With students in theTukwila School District beginning another school year, I can’t help but think of my first day as a student at Sammamish High School. Actually, it wasn’t the day I remember so much as the angst-filled morning precipitating it.
It was a dark, cold September morning. A thick fog shrouded our house and the street. I forced myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m., two full hours before the first school bell rang.
In my family, arriving late to something was a serious faux pas. Early was on time, on time was late and late was simply unacceptable.
Thus, my full set of clothes for the day, as well as my jogging clothes for cross country practice, were neatly arranged in preparation. My backpack, fully stocked with every possible tool and piece of academic equipment, was in its proper place.
I woke up, stared out of my window into the misty white abyss, shivering as I got dressed. On top of two layers of shirts, I threw on a hooded football sweatshirt I would wear every single day for an entire month.
Downstairs, I quietly made my lunch as I constantly checked my watch to make sure I had time to spare.
With an extra hour and a half left, I was left to fervently dread the day.
It was the first time in my life I had ever been to a new school. Attending a small private school from preschool to eighth grade (yes, I know) I had graduated in a class with eight kids and knew practically everyone. Save for my neighborhood friend, I only knew a few seniors, soon to be graduated.
As my brother, Dan, and I stumbled out of the house, well wishes from our parents howled down the cul-de-sac. Since Sammamish was a mile away, our parents had informed us there would be no car to drive us. We would walk, just like they had done at our age, “up-hill both ways and in the middle of snowstorms.”
It was also to save gas, back when it was a shocking $1.36 a gallon.
Dragging my backpack and burdensome clarinet case, I trudged down the long stretch of road leading to Sammamish High, hardly able to see ten feet in front of me. My friend and his older brother arrived to save the day with their family van, but their timing was a little off, as we were about two hundred feet away from the school by then.
Just to show you how small my middle school was, Sammamish was the first time I had ever used a student locker. I had seen them, but never had one. As a result, the first day was also the last for me to use it.
Sammamish High is by no means large in terms of property, but to me, a terrified 15-year-old, it was a colossal, ominous labyrinth. The school’s totem pole – our mascot – stood at the entrance to the school and stared at me with a portentous glare.
Navigating the hallways with my tiny paper map was like entering a corn maze. Nothing seemed to make sense. Being directionally challenged did not help, either. Agonized by the prospect of showing up late to class and having everyone stare at me, I fought my way into the heart of the school, where the library — and my Spanish class — was located.
Naturally, having arrived a full 15 minutes early, I was left to stand there awkwardly outside of the locked classroom as other students crept up the nearby stairs with lethargic expressions. My freshman class mostly came from the nearby public middle schools and were well acquainted with each other.
As a result, I got more than a few suspicious “who are you?” looks.
Then, the menacing dong of the school bell rang. We scurried to get into our seats. It was 7:25 a.m. Five minutes later the bell rang again and my first day of high school officially started.
I learned many things my first day in high school. I learned it was best not to talk and simply listen. I learned the truth behind the adage “no attention is good attention for the new kid.”
I learned that Bellevue is 45 degrees and foggy at 6:45 a.m. and 78 degrees and cloudless at 9:00 a.m. and to dress accordingly.
I learned you could beg your way to a free lunch in the cafeteria, one quarter at a time.
If you have a good story of your first day at high school, I’d love to hear it.
Here are a few tips for those who have started or are about to start high school.
- Think long term. Pay attention to what classes you enjoy, what you have a knack for and what you could see yourself doing for a career. It will save you money.
- The layout of the school can appear intimidating if you have never been there before. Try going to the school before it starts and simply walk around several times.
- Treat everyone respectfully. The kid you mercilessly tease might end up as your boss. In such cases, the concept of mercy will be unknown to them.
- The only time you will ever use your protractor is to stab your desk on an especially tedious afternoon in biology class.
- When it comes to English papers, whatever the teacher says the author is “really” trying to say, he’s “really” trying to say, even if he wrote otherwise in the original foreword to the novel.
- Go on dates, but, try to avoid exclusive relationships.
- The SAT doesn’t tell you have smart you are. It tells you how good you are at taking the SAT and that’s about it.
- High school is not the end all, be all of your existence. So boys, when you get turned down by that incredibly hot girl you’ve had a crush on since elementary school who instead goes to senior homecoming with some good-looking jerk with a fake smile and a Mustang, work on your college application instead of brooding over it (I went to my senior homecoming).