Seventh Grade So Far

Seventh Grade So Far

David Mohrmann


Unlike any other all-boys Catholic school in the St. Louis area, Priory begins at seventh grade. This year many of the time-honored friendship-building activities for new students, such as Camp Ondessonk, cannot take place due to COVID-19. Additionally, new precautions have been put in place that affect how students interact within the school building. Another significant change this year is formally abolishing the distinction between the Junior School and High School and making Priory one combined school. Clearly, 2020-21 will be a school year unlike any other.

This article, based on a survey given to the 21 students in Mr. Woodcock’s seventh grade English class, attempts to paint a portrait of the seventh-graders’ first few months here at Priory.

When asked about the favorite thing in the first month at Priory, many students remarked on the sense of camaraderie that is forged outside of the classroom. Students accomplish this by doing various activities and things together around campus during the lunch period. One student, Connor Perschbacher, said, “I have enjoyed doing small activities with my friends, like playing kickball or football.” Another student, Bing Behrman, said, “I like all the brotherhood and a big campus with good teachers.” Another student, Luke Nowak, summed up what many of the seventh-graders feel: “The thing that I have liked the most about my first month at Priory is meeting all my new classmates and making new friends.” 

Teachers at Priory genuinely care about the students here and support us in many ways, said many seventh-graders. Not only are these teachers highly educated in their field, but they also reach out to students and build relationships with their students inside and out of the classroom. Seventh-grader Max Nadaud said, “I have most liked the teachers reaching out to us and helping us understand things better.” Noah Kinnaman responded, “I like how helpful all the teachers are.” With the great teachers and brotherhood that these students have here at Priory, they are sure to have a wonderful experience in the coming years.

COVID-19 is a virus that has heavily affected the lives of all people, and these effects can even be felt at Priory. Seventh-graders were asked how this compares to the approach of the grades schools that they have just left.  When asked to compare the COVID protocols at the two schools, Alex Bader responded, “My old school is doing about the same thing right now, but I feel more comfortable than I would have at my other school.” Another student, Martin Miller responded, “Last year, we didn’t have school. This year though, my old school is half online and the other half is outside in gigantic tents. Mask mandates are still in place and social distancing is still practiced.”

Despite efforts to make the Priory experience as similar as possible to how it was before the experience, some things are simply not possible during a pandemic. When asked if the COVID-19 precautions made it harder to meet new friends, Wynston Weiler responded, “The COVID-19 precautions have made it a lot harder because boys wrestle around and that is kind of how boys make friends, but this year we have to talk and interact from a distance.” For many students, the difficulties include not being able to see the faces of their classmates and this makes it harder to form friendships. One student, Sam Jung, said it was harder to make friends “because the masks have prevented us from seeing the bottom half of people’s faces.” Martin Miller said, “It is harder because everyone has masks on and you can’t really see each other. I also think that the masks discourage socializing a bit.” For other students, like Brian Cooke, these precautions do not seem to provide as much of a difficulty and may even provide an experience to bond over: “The COVID-19 precautions have not limited my ability to make new friends; however, I think it has created a special bond between the students, as we know that we are all in this together, and that really helps with making friends.” Luke Nowak agrees: “Making new friends is much different with COVID-19, but it doesn’t make it necessarily harder. I am so glad that we are in person and not virtual because then I can see all my classmates and get to know them better. I can still talk to my new classmates and meet them, so this virus hasn’t really made it harder to do so.”

Community, brotherhood, and friendships are at the heart of St. Louis Priory School. And as any successful program does, Priory has made recent innovations and changes to try to make the school a more united place for the students. Priory has done this by formally abolishing the Junior School/High School distinction. However, many students feel that the Junior School and High School are still divided. One student, Martin Miller, responded, “I think there is a little bit of a divide. Since we are hardly ever in the same building as the high schoolers.” As part of organized social distancing, some of the seventh-graders have most of their classes in the dining hall. Miller adds, “The only times I see high schoolers, besides when they are walking by, is sometimes at lunch and at advisory. I don’t think I know hardly any high schoolers’ names.” 

For many other seventh-graders, however, these efforts to further unite the school seems to have had success. When asked if there is a divide between grades seven through eight and grades nine through 12, Tyler Cineus, responded, “I’ve never known otherwise, but I feel no divide between us and the high school. In fact, most of the high schoolers have been very welcoming.” Brian Cooke agrees: “Being one with the high school is a cool experience, because getting to know older students gives me the sense that I am welcomed here at Priory, and that is really important for me.” When asked if the seventh-grade students enjoy having advisory with older students, the majority of students responded positively. Advisory provides an opportunity for students to receive advice from those who have been here longer and have a greater amount of experience at the school. One student, Noah Kinnaman, responded, “I do because I like getting advice and hearing stories and lessons [from older kids] about when they were younger.” Ryan Willard responded that older students “can give you good advice on what to do here and what not to.”

Other students have mixed feelings or feel that advisory may be better if the grades seven through eight and nine through 12 were separated for advisory. One seventh-grader, Matthew Hansen, responded, “I feel it would be better with junior schoolers together and separate from high school advisory because it is too big of an age gap. It is harder to play with the older kids because they are so much bigger.” Another seventh-grader, Luke Nowak, responded, “I have mixed feelings on this. I like how I get to know the high schoolers better, but it is awkward at the same time because there is a big age gap between the students.” 

These new seventh-graders have a bright future ahead of them with the community and brotherhood they share with the students here. With the excellent teachers and resources that these students have access to here at Priory, they are sure to have a wonderful experience and have great success in the future.