MD does not prepare students enough for UD workload


Lily Sussman , Contributing Writer

As someone who has been at Horace Mann for most of their life, I know how high the expectations are. For all my years here, I have to succeed as that “ideal student” — high grades and lots of extracurriculars. That all changed when I came to high school. With the new obligations and responsibilities, achieving that goal of an “ideal student” comes with new challenges.

My jump from the Lower Division to the Middle Division was not that difficult. I had Spanish every day instead of twice a week, increased freedom with lunch periods, and art rotations — but that was about it. I managed the workload with ease and still saw my friends every day in class and during lunch.

Coming into high school, I assumed the transition would be similar. I was wrong. Academically and socially, I now have to put in far more thought and effort to succeed.

When it comes to homework, I went from 30 minutes finishing up my assignments to spending an hour to two or three hours per night. In middle school, if I rested for an hour on my phone before starting my homework, I would still have more than enough time to finish my work and sleep at a reasonable time. Now, even without procrastinating on my phone, I still go to bed much later or I can’t complete all my work. Last year, I would be home most days by four p.m., finish school work, then go to bed by 10 p.m. Now, I stay late for clubs most days, take the bus at six p.m., do a few hours of homework,study for upcoming assessments, then go to bed at almost 12 a.m. During weeknights, I have little time for anything else. 

My testing schedule has also ramped up from the MD. Last year, we had an assessment once or twice a month for every class. Teachers spread out and coordinated our assessments with other classes so we would only have two quizzes a week, tops. My testing schedule now is almost every other week, in every class. This week, I had a science test and lab, two upcoming projects in Japanese, and an upcoming major history assessment. 

With the influx of work, it’s hard to handle all the extracurriculars that the Upper Division (UD) offers. In middle school, I was a part of two clubs that were low commitment, did not meet every week, and ended in time to catch the four or six p.m. buses. Now, I take the late bus three out of the five days because of the Service Learning Team. Since Service Learning is a high commitment club, my old habits of skipping meetings in MD won’t cut it this year, lest I get kicked out or miss important work. Thankfully, some clubs are more informal, like Mock Trial, JASA Sonnects, and Women in Business, so I can see what I am interested in without having to fully commit.

Sports practices and game schedules have also upped their commitment. In the MD, I could try sports I hadn’t played before like soccer, basketball, and softball. We met during D period to practice and our occasional games usually finished before four p.m., with plenty of time to complete homework and study when we got home after games. That is not the case for UD athletes. After practicing for over an hour in the afternoon with multiple games per week, student athletes are still expected to finish two or more hours of homework. This extensive commitment and higher expectation, on top of the UD’s academic stress, makes me hesitate before participating in sports. That said, I look forward to trying out for the squash and softball teams, hoping that I will still be able to maintain my grades with the extra hours of practice and late games. 

Finally, my social life has also changed with the UD schedule. I used to have lunch with all my friends every day, spend time with them, and go out on the weekends. Coming into this year, I expected that part of my life to stay the same. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I don’t have the same lunch block as many of my friends. With my lunch block my only free most days, I often use it to meet with a teacher or work. Most school days, I have too much work to get food or hang out. On the weekends, I have to stay in to finish work and catch up on assignments, complete projects, or study for an upcoming quiz.

MD did not prepare me for the increase in work. Transitioning to high school, I have had to improve my time management skills on my own. I expected that the MD would prepare us for high school at Horace Mann, but we did not do anything that would ease this transition. The whole three years in middle school, we never focused on high school, treating it as though it was far in the future.

One month before school ended, we had UD orientation. They mentioned places around the high school and courses we could take. They never once talked about the amount of work we were about to receive and how that would shape the new experience we were all about to start. Programs such as UD orientation and the MD’s buildup to high school as a whole have room for improvement. Certain aspects such as increasing the workload little by little, explaining tactics to study better, or teaching time management tips before eighth grade year ends would really help. If I had received tips like those, I would be having a much easier time with my transition. 

Although high school has been a big change and is more challenging, there have also been many benefits. For one, we have much more freedom. Last year, because of COVID, we had no frees until after spring break. Instead, we had study halls where we stayed in one classroom with very little choice about what we did. Now, we can spend our free time however we like and even leave school during our free time. 

As time goes on, I am adjusting to my new Upper Division reality. My classes are in full swing and I can no longer rely on what I used to do in the MD. The change is difficult, but I am learning to be a better student — I meet with teachers to better understand class topics and try different study strategies such as finishing work earlier or using platforms like Quizlet or Kahoot. Soon enough, I will find strategies that stick and help me become the best student I can be.