New program supports freshman

Freshmen develop important skills through newly established program



Northfield campus, where the freshman success program takes place

The Freshman Success program builds a new initiative for freshman students in building executive function skills along with other methods to balance mental health, stress, behavior and safety. 

With the development of these strategies being in full swing, students approach and prepare for the end of semester one equipped with productive methods to take on final exams. 

Freshman Success is an idea based program that is used to set guidelines for teachers in developing strategic plans that students can utilize to gain stronger abilities in planning for tests, reaching out to teachers when needed, managing stress and in finding resources to locate important places like the Advisor Chair’s office or the nurse. 

This program is unlike some of the other support systems at New Trier, like Resource or Guided Study, in the way that it is not a proper class with attendance nor are students enrolled.

One does not sign up for the program, in fact, many students may not even realize they are following criteria of Freshman Success as it is implemented seamlessly into the formal classes in a students school day. 

Freshman Success simply embodies tools teachers and students can refer to in order for these teachers to guide their students in the right direction inside and outside of their classroom.

Though initially,  Freshman Success had been implemented into individual class curricula based on a specific unit in a given course, this year the program is offering more directly correlated strategies that are applied and can be used throughout all classes in a student’s schedule. 

For example, in English classes the teacher might discuss how to properly annotate a fiction vs nonfiction text as this information can also be helpful in, say, a history class or writing based elective.

Sue Haak, the freshman girls’ advisor chair describes the idea behind the program in the hopes of, “all students developing student skills in certain areas that will as a whole make them successful in high school.’’ 

Though pieces of these topics regarding a given skill had been loosely talked about in previous years with teachers and advisors, Haak explains how, “that did not necessarily mean all students were getting the same instruction.”

This year the program is being communicated and shared with students more directly and Haak also explains how, “every department has taken on initiatives relevant to their area like studying and preparing for school and having those skills that help you do well, regardless of your actual abilities in the class.”

Each teacher is responsible for offering useful strategies to their students, yet these teachers are not responsible for the actual use of these methods. Julie Bar, a math teacher at Northfield and Winnetka explains how she implements the use of the Trevian Tracker and gives some time in class for students to organize

, “the trajectory for the week, [and to see] which classes may be off for the anchor day or early dismissal so that it is clear and students can plan accordingly,” which provides more opportunities for students to schedule meetings or appointments ahead of time if they need to meet with a teacher or have support.

Bar notes how she has been guiding students to, “talk about the big picture for the week,” and to annotate their trackers for all the other subjects as well. Despite the fact that Northfield teachers this school year have been setting time aside for students to apply this strategy, it is not required. So whether the students are recording it all down or just using it as a visual, Bar believes, “it’s definitely been beneficial in terms of the new block schedule and also what quizzes or tests may be coming up.” 

Additionally, the program hopes to share lessons on technology and tips on how to find specific classrooms, like the Academic Assistance Center or Attendance Office in order to establish clear direction on information that is often assumed to be things students already know. Simultaneously, through the program teachers educate students on stress and resources that provide guidance on how to go about managing it. 

Freshman Success works to acknowledge certain aspects of behavior and norms that had been established pre-covid that might have been lost throughout online Zoom school. 

Though the program is relatively new, after gathering more information on how the freshman class of the 2021-2022 school year exercised the newly implemented methods, the program is working on further developing these lessons in ways that help students find the connections between executive functions, organization and time management.