. Keep up with your schedule, meet with your teachers to touch base with them- get these things under your belt.” Carroll adds, “Have a visual, whether you print out your syllabus, or use a dry erase board, to write down your schedule and tests. It’s important to see it all in front of you.”
Another aspect of HW that is new to most seventh graders are X periods. X periods are free periods where classes don’t meet, and students have flexibility to do what they want. For students who didn’t have X periods at their old schools, the schedule is a lot different, and can be hard to navigate. However, it seems that seventh graders are enjoying X periods. Kreiz, who has two older sisters at HW in ninth and 11th grade, says, “I think it’s [X periods] really good and really smart to finish your work during that time, and if you don’t have work it’s fun to just relax.” “We also advise students to meet with teachers and talk to each other,” says Carroll. He adds, “it never hurts to find an adult person who you can lean on. It doesn’t have to be a dean, there are plenty of amazing people at HW, whether that’s a teacher, a sib counselor, or a coach.”
Though these seventh graders haven’t been at school for long, they already have an idea of what kind of advice they’d give to new students. Grube says, “Definitely get your homework done before you start anything else, get it out of the way, because otherwise you can get distracted.” Colon says, “I would tell them to be prepared, organize yourself and be ready for Zoom, and have a water bottle beside you because you want to not be dehydrated looking at a screen!”
The seventh grade deans also have some advice. “We tell the kids to visit clubs and try clubs, you aren’t committed. Jump around, try new things, and see where you feel the most comfortable,” Reola says. “Put yourself out there to start building relationships. It may seem scary at first but once you start doing it, it feels really good.” Carroll also adds, “When we are back on campus, it will make life even easier to jump back in.”