7th graders face new academic, social challenges

By Corene Brisendine

Organized chaos reigned at Anthony Middle School Wednesday on the first day of classes. New seventh graders walking the halls sported expressions of uncertainty, angst and excitement. Eighth graders greeted friends, walked with confidence and even helped usher their younger peers to where students gathered in the cafeteria to wait for the first bell to ring.

Ashby Stark, 13, said she was excited because she had finally graduated to the next level—middle school. She was looking forward to leaving behind the identity of “child” associated with grade school and taking on the role of young adult. Stark said she has thought about her future as an adult.

“I want to be a Navy nurse,” she said.

Stark said her main focus this year is academics, but she still wants to take time out for her love of volleyball. She said she had at least one friend moving up with her from the halls of Bergman Elementary, and as she made her way to the cafeteria, her excited friend called Ashby’s name and greeted her with a big smile and bigger hug.

For Tyler Canthey, 13, the first day of seventh grade wasn’t quite as jubilant. When asked if he was excited, he said, “Oh, about half and half.” That’s half excited and half worried.

Canthey recently relocated with his family from Colorado. So, in addition to it being the first day in a new school, it was the first day of school in a new place.

But that didn’t curb Canthey’s optimism for the year. He said he hopes to get a spot as safety on the football team. He said he is definitely more concerned with socializing than academics, but that doesn’t mean he is going to shirk his responsibilities. Like Stark, Canthey has thought about his future; he hopes to emulate his step-cousin, Jordy Nelson, and make it all the way to the NFL.

Principal Vickie Kline said seventh graders face challenges in both the academic and social realms. She said the school tried to encourage learning in both. The new academic challenge for seventh graders is constantly changing classes and teachers. She said although some of the grade schools rotated on a minimal class schedule, it does not compare to the rotation associated with middle school where each period means a different subject, a different classroom and a different teacher.

“If you ask a seventh grader, they would say (the challenge is) their lockers, or knowing where they are going,” Kline said. She said it’s not like elementary school where students find all their supplies under their seat in their desks. They must deal with gathering their books and supplies out of their lockers, going to class, being prepared for the next class.

“Ultimately, one of their biggest challenges is being organized as they move among classes,” Kline said.

Socially, Kline said, the school tries to provide a variety of activities for students that will allow them to keep their hands busy while they forge new friendships.

She said in addition to sports, the school has arts and crafts, chess, theater and music programs that encourage students to form social connections during a time when they’re trying to leave their childhoods behind.

Kline said this year’s incoming seventh grade class was definitely larger than last year with a first-day count of 251 students.

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