The Famous Mrs. Walton
There is a question that is asked on only one night of the year. Some kids might love it, while some might dread it. Dinner at the Arthur house was always full of questions. Tonight, was no different.
Mom asked, “So Calvin, do you know what you are going to wear tomorrow for your first day of fifth grade?”
That was the dreaded question that I knew was coming. Those words meant that summer vacation was officially over. A funny feeling settled into the pit of my stomach as I said, “I wish summer wouldn’t end. It went so quick. I guess I’ll wear my jeans and a collar shirt from last year.”
Mom said, “Why wouldn’t you wear one of your new shirts?”
I answered with, “I just don’t want to stand out too much on the first day. I don’t want to seem too flashy. Blending in with my old clothes is okay by me, but I will be wearing my new high-top sneakers.”
The next morning brought on more nervousness than I expected. The butterflies in my belly seemed to be growing with every bite of cereal. I was the only one left at the breakfast table as my two sisters, Candice and Clare, had just ventured out to their bus stop. They were off to a new year at middle school. I always wondered what it would be like to ride a bus to school. The walk to Washington Elementary was just under a mile. That distance meant no bus riding for me. I would be walking again this year.
After I walked about three city blocks this morning, I heard someone call out, “Hey Calvin, what’s up?” I looked up and across the street I saw my buddy James Hopper from the other side of Wellington Heights.
I yelled back, “I’m on my way to fifth grade, James, what’s up with you?”
“Obviously, I’m doing the same thing. Who is your teacher?” James asked.
As the light changed, I crossed in the crosswalk and approached James. “I have Mrs. Walton. What about you?”
Before James answered he said, “Ah man good luck to you, she is the mean one! I have Ms. Joseph, the nice one.”
We began to walk together now and continued our discussion. “There were only two fifth grade classrooms James. I wonder how they decide which teacher we all get?”
“Not sure, but you will be okay in the strict class. Just roll with it, buddy,” replied James with a not so reassuring tone in his voice.
"Easy for you to say, James. I’m even more nervous now.”
We walked the rest of the way to school and talked about what we looked forward to this year.
“So, James what do you hope for in fifth grade?” I asked.
“I’m hoping to become a leader in my class and possibly in the school. What about you Calvin?”
“I’m looking forward to standing up for myself when Ashley, Vinney, Eddie or anyone else tries to bully me or push my buttons. I’m also going to help others who are getting bullied. You know, stand up for what is right.”
“Wow, that’s admirable. Have you been working out?” James asked.
“As a matter of fact, I have, and I’m feeling good. A summer of swim team, lifting weights, and growing three inches will change a guy.” I responded.
James asked. “So, are you some kind of super hero now?”
“Well, how about we go with a concerned classmate with courage. I just want to make a difference this year.”
With the sound of skepticism in his voice, James replied, “Oh well you do look a little taller.”
We made it to Bishop Boulevard and crossed the busy intersection with the crossing guard’s help. Then it was a straight walk to the front steps of Washington Elementary. The butterflies were now flapping in my belly. I had to take a deep breath to settle them down. My mind wondered and my head spun with the sight of kids everywhere. Maybe, I didn’t have as much courage as I thought? Maybe I’m not ready to make a difference?
Upon entering the school, we knew just where to go. James and I walked all the way down to the end of the older kid’s hall to the last two classrooms. I started to turn left and James went right. James looked back, smiled and said, “Have fun Calvin, see you at recess.”
Just before I went inside Mrs. Walton’s classroom, I couldn’t help notice that a lot of noise was coming from Ms. Joseph’s class and that there was not a sound coming from my new class. Oh, how I wished that I could go right.
To my surprise, my new class had about fourteen students already sitting down and nobody was talking. In a quite boisterous voice, Mrs. Walton said, “Welcome Calvin Arthur. Your seat is over here.”
I thought, how could she know my name already? Mrs. Walton continued talking to everyone about the plays she was in, or was a part of, over the summer at the Shea Theater. She was passionate about her plays and each student seemed to be focused on every word that she spoke. She was very dramatic and interesting. It was as if she was an amazing actress who was now our teacher. She was dressed in a bright colored floral dress with yellow high heels and matching yellow dangling earrings. One could tell she was no nonsense, intense, a bit intimidating, and that she loved her place in the classroom. It was as if her room was her stage, and she was the star performer.
As I looked around, I saw a variety of students. There were several kids from the Vineyard Apartments, Southern Pines and Rockville neighborhoods. Someone must have put us in that room for a reason. Mrs. Walton wasn’t as mean as James said she would be. She was firm, organized, interesting, and attractive all at the same time. I wondered, would she squash my desire for courage or embrace it? I guess time will tell. She seemed to be everything you could ask for in a fifth grade teacher.