Students follow unwritten community expectations
As juniors and sophomores become squished in the stands, they turn to the freshmen to move further up to create more space. The upperclassmen begin to yell “Move back,” yet the freshman look around debating whether to follow the unspoken rules and be judged, or to comply and wait until they become upperclassmen and repeat the cycle.
Unwritten rules dictate many aspects of school life. Even though teachers have official rules to enforce, students and faculty alike follow and respect unspoken school rules or traditions.
“A big [rule] that I [have] is not wanting our students walking around with earbuds in,” Assistant Head of Upper School Jeff Laba said. “It’s not written anywhere in the handbook. To me, it is just a matter of politeness.”
Students often have their own special privileges based on grade level. The written rules involve lunch and uniform privileges, but the unwritten rules have benefits as well.
“My favorite unspoken rule, which is definitely not as intimidating, is the implicit understanding of respect between grades,” junior Amelia Sinwell said. “If the underclassmen continue to heed and consider the upperclassmen, a mutual bond of respect rises between the grades.”
This idea of unspoken rules has been at the school for a very long time. As the years have gone by, the rules change and new ones are added.
“During my time as a student, I remember that we were able to wear either Doc Marten shoes or saddle oxfords,” alumna and Assistant Director of Admissions Megan Schroeder said. “An unspoken rule when I was a student was that seniors could wear Birkenstocks as their shoes.”
These unspoken rules have become traditions that are passed down from upperclassman to underclassman.
“As an underclassman, I always watched the upperclassmen enforce these ‘unspoken rules,’ and I couldn’t wait to be a junior so that I could be at the top, and I am assuming becoming a senior is even more exciting,” junior Lyles Etcheverry said. “Becoming an upperclassman is almost like gaining a new status and you can’t wait to show it off. It is insanely fun.”
Most of the unwritten rules are specific to high school. When entering high school as a freshman, many feel there is a large transition between middle and upper school.
“It is very exciting being ‘new’ to upper school because it’s a whole different “level” from middle school,” freshman Sophia Sardina said. “You have this new found sense of responsibility and you feel more grown-up to sort of speak.”
Sports teams are filled with unwritten rules, whether it’s cheer, football or cross country. All of these teams have special rules that cater to seniors and upperclassmen to give them an added level of comfort.
“On bus rides to away games, the [senior] cheerleaders get their own row of seats to space out,” senior Gia Maioriello said. “It’s kind of an unspoken rule of respect and everyone just knows that only seniors can do it.”
Other rules have to do with the hard tasks, like carrying equipment, waiting for water or getting bad bus seats. These tasks often fall to the freshman.
“The underclassmen usually carry the cooler and other equipment,” senior Reid Moorman said. “[When I became an upperclassmen] I was very excited to not have to carry the cross country tent anymore.”
Unspoken rules are not only in the playing aspects of sports. In the student section, upper schoolers divide by grade level, with freshmen in the back and seniors in the front encouraging school spirit.
“I think one unspoken rule at football games is that you have to be loud,” Sinwell said. “If you’re in your school’s student section, you should cheer as loud as possible, no matter what.”
Sibling relationships aid in keeping these rules alive. Etcheverry has an older sister, Elle, who graduated in 2021.
“Having an older sister in high school as an underclassman was very fun, and I think she and her friends enforcing these “unspoken rules” even more made it fun for me,” Etcheverry said. “Whenever they would enforce it, I almost felt included and welcomed into high school.”
Unspoken rules are in every aspect of school life, including chapel.
“It has always been an unspoken rule that your class does not stand up at the end of chapel until the grade above yours has left,” Etcheverry said. “It has always been that way and frowned upon when broken.”
While unspoken rules seem to be only positives for upperclassmen, Sardina sees things a bit differently.
“In certain cases the student section is fun and exciting like at football games,” Sardina said. “Other times it’s a bit scary getting yelled (in a funny way) at by upperclassmen for not being in theme.”