The First Day of Middle School

The First Day of Middle School

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

The First Day of Middle School

The transition into middle school will be the hardest change kids experience during their school years. . . . Compared to this, the first day of high school is a piece of cake.

Allan Mucerino, Principal, Ensign Intermediate School

My stomach was tied in knots, and I could feel the sweat soaking through my T-shirt. My hands were clammy as I spun the face of my combination lock. I tried and tried to remember the numbers, and every time I thought I had it, the lock wouldn’t open. Around and around went the numbers, left, right, right, left . . . which way was it supposed to go? I couldn’t make it work. I gave up and started to run down the hallway. As I ran, the hall seemed to get longer and longer . . . the door I was trying to reach was farther away than when I had started. I began to sweat even worse, then I could feel the tears forming. I was late, late, late, late for my first class on my first day of middle school. As I ran, people were watching me and they were laughing . . . laughing . . . laughing . . . then the bell rang! In my dream, it was the school bell. But as I sat up in bed, I realized that it was my alarm clock jarring me awake.

I was having the dream again. I started having the dream around the end of sixth grade, and as the start of seventh grade drew closer, the more I had the dream. This time the dream was even more real, because today was the morning of the first day of seventh grade.

In my heart, I knew I would never make it. Everything was too different. School, friends—even my own body.

I was used to walking to school, and now I had to walk six blocks to the bus stop so that I could take the bus to and from school. I hated buses. They made me carsick from the jiggling and the smell of the fuel.

I had to get up for school earlier than in the past, partly because of having to be bussed to school and partly because I had to take better care of myself now that I was in my preteen years. My mom told me that I would have to shower every morning since my hormones were kicking in—that’s why I perspired so easily.

I was totally uncomfortable with my body. My feet didn’t want to respond to my own directions, and I tripped a lot. I constantly had a sprained ankle, wet armpits and things stuck in my braces. I felt awkward, smelly, insecure and like I had bad breath on a full-time basis.

In middle school, I would have to learn the rules and personalities of six different teachers instead of just one. There would be different kids in all my classes, kids I didn’t even know. I had never made friends very easily, and now I would have to start all over again.

I would have to run to my locker between classes, remember my combination, open it, put in the books from the last class and take out different books . . . and make it to the next class all within five minutes!

I was also scared because of some stories I had heard about the first day of middle school, like being canned by the eighth-graders. That’s when a bunch of eighth-graders pick you up and put you in a trash can. I had also heard that when eighth-grade girls catch a new seventh-grader in the girls’ bathroom alone, they smear her with lipstick. Neither one of these first-day activities sounded like something I wanted to take part in.

No one had ever told me that growing up was going to be so hard, so scary, so unwelcome, so . . . unexpected. I was the oldest kid in my family—in fact, in my entire neighborhood—and no one had been there before me, to help lead me through the challenges of middle school.

I was on my own.

The first day of school was almost everything I feared. I didn’t remember my combination. I wrote the combination on my hand, but my hand was so sweaty it came off. I was late to every class. I didn’t have enough time to finish my lunch; I had just sat down to eat when the bell rang to go back to class. I almost choked on my peanut butter and banana sandwich as I ran down the dreaded hallway. The classrooms and the teachers were a blur. I wasn’t sure what teacher went with which subject and they had all assigned homework . . . on the very first day of school! I couldn’t believe it.

But the first day wasn’t like my dream in another way. In my dream, all of the other kids had it together and I was the only one who was the nerd. In real life, I wasn’t the only one who was late for classes. Everyone else was late, too. No one could remember their combination either, except Ted Milliken, the kid who carried a briefcase to school. After most of the kids realized that everyone else was going through the same thing they were going through, we all started cracking up. We were bumping into each other in our rush to get to the next class, and books were flying everywhere. No one got canned or smeared—at least no one I knew. I still didn’t go into the girls’ bathroom alone, just in case. Yeah, there was laughter in the hallway, but most of it was the laughter of kids sharing a common experience: complete hysteria!

As the weeks went by, it became easier and easier. Pretty soon I could twirl my combination without even looking at it. I hung posters in my locker, and finally felt like I was at home. I learned all of my teachers’ names and decided who I liked the best. Friendships from elementary school were renewed and made stronger, and new friends were made. I learned how to change into a gym suit in front of other girls. It never felt comfortable, but I did it— just like everyone else did. I don’t think any of us felt very comfortable.

I still didn’t like the bus; it did make me carsick. I even threw up on the bus once. (At least it was on the way home, not on the way to school.) I went to dances and parties, and I started to wonder what it would feel like to be kissed by a boy. The school had track tryouts, and I made the team and learned how to jump the low hurdles. I got pretty good at it, too.

First semester turned into second, and then third. Before I knew it, eighth grade was just around the corner. I had made it through.

Next year, on the first day of school, I would be watching the new seventh graders sweating it out just like I did—just like everyone does. I decided that I would feel sorry for them . . . but only for the FIRST day of seventh grade. After that, it’s a breeze.

Patty Hansen

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