Adding Middle School Students to the Mix Likely Changed Group Dynamics
One of the more controversial aspects of JQY coming to AJA was how the student groups were split up for the presentation. The eighth graders joined the ninth and tenth graders for the JQY conversation, while the upperclassmen were separate from the rest of the students. For some, “It didn’t make much of a difference,” said Ben Slakman, an eighth grader.
Many of the eighth graders felt that pairing them with older students rather than the sixth and seventh graders was the right choice. Ella Katz, an eighth grader, stated that if the sixth and seventh graders were with them, “there would be more [goofing] around and not enough seriousness.”
On the flip side, many 8th graders felt that pairing the grades hindered open conversation because the two groups weren’t familiar with one another. Eighth-grader Hadara Seeman wished “more people had participated,” attributing the lack of participation to the divide between the grades, which she described as “awkward.” She noted, “We’re more comfortable talking about it with each other than with high schoolers.”
Similarly, many freshmen and sophomores were unhappy being paired with younger students. Leah Houben, a sophomore, explained, “I really don’t think that it was an appropriate age [grouping]. I don’t think that [this range of age groups] really go together, and when we’re together, I feel like we can’t talk about a lot of things.” Fellow sophomore Yered Wittenberg concurred with her statements, adding that the maturity levels differed dramatically for the different grades.
Not all high school students felt that way, including Jordan Steinberg, a freshman, who argued that it did not make “a difference that the eighth-graders were there.” For some, it did not matter, but the overwhelming sentiment that the Palette staff gathered among high school lowerclassmen was that it was not particularly beneficial for the eighth-graders to attend with ninth and tenth grade students.