The bus ride was very loud and chaotic, so I’m glad when we finally arrive at school. From the outside, it seems way bigger than our elementary school was, and I start to get nervous. What happens if I get lost inside that huge building? What happens if I get lost and end up not making it to class on time and I get detention or something?
As we get off the bus, the wave of students who actually know where they’re going pushes us towards what I assume are the front doors of the school. As soon as we get inside, though, everyone stops. I can hear someone shouting, and I assume that it’s an adult, but I’m not quite sure.
“Good morning, students!” she says. “For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Mrs. Reich, the school secretary. Since today is the first day of the school year, your day will be a bit different. I need freshmen to go to the auditorium, and all other students should report to their advisories. You will have the same advisory teacher that you had last year. If you are new to the school and you are not a freshman, or you do not know who your advisory teacher is, please report to the Principal’s Office. If you have any other questions or concerns, please come and see me now or any time throughout the school day.”
Everyone splits off into one of the three groups, and we soon figure out that the auditorium is located outside. We manage to find three seats together but don’t say much as we look around. Everything seems so much bigger in this school, but I realize that it’s because we’re so used to being in a school that was designed for little kids. Eventually the 5-minute warning bell rings, then the final bell to indicate that it’s time for school to start.
“Hello, freshmen!” a man says as he steps onto the stage. “My name is Principal Diep, and I’m excited to get to spend the next four years with you! I hope that I get to know each and every one of you and that you all feel welcome here. Now, I know that none of you want me to stand here and talk all day, so I’m going to be pretty brief in my instructions. Once I’m done talking, you will leave your seats and come onto the stage in a single file line, where you will have your school picture taken. After that, you will pick up your student ID, class schedule, and school map. Once you have done all of that you will report to your first class and follow your schedule as normal. Make sure that you are looking at semester one on your schedule, otherwise you might end up going to the wrong classes. Your advisory teacher is listed on the top of your schedule. You will go to that teacher’s room at the beginning of every day except for this one. Don’t worry about being late to any classes for this first week- we know that you’re still learning your way around, which can be difficult in a large school like this one. Have a nice day!”
After we all get our things, Lauryn, Leticia, and I compare schedules… and it turns out that I don’t have any classes with either of them, while they have almost all of their classes together. At least lunches are divided out by grade, so I know that I’ll see them then, but it’s still going to suck.
I’m not quite sure what my first class is about when I see it on my schedule, and I’m even more confused when I walk into a room full of… ovens? When the bell rings, the teacher explains to us that FACS stands for Family and Consumer Science, which still doesn’t explain much. Then he passes out the class syllabus, which I eagerly read once I realize that a syllabus pretty much tells you what you’re going to be doing in the class, as well as the class rules and the teacher’s contact information. It turns out that this is actually a class where you learn how to cook and sew, as well as learn about nutrition. Today, we’re learning how to make a salad, which seems ridiculous considering that I just made one this morning. I get bored during the demonstration of how to cut vegetables, tear lettuce, and toss salad, and once he finally lets us begin I’m done in only a few minutes. What I see when I look around astonishes me. There are students- even seniors- who can’t figure out how to hold a knife properly or toss salad without letting it spill all over the place. I’m allowed to watch everyone else’s hilarious mishaps while munching on my perfect-score salad, though I do feel bad for a couple of students who still haven’t finished after the almost hour-long class.
After a very uneventful Algebra 2 class, I meet Lauryn and Leticia in the cafeteria to get our lunches. Thankfully I had that extra salad earlier, otherwise I would be hungry enough that I would actually have to eat these gross looking fish tacos. After going through the lunch line, we have a bit of a dilemma: the cafeteria is seriously lacking in seating, and we were the last students in line. Since freshmen aren’t allowed to go outside during the school day unless they’re walking between the two buildings, we had to find someplace indoors to sit. We’re trying to figure out where when we hear a woman say, “You girls can eat in here if you’d like.” The voice is coming from a nearby classroom, and when we walk in the first thing I notice is that one wall is lined with bookshelves.
“My name is Ms. Hellinger, and I’m the Simlish teacher,” she says. “This period is my lunch break, so I don’t have any classes right now. Feel free to sit in here whenever you’d like.”
We thank her and sit down at one of the empty tables. “What happened, Lauryn?” I ask, motioning towards her body, which is covered in something black.
“Let’s just say that I’m not very good at changing oil,” she replies, and I remember that the class she had right before this was Auto Mechanics.
“Oh, you’re in Auto Mechanics?” Leticia replies. “Cool. I have woodworking in the same room.”
“I guess it must have been your terrible project sitting in my way that caused me to do this.”
“If you don’t want to share a room, then maybe you should ask Mr. Humphrey if you can go work outside. At least then you’d get to work with a real car instead of some stripped-off old parts.”
After that, the two of them start bickering. I stare at my taco, poking it idly with my fork, and hope that every day isn’t like this.
What finally breaks up their argument is the door opening and a girl walking in. She hands her hall pass to Ms. Hellinger, who struggles to read the girl’s name. “Sofia B-j-erg-sen?”
“Bjergsen. The j is pronounced like a long e,” she replies, and I can tell by her tone of voice that she’s not happy with Ms. Hellinger. “I was wondering if I could get a head start on the first novel that we’re reading for Simlish Literature.”
“Of course,” teacher replies cheerfully as she glances over the shelves, trying to find the book. “It’s so nice finding a student who is so excited about reading.”
Sofia doesn’t look excited at all. “Thank you, Ms. Hellinger,” she replies once the book is found, then walks out of the room.
“I was warned by the previous Simlish teacher that Sofia is one of the most advanced students here,” Ms. Hellinger explains to us. “It’s a shame that I’ll only have her for two years.”
I can tell by the looks on Leticia’s and Lauryn’s faces that they’re thinking what I’m thinking: the only thing that this girl is “advanced” at is being popular.
My next class is Physical Science, where we are sent on a scavenger hunt around the school grounds in order to find common rocks and minerals. Our teacher says that this is supposed to be a “fun” way to start the school year, but it’s more like torture. After running all over the place and attempting to pry rocks out of the ground, I’m covered in sweat and I still have to suffer through Intro to Poetry before I get to the class where I’m actually supposed to get sweaty. At least I’m given five points of extra credit for finding a rare crystal.
Intro to Poetry isn’t as boring as I thought it would be, but I’m still not super excited about having to take the class. At least it’s only for one semester. My final class of the day is gym, where we do fitness testing and goal-setting. It turns out that the gym teacher also teaches FACS, which is pretty funny. After class, Coach, as he likes to be called, pulls me aside. I’m worried that he’s going to yell at me for not being athletic enough, so I’m surprised when he says to me, “I can see that you’ve got a lot of potential. You may not be the fastest runner, but your pacing is excellent. I’d love to have you on the Cross-Country team this fall, if you’re interested. If you can’t, that’s alright- there’s also Swimming in the winter and Track in the spring. Those sports would also be a very good match for your physical abilities.”
I’ve never played a sport before, but it couldn’t hurt to try, right?
“Where do I sign up?” I ask him, and he points me towards the bulletin board on the outside of the building.
“You’ll find information about all of our athletics there. The club board is right next to it,” he explains, grinning.
As I put my name and phone number down on the list, I can’t help but feel optimistic towards the rest of this school year.