First Day Pressure
It was the morning of the first day of 4th grade, and I had a feeling that my classmates and I were about to face serious classmate judgment and peer pressure. I hoped to just blend in and avoid any drama. Walking into my new classroom, I heard my new teacher say, “Find your nametag and have a seat at your desk. You will find a few papers that you can start working on.” I was curious to see who was going to be in the class, so I peaked at the other nametags, even though I saw my name, “Calvin Arthur,” right away. I was in the front of the class near the teacher’s desk. I really wanted to be in the back so I could blend in or hide when it was necessary. I guess I was sort of an introverted, shy kid. As I looked around at the names, I could see that I knew most of the kids from home or from playing baseball that summer at the nearby Catholic school. I also knew some of the kids from 3rd grade. I was now a fourth grader at Washington Elementary, which sounded so dignified to me. The thought of being at this level in school left me very nervous, excited, and, of course, worried about my classmates judging me.
As I found my seat, the butterflies in my stomach felt real. I unpacked some pencils and books from my
backpack and slid them into my desk. I kept a sharp eye out as more kids came into the room. Our teacher, Mr. Jones, seemed really nice. A chorus of laughs with oohh’s and aahh's came as each new student walked into the room. I was glad I had gotten there early. Kids began talking louder, and some of their greetings to each other were unkind, so I was thinking that Mr. Jones was about to quickly turn from nice to mean. I could see the embarrassment on the kids' faces who were just arriving as the smirks and comments were blurted out for them from the kids who were already present. Then I noticed that kids were also smirking over where other kids had been assigned to sit. Oh my, I thought to myself. My desk was next to two girls, Jesse Salvador and Hellen Matters. Although I liked girls (I have two sisters), I couldn’t admit it to the other boys. The pressure mounted. My turn to be teased was on its way. I wondered what kind of year this was going to be.
As my mind wandered, I tried to brace myself. Then, unexpectantly, a boy plopped down in the chair next to me.
He said, “Hi, I’m Jesse.”
“Oh, hi, I’m Calvin,” I replied. I had thought Jesse was a girl’s name. Boy was I wrong. Jesse was tall with short brown hair and freckles. The kids didn’t say anything when he came into the room, so I was guessing he was cool. I did remember Jesse from last year, but he was in another class, and I never talked with him or knew his name. He seemed quiet, so I thought he would be OK to sit next to.
The surprises continued. It was like opening a present every time someone new came into the room. You never knew what you would get or who would be next. As soon as the next boy came through the door the class let out a chorus of, “Oohhhh!” It was a boy from the Southern Pines neighborhood. His name was Melvin Wood. He was a bit of a loud talker and also didn’t have much of a filter on the words he chose to speak. In the past, everyone was always nice to him. Nobody dared to correct him or say anything to get him riled up. Melvin Wood was full of strong opinions. He was a dominant class character. After the chorus finished, Melvin stood there and announced, “That’s right, you all got me this year.” Then he went to his seat with his chest puffed out a bit.
“Oohhhh!” the chorus sang out again. This time it was Hellen Matters. I remembered her from second grade. She seemed really quiet and somewhat introverted. Never bothered anyone. She walked over with her head down as she tried to dodge the noises and sat on the other side of me. I felt bad when the kids sang out as she entered the classroom because it was the loudest greeting of all. You could see the embarrassment on her face. Then, as she sat down, they sang out again, “Aawwww!” This one was directed towards me. Because Hellen was sitting next to me. My chest suddenly felt like it had a huge rock on it.
Finally, the teacher spoke, “Good morning, everyone, and welcome to fourth grade. My name is Mr. Jones. This year will be full of interesting challenges. The first challenge is to accept each other and our differences. We are not alike on the outside, but we are a lot alike on the inside. You cannot walk in everyone’s shoes, but you should understand each other. We don’t have to be best friends, but we do need to respect one another.”
“Any chance we can get extra recess?'' yelled Jesse. I didn’t see that coming, but I was in favor of it.
Mr. Jones responded, “Your daily schedule is on the board. Show me you can be responsible and empathetic toward others, and you can earn extra recess.” I had a hard time believing extra recess could be achieved with this group of energetic kids. One could only hope.