New Freshmen welcomed to South

Nara Coldwater, Staff Writer

“There’s more kids, the work is getting harder,” freshman student Dylan Halberg explained. Like all of the 460 freshmen welcomed by South, as well as new upperclassmen, Halberg is just getting used to this scary but exciting environment. Difficult parts aside, he’s confident. “If I do my work and stay on track, there’s no way I can fail.”

High school is different. It’s bigger, there are more kids, more expectations to meet. It’s scary at first for almost everyone, but after a little while, you realize it’s not all that bad. “I expected all the seniors to be messing around with me,” freshman Ben Phi remembered, recalling his fear at the beginning of the school year.

Every new school year brings changes. This year many new teachers were hired in all different programs, which is helping the school open up to new opportunities and success. In the case of the All Nations program, new teachers are really helping students feel engaged and encouraged. “Teachers have been shuffled over the last couple of years,” explained Sean Mattner, All Nations English teacher. “Now that we have some stability, we’re getting students interested in the program, and really caring and valuing [their] education.”

This year, teachers have also been taking different steps to “get with the times” and use more technology in and out of their classrooms. Many teachers are using online sites for either homework or online discussions.

Google Drive has been used lots as well in the Open program this year. “[Rob] Panning-Miller started a new thing this year that we talked about as a program and really liked,” explained Michelle Ockman, Open English teacher. “We’re doing Google feedback forms, so [students are] getting some feedback from a teacher very couple of weeks.”
One of the biggest, most noticeable part of South is its size. Between the commons, the crowded staircases and the second floor一which is often called ‘the maze’一it can be a bit intimidating at first. That being said, after the first week, many students get into the flow. One new student, Vaerna Mayer, said “I’ve developed a special route to my classes.”

Aside from its physical size, South’s population is very large as well. Being the largest high school in Minneapolis, and the second largest in the Twin Cities, we have a very large diversity of students. “[South’s] so accepting of everyone,” Ockman enthused. “If you’re a theater person, if you’re a band person, if you’re an anime person, if you’re a writer, a history buff一it’s here.”

High school has its social pros and cons. You’re meeting new friends, maybe meeting the new you, but it’s also important to remember the reason you’re here. Don’t be afraid to step back from your social life for a night and get that paper done! It’s easy for freshmen to not care much about their grade, but truth is it will matter in a few years time. Halberg shared how he has learned that sometimes you need to “stay away from your friends if you want to get a good grade.”

It’s also important for teachers to help their students feel more comfortable, which our teachers have been doing quite well. “I like to do some sort of get to know you activity,” shares Ockman, to “really get to know the student.”

Mattner explained that the All Nations program has its own ways to help their students. “We do have the first hour called a Cultural Seminar, so that really gets them engaged and really focused in on the school day…[The students] also participate in smudging on a daily basis一that helps to kind of set the tone, get them in the right spot.”

“Usually freshmen come in, and they’re nervous, but excited,” Ockman noted. “Nobody really talks much, they’re just feeling out the environment.” She used the metaphor of “an egg cracking. Some kids break out of it [faster] but other kids are little bits at a time…they just blossom.”

Many teachers are also greatly excited and happy about the new students they are able to get to know and teach. Mattner, who has great hopes for his kids, noted that “Our ninth graders [this year] are a little bit more tuned in, are a little bit more focused on graduating.”

Ockman, who also believes strongly in her students, goes on to say: “I hope, first and foremost, that [the Class of 2019] will be happy people, happy in their lives and happy inside. And then I hope that you all help shape the world.”