Out Of Clarkson Hall and Into The Upper School

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Campbell Battin

As the eighth graders will soon be out of Clarkson Hall and into the Upper School, worries may come up about this year’s eighth-graders not being as prepared as they should be when they leave the Middle School. COVID19 hit the class of 2025 in the spring of their seventh-grade year, resulting in online school and reduced class time in both seventh and eighth grade. Students and teachers have been working extremely hard this year to make this transition go smoothly; will these efforts, however, be enough to help them excel in 9th Grade.

Catherine Zidow, the Middle School’s 8th Grade girl’s Grade Chair and English teacher, is not worried. “I would say the students are more than ever prepared,” says Zidow. “I have a couple of reasons why: first we transitioned into a schedule that is a reflection of the Upper School schedule, so the class of 2025 actually has the advantage of knowing the seven-day rotation better than classes before them.” Zidow explains how this circumstance has never affected any other children’s full 8th-grade year except for the class of 2025. “The level of reliance I’ve seen in the class of 2025, they have faced hardships at home, seen classmates have hardships and have persevered, and they have bounced back from that spring spurt of remote learning really well.” Even though COVID19 physically pushed students apart, the eighth graders grew closer as one, which gives hope as they transition into high school during this difficult time.

Olivia Teague, an eighth-grade student, feels ready for Upper School as her months in the Middle School come to an end. “Yes, I feel prepared. Even though COVID19 has caused some hard times, my teachers have done a good job preparing me and I think I will go into ninth grade well.” Even though the students are given less face-to-face time with their teachers this year with the new schedule, Teague feels her teachers have given her everything she needs to excel in ninth grade. 

Leslie Ann Little, Assistant Middle School Dean of Academics and English teacher, explains the behind-the-scenes work of the teachers getting the students prepared. “Teachers have met in the specific grade level meetings to map out what’s critical and what was kind of a luxury. We have an eye on essential learnings,” says Little. Teachers have carefully thought out exactly what they need their students to know so they can stay on track. “At the end of the year, last year, and what we will do this year, is to make sure each department knows what we did cover. And so if they have to pick up a little bit, they will because they are having to do that already but nobody thinks it is going to be truly harmful.” Little wants this year’s eighth graders to feel confident. “You will be fine, is sort of the bottom line. The entire world is going through this; it’s not a Westminster thing, not an Atlanta thing, it’s not an American thing; the entire world is trying to navigate this and knows what is really essential.” The world is very different right now and everything still is new, but teachers have helped prepare students to be as ready as they can be for the start of something new in their lives, Upper School.