Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Class of 2017: A year of dramatic firsts

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They've wrapped up their rookie season in the big leagues, cleaned out their lockers and are enjoying a well-deserved summer break before getting back to the daily grind.

It wasn't exactly the punishing schedule of the National Hockey League, but surviving their first year in junior high was a major goal for a close-knit squad of Grade 7 kids at Windsor School in St. Vital.

Just like our new Jets, the Class of 2017 -- whose progress the Free Press is tracking from snack time in kindergarten to graduation gowns at the end of Grade 12 -- has put the finishing touches on a tumultuous year of dramatic firsts.

It was their first year without recess, without sitting in the same classroom all day long.

And, just like their highly paid NHL counterparts, everybody finally got their own locker.

After toiling for seven years in the educational minor leagues, Grade 7 was also a year of increased expectations, a year more responsibility was placed on their small shoulders, a year in which they took their biggest strides yet in the long and eventful journey toward becoming young adults.

When they return in the fall, the Class of 2017 will start Grade 8, the top rung of the ladder at the 238-student, K-8 school. With their rookie season gathering dust in the record books, they'll be seasoned veterans, the kings and queens of junior high, just a single year away from high school, where it's right back to the basement.

Windsor principal Ann Walker openly marvels at the changes she saw in the Class of 2017 this year.

"What I've seen is a real growth and maturity," Walker says, chatting with a visitor in her office. "They get taller and look older, but they're more mature, more thoughtful."

 

Windsor principal Ann Walker openly marvels at the changes she saw in the Class of 2017 this year.

"What I've seen is a real growth and maturity," Walker says, chatting with a visitor in her office. "They get taller and look older, but they're more mature, more thoughtful."

One of the final events of the school year was something called "Bump Day," in which the outgoing seventh-graders sat down as a group and offered advice to the skittish Grade 6 kids who will become junior high rookies in September.

"The one tip that I heard was -- make sure you have lots of pencils," Walker recalls, laughing. "To see them sitting confidently, giving advice, it made me feel very happy. The adults in a school are there to help the kids learn, but it's a privilege to see them becoming young adults.

"It's a genuine moment for me. A year ago, these kids were in the opposite place -- they were the new kids coming into junior high, and they were nervous and scared. Today, they were the confident ones making the new kids feel comfortable and welcomed."

A hint of emotion in her voice, Walker says the jump to Grade 8 is a huge one for the Class of 2017.

"In Grade 8, they start to think about leaving the nest," the principal says. "They've been at Windsor School for up to nine years, but there's a big wide world out there. Moving on to high school is the big thing in Grade 8. They start the transition in January.

"That's when they start thinking about what courses they'll take in high school. Here, they're in the nest, a protected environment. Next year, we're preparing them for moving on."

Chris Arnold, one of two homeroom teachers for the Class of 2017 -- Danelle Bradshaw is the other -- took a few moments to reflect on a year of change.

"They will be the leaders in the school and set the tone for how everything runs," Arnold, a teacher at Windsor for 11 years, explains as gaggles of excited students eager to start summer vacation hoot and holler in the background.

"They're still kids, but they're growing into the leadership role that will be theirs in Grade 8. If you don't have strong leaders in Grade 8, that trickles down to the rest of the school," he says, thoughtfully.

"You need to have good leaders, and we have that. They'll set the tone for what's expected of everyone else in class, in assemblies and on the playground. I think they did a fantastic job this year. I'm very impressed with them as a group."

 

As the Class of 2017 gets on with the business of summer holidays, the Free Press handed the soon-to-be-eighth-graders something every kid dreams of as classes end -- one final exam.

In an effort to see how they feel about the past year and the upcoming one, we cajoled them into filling out a questionnaire. (We also grilled them in a hard-hitting video, which you can watch at winnipegfreepress.com .) Neatness didn't count.

Here's what they had to say about ...

 

1) What do you plan to do during summer vacation?

Noah: "Summer things -- sleeping in, eating candy for breakfast, playing Xbox until one in the afternoon, going outside until dinner, eating dinner, then chilling in the evening."

Griffin: "Be awesome! Get more awesome! I'm at the highest level of awesomeness now!"

Hailey: "Play baseball, go to my cabin, go on a road trip to a wedding and SLEEP IN!"

 

2) What was your favourite thing about Grade 7?

Sydney: "Getting to meet a lot of new people and going to shops (classes), and I feel like I have more freedom to go places and do things."

Mackenzie: "Life Days because there's no learning."

Aby: "Hanging out with everyone, making new friends and having more freedom and having shops and Life Days."

Jesse: "The lockers, and Griffin."

 

3) What was your least favourite thing about Grade 7?

Jesse: "The boys' bathrooms, because they're weird."

Naomi: "Getting so much homework."

Mackenzie: "Science class because it makes no sense."

Garrett: "French class."

 

4) What helpful (or otherwise) advice or tips do you have for the kids who will take your place in Grade 7 next school year?

Griffin: "Just be yourself and don't try to act like somebody else. Just be your own person."

Liam: "Don't mess with me (grrrrr!) or Hailey!"

Thomas: "Be nice to everybody and don't draw attention to yourself and don't mess with me."

Mackenzie: "Don't act dumb (only if you are) and don't make a teacher mad or you will be in trouble."

Noah: "Let me see. Don't wash your hands in the bathroom. Go to the Grade 6 bathroom."

 

5) Are you looking forward to being the top dogs next school year when you start Grade 8?

Quinn: "NO! Because people will look up to me."

Liam: "Sure, I just want to get out of here."

Jesse: "Yeah, man!"

Noah: "Yes and no. It'll be cool being the oldest kids, but I don't like most of the Grade 6s."

Mackenzie: "Yes, because we will be the role models."

 

6) If you had a time machine and could travel back to give yourself a message when you were in kindergarten, what would you tell yourself?

Quinn: "Hi, mini me! Be a little more smart."

Avery: "Don't make teachers mad! Seriously, they're scary."

Naomi: "You will transfer to a new school down the street when you are in Grade 2."

Noah: "Hey, man, what's up? I'm your future self."

Jesse: "Get a girlfriend FAST!"

 

7) What's the one thing, big or small, you really want to accomplish in Grade 8?

Griffin: "Be more awesome than ever."

Aby: "Get really good grades and enjoy my last year at Windsor."

Noah: "To refrain from buying something from 7-Eleven every time I walk past it."

Sydney: "Stay on top of homework."

 

We don't want to make anyone stay late after class, so we've decided to give the last "awesome" word to 12-year-old Noah, a future stand-up comedian who, when asked during the video portion of the interview to send his future self a message for Grade 12 graduation in 2017, smiled into the camera and chirped at maximum volume:

"YOU MADE IT! AND YOU DIDN'T DIE!"

 

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 21, 2012 J1

History

Updated on Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 7:45 AM CDT: adds video

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