I had set out to write an article about something simple: the eighth graders coming into the high school, and what had preceded the decision and the response. I interviewed people from each grade now crammed into the school, and then I looked toward Mr. Emil Binotto for something other than a student voice. And what different voices they proved to be: voices which shout from opposite ends of a football field. On one side, the students—simmering with annoyance and the feeling of being robbed—and on the other side, our principal, contented with the student body reaction, who thinks everything has gone quite swimmingly.
The hopes for a proper news article were looking bleak; all I had collected were opinions, and not even corroborating opinions at that. Our school has reached a lesion, the core high school grades fractured away from administration, and the plight of the eighth graders standing alone, in the middle of the chaos, all the while isolated. With such heady opinions, with such differing viewpoints, with such unrest, the issue has broken through the glass behind which a journalist must remain, and now has forced my hand to make an opinion, or provide some clarity to the situation. No one is removed from what happened this year; this topic permeates throughout the student body, and we are left in the wreckage of it, every single student shifted from where they thought they were going to be.
So what happens from here? What could I say that would make the upperclassmen realize the difficulty of the eighth graders’ situation? What could I say to the eighth graders that provide empathy and a lesson in high school at the same time? I don’t think I am all that invested in the issue, but I have had the opportunity to speak to a multitude of people.
Not surprisingly, the definitive high school grades are miffed at the presence of our newly adopted 13-year-olds. Upperclassmen just want to walk through the A-wing without a blockade in their path; the sophomore I spoke to wanted the eighth graders to learn how to respect fellow students as well as teachers. The freshman divulged the annoyance of being lumped in with the eighth graders. Our newest addition has become unwittingly victimized in our school.
The chance to speak to eighth-graders offered a new face to the problem as well; somewhere—deep down maybe—but somewhere, the eighth graders are hurt by the general negativity of students towards them, and that made me realize that after all this time that the eighth graders are all real people,` and not the abstraction of an idea in my head: they are affected too.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to be annoyed at the eighth-graders—granted they don’t know how to walk in the hallways, and the freshmen were dealt a year in which it doesn’t even seem like they are freshmen; I’m saying that we were all in eighth grade once. Everyone knows how it felt to be on the brink of growing up, how tumultuous that time was. This is not to excuse the eighth graders either; they all need to learn how to function within a high school, and to relearn how to function in a school. But the one thing everyone needs to keep in mind is that this is the transition year which started with rumors, and ended with a complete change to the structure of our school district.
From what I’ve gathered, the plans for the movement of the eighth grade have been in the works for a while, far longer than the students were ever aware, and that the closure of Hudson Maxim expedited the process, but all the while, the class which was afflicted with the change was never given an assembly. Eighth graders found out at the end of the year and had to brace themselves for a completely new environment, wherein they are isolated in the A-wing, belittled by the upper grades, and “included but not wanted.” Eighth-graders have their own struggles right now, most likely just for this year, but soon having them in the high school will be normal. They were expecting to be the top of their school, only to have fallen past the bottom rung of the ladder and onto the floor.
The rest of us can feel annoyed or irritated or whatever, but at the end of the day, we have to realize that this is how it is; it’s not their fault for coming up, and we must function with empathy instead of disdain.