By Ethan Shaw, Class of 2015
The stage lights turn on as students and family members anxiously take their seats in the familiar setting of the OMPC sanctuary. The front rows house three or four dozen 12 year-olds all racked with a sense of nervous excitement. The scene is the sixth grade Salutatio, a time- honored ceremony that marks the transition of a Westminster student from the lower into the Upper School. The Salutatio is in effect a coming of age, granting freedom coupled with an expectation of responsibility. Thus, beneath the fidgeting with neckties and the dreadful anticipation of house assignments, this is a moment that clearly and uniquely articulates the culture of Westminster.
For the students sitting in that room each May, the coming August may seem like a distant dream; yet the joys and challenges of Upper School life are in truth right around the corner. Ready or not, sixth graders are thrust headfirst into a new way of life that may at first seem largely foreign. In an instant they become seventh graders, a species of student trapped between the years of carefree simplicity and the looming prospect of young adulthood. In an effort to offer the school community better insight into the nature of this transition, several members of this year’s seventh grade class (or the class of 2020, if you prefer) have been interviewed concerning their Upper School experience thus far. My hope is that hearing their answers to the questions posed will both introduce us to several members of this special class while also giving us their thoughts on what the transition really means. We begin with the perspective of the seventh grade boys, hearing from two Johns (out of the grade’s three).
First up is John Wolfe, a proud member of the house of Tolkien divided between his passions for fishing and tennis. He has been at Westminster since Kindergarten and especially enjoys humanities and science. His fears coming into the Upper School had to do with academic pressures regarding exams, a heavier workload, and preparation for college. Thankfully, he tells us that these fears have not really proved true. While he admits there is more work, he enjoys the freedom and ‘prestige’ of being in the Upper School that he had looked forward to. Wolfe remarks that he knows the essay writing he is doing in Bible and other classes will profit him greatly in the years ahead as he moves toward college. One of the few things he dislikes about the Upper School experience is the fact that teachers seem less personal than they were before. Some fun facts about John include his die-hard support of Texas A&M, making him one of a very small minority in the Upper School (and the future bane of one of our beloved Bible teachers). His favorite movie is Guardians of the Galaxy, his favorite home-cooked meal is steak, and he for some reason cannot bring himself to like glazed donuts (though he swears he enjoys the powdered kind). A day off from school would not be complete without lots of fishing, playing/watching football, eating wings, and staying up late to watch TV.
Next we turn to John Richardson, one of last year’s recipients of the Becky Cox award. He is a member of Calvin and has two Upper School siblings, Daniel (2015) and Anna (2017), along with a younger brother Luke in the lower school. His favorite class is humanities, and he is involved with both the cross-country and track teams this year. He especially enjoys reading and playing club soccer, along with just about anything Disney. He informed me that his college loyalty lies unequivocally with Alabama. Although having older siblings in the Upper School certainly tempered his fears coming into seventh grade, Richardson informed me that the idea of referrals was the scariest thing for him. On the contrary, he was most excited about engaging with teachers on a higher level and—of course—the prospect of a new building. While the fear of referrals admittedly does remain, Richardson notes that he especially enjoys the privilege of having a tutorial period to get work done and a long lunch period to socialize with friends. On a more personal note, his favorite season is spring and his favorite home-cooked meal is his grandmother’s dressing. He loves the The Hobbit movies along with the Harry Potter series. Even so, he told me if he had to choose one book series to take on a deserted island, it would definitely be The Lord of the Rings because he has not read them yet and has very high expectations of Tolkien’s work.
In summary, getting to know John Wolfe and John Richardson will hopefully help the rest of us in the Upper School to remember our days in the seventh grade. It is in this recognition of shared experiences that older students have the opportunity to connect with their younger counterparts and inspire a spirit of mutual understanding. It is this very spirit that will go a long way to preserve that unique and all-important interaction between middle school and high school that in part defines Westminster. Because hearing from only two of this year’s seventh grade by no means offers a holistic viewpoint, these will be supplemented by further interviews in a future article that will also serve to bring in the girls’ perspective. Until then, may we all remember our daily call to build one another up with the love of God shown forth in Christ.