Written By: Nathaniel Edwards
(Pictured Above: Kaydee Merrifield)
An integral part of childhood development is the knowledge and skills acquired in middle school. In elementary school, you are exposed to a small group of students, separated heavily by the grade you are a part of. However, once you hit middle school, not only are you exposed to students from various elementary schools in your district, but students in all grade levels interact with each other. This melting pot creates an environment that forces students to interact with one another, and create the social skills necessary for the real world. This integral part of development was shattered in 2020. Desks began to spread, masks blocked faces, interaction was minimized. The freshman in 2022, the class of 2026, were stripped of their entire middle school experience. For Kaydee Merrifield, this has created an issue in her freshman experience.
Kaydee Merrifield is part of the class of 2026 and a former River Valley Middle School student. For her, the Covid-19 pandemic has halted her social skills and academic knowledge. Covid-19 started, for Kaydee, during her sixth grade year. Everything went online, and she would not be back in school until July of her seventh grade year. Although, coming back to school would not be any more advantageous to these social skills and academic knowledge than staying at home. At lunch, Kaydee expected to be able to make a big group of friends and socialize with them daily, but it became impossible due to the rule of three to four students per table. Class was not much better either; desks were spread so far apart that it was impossible to turn to a neighboring desk to talk or give simple remarks. “I was really crossing my fingers to make more friends in middle school but I did not make as many as I wanted to because I could never get around people.”
Suddenly, Kaydee was a freshman in high school. “Coming to high school, it’s like somehow I got whiplash. Suddenly there’s a lot of stuff.” Everything she grew to know as normal in middle school was now irrelevant. The normal became the standards expected from Freshman three years ago. Teachers expecting these standards is detrimental to the success of the Freshman class. “My math teacher expects us to know certain things, but I didn’t get a chance to learn them.” It is not just math that has this expectation, it is almost every Freshman class. Kaydee was never a science person, but her Biology Honors instructor expects so much from her class that she is now getting constant C’s. This pressure for reaching an academic level that you did not build to efficiently is suffocating individuals’ mental health.
“I definitely became less social during Covid. I like talking to people; it takes me an hour to leave a party because I keep getting stuck in different conversations. Now, it takes me a lot longer to even introduce myself to people.” It is intimidating to come to a brand new school where you get to interact with a large assortment of people, but given that you could not socialize consistently with your own middle school classmates, Freshman year is that much more difficult.
Kaydee Merrifield has to pick up the pieces she was not taught quickly, but she is doing it successfully. She is making tons of new friends, and she has established a wonderful relationship with a new friend group. Although this year will be difficult, she continues to show that it is possible to make this situation work. All Class of 2026 Freshman are struggling with their academics and socialization, but as the year progresses, we hope all Freshman can work as hard as Kaydee Merrifield is.