Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My First Day of School

My new school seems so big compared to my old school.
The main hallway was littered with handwritten signs with arrows pointing to where we had to go. But I was clearly not ready to do this. Finally I ended up asking one of the teachers walking up and down the halls. "Sixth grade?" she asked in between chews of gum.
"Yes, m'aam," I replied in my politest voice.
"All the sixth graders are meeting in the auditorium."
"Where's that?"
"Down the hall and take a left. You can't miss it."After thanking her, I tramped my feet toward the mass of kids crammed in one room like sardines. I had never seen this many people in my life.

Suddenly I felt smaller and younger than ever. These girls were a bunch of perfect-looking Hannah Montana clones. How was I going to compete with them?
A slender teacher in a pant suit with a short brown hair walked up to the microphone that had been placed to the front of the auditorium. She began arranging us all in ABC order.
"If your last name begins with the letters A through G, go with Mrs. Banks. If your last name begins with H through M, go with Mrs. Martin..."
Since my last name is Hotchkiss, I would have to first, find Mrs. Martin and second, find the group that was going with her.
I heard a boy behind me whisper 'Four Eyes' as I walked past. I knew he was talking about me because he pointed his finger.
"Your homeroom teacher will have your locker assignments, your locker keys, and some other things you need to know about our school. Welcome to junior high."
Welcome to junior high, indeed.

I followed the line of students to my new classroom. I found myself sitting in the middle row of the classroom, behind a girl with long black hair and a purple sweater, half-listening to the teacher call roll and talk about class assignments and school supplies and locker assignments. Before I knew it she had passed some papers along to me that my dad would need to sign and that I would need to read carefully.

I heard the door open. Coming through it was the blondest girl I'd ever seen. Her long silky hair fell in soft waves past her shoulders. She must have been one of those rich girls in the big houses on the other side of town. She just oozed cool.
"Name?" asked Mrs. Martin, peering through her glasses.
"Meredith Hopkins."
"Don't make being late a habit, Meredith."
Meredith flipped her blond hair back as she took the empty seat next to me. The way she looked at me, she looked like she could crush me like a bug.
I felt smaller than ever.
The girl in the purple sweater turned around again, and I looked at her. Unlike most of the other girls in the class, she had dark skin and huge brown eyes. "Meredith gets away with murder," she confided. "She's the most popular girl in the entire sixth grade."
I stole another look at Meredith, who was applying makeup with a mirror and flipped open her cell phone. Three other copycat girls immediately crowded around her. I felt a small pang of jealousy. Was this what junior high was going to be like for me?

I had trouble finding somewhere to sit for lunch, too. At my old school I just sat anywhere I wanted, but here, everyone had a certain table. It was weird. Then I heard a group of girls yelling my name. "Haley!" they shouted.
I turned around, and there was Meredith in the middle of the pack.
"Hey, Haley, did you catch the wrong bus?" she asked.
Added another girl, "Yeah, isn't St. Thomas Aquinas on the other side of town?"
"What wrong bus?" I wondered.

"Well, with the plaid skirt and all," said Meredith, tossing her blond head around, "I thought, you know, maybe -- maybe you were supposed to catch the bus there."
All the kids at the table burst out in laughter. Meanwhile, all I wanted to do was disappear.
The rest of the day seemed like a blur. I don't remember what classes I was in, or who was in them, or even how many stacks of papers my teachers gave me. All I know was I was glad when three o'clock came.

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