This is where it all began. It’s where I learned that life was so much more complicated than I perceived it to be. Even though the class spent the first day coloring and making name tags, there was still pressure to be better.
My mother had painted a lovely picture of what school would be like. At least, in the beginning, it was exactly like she said it would be. Every day my teacher would start with a “good morning kiddos” and proceed to pass out our broken crayons.
First grade was kind of a blur. Not only was I introduced to the idea of “mean teachers,” but it’s when I realized I got my first crush. A boy with sandy blond hair who would always leave his desk covered with pencil drawings of dragons. He liked drawing. I liked creating. In my tiny mind, it seemed we might have been meant for each other.
Later the childhood crush was crushed after Maddy tried to get into a fight with me and I pushed her into the not-so-soft mulch. He ran away afraid of me, scared that he would end up as my next victim of violence. I never spoke to the sandy-haired boy again.
So far, the best school year I’ve experienced. My teacher, Ms. Paige, would always talk about her Yorkie and Weiner dog, which I later learned was not actually called that.
“You guys and my dogs are the only children I’ll ever have,” she said to us one afternoon.
Come the end of the year and the only thing that I knew from second grade is that I really wanted a Golden Retriever. It may not remember this year very much, but I can’t complain because it was by far the easiest school year I’ve had.
My days in third grade were mostly spent questioning my very existence on this planet after some foul-mouthed fourth grader had described to me what sex was. I never brought it up to anyone because, as a seven year old, I still didn’t understand the concept.
“How do you know?” I would hesitantly ask him.
“My sister doesn’t lock her door when she has guys over,” he responded coolly.
I was still completely convinced that I grew from a plant seed my mother had swallowed and such a revelation nearly ruined my tiny mind.
Soon, I found out that after fourth grade I’d be forced to leave Baldwin.
I was struggling with math, as always, and often lied to Mr. Smith about why I didn’t do my practice sheets. He usually always believed me. My lies in school had become so detailed and convincing that even I was beginning to think they were actually true. Little did I know how long I’d keep my stories up.
He always told me I was good at imagining things, but never realized that all the tall tales I spun were just as imaginary as my story about an amusement park where you never grow old or spend money.
“Welcome to almost middle school!” my teacher Ms. Rogers yelled out. She was always the one to get easily irritated with us, but I preferred her over Mrs. Sutton.
“Can I go to the bathroom?” I would ask.
“The correct question would be ‘May I use the restroom?’ Get it right next time you ask,” she’d lazily respond.
That’s the only lesson that really stuck with me through the years. Even now, I’m subconsciously afraid to say it wrong.
“I don’t know. Can you use the bathroom?” she’d respond to the next poor child who desperately needed to pee.
“This is a GT class, and you’re in it. It means you’re special when it comes to learning,” Ms. Mattia would say to me every time I told her I needed help.
Again, math was my weak point and, a heavily pregnant, Mrs. Conn would always try to help even though I never understood what she was saying to me.
Science? Sure. Ms. Mattia awarded me a “best science student” certificate at the end of the year. I spent a lot of my time distracted in that class though. Really, the only reason I could never focus was because of her fish tank. I always wondered why fish never stop moving.
That school year may have been my best academically, but personally, it was my biggest regret.
“This is probably a mistake I don’t think I’m supposed to be here,” I told my algebra teacher after realizing I was supposed to be in Math 7.
Apparently, my guidance counselor expected me to skip two years of math, my worst subject, and do well. It was my first year in middle school and I was already thoroughly confused. I passed the class, failed the SOL the first time just barely. Then I just barely passed the SOL the second time. My classmates already expected me to fail, and it was a surprise to them when I actually passed.
At this point, math has never frustrated me more. Even though geometry was easier that algebra I never quite understood the math in triangles.
As always, I continued to struggle.
“You really don’t need to know any of this in life, but it’s the law so here you are,” my math teacher explained the day I gave up.
“You’re in high school now, so we’ll treat you like adults and expect you to work like adults,” every other teacher said on my first day high school. Gym was incredibly awkward for me. This was the year I learned most people thought having hair on your body is gross.
“So the point is to look pre-pubescent?” I very said to the girls in the locker room while observing their very shiny legs.
“No, you’re supposed to look clean and smooth,” one of them snarkily responded back to me and looked at me in disgust.
I didn’t think hair was considered unhygienic to teenage girls. They acted like immature barbie dolls. I thought we were supposed to act like adults by now? It was the beginning of high school after all...
It was only my second year and I was already waving my white flag of surrender.
Gym didn’t get any better. I just thought that instead of running the mile we could have been learning something useful, like how to do the laundry correctly without having to pick dryer lint off of my black clothes later.
At this point, I was questioning why no one had taught me any basic life skills, or literally anything useful, in school yet. What was the point of getting a high education if we would never need it for basic survival? Is the education system all wrong, or just outdated?
Present day and I’m tired.
“It’s your junior year, don’t screw it up,” my senior friend threateningly told me on the first day. She’s not much of a motivator, but I knew she wasn’t wrong.
“Trust me it will get worse later, but I’ll try to make it as painless as possible” a teacher told us during third block. At this point, I’m finding it harder every day to believe that you can even make it through junior year painlessly. What’s in store for senior year? Will I even make it in one piece?