Adventures in Akadia
"It doesn't look good enough!" Elizabeth cried out at her mirror. She had been spending much of her morning trying to find the perfect outfit but was having no success. Elizabeth’s room was now covered in clothes, nothing was left hung up in the closet or folded in her dresser. She looked over at her clock: 8:43. Elizabeth’s mind raced as she thought to herself, The first bell at school rings at 9:00 and the late bell rings at 9:05. So maybe if Mom drives extra fast, there will be enough time to try one more…
“Elizabeth let’s get going!” her mom called from downstairs. Elizabeth's hopes of one more chance at a perfect outfit were dashed.
Usually, choosing an outfit wasn’t a big deal for Elizabeth. So why all the fuss this morning? For Elizabeth and many others, today was the first day of school. On top of that, it was her first day of first grade. Big days, like a first day of school, can sometimes make kids behave a little bit differently than they normally do.
But there is another reason for Elizabeth's struggle to choose an outfit. Sometimes, Elizabeth wants things to be just right—perfect, actually. Whether it was drawing pictures, practicing piano, or ballet, she thought something had to be "perfect" for her to feel good about it. So even though she did well at a lot of things, she hardly ever felt proud of her accomplishments.
“Coming!” Elizabeth called back. She turned to face the sea of clothes that covered the room. Making a split-second decision, Elizabeth chose to go back to the first outfit she had tried on. As she left her room, she took one last look in the mirror, let out a sigh, and rushed downstairs.
“Here you go, honey.” Elizabeth’s Mom said as she handed her breakfast.
On any other day, Elizabeth would have loved breakfast and even asked for seconds. But today, there was a knot in her stomach that made it feel like there wasn’t any room for food.
“I’m not hungry,” Elizabeth replied. “Can we go right now?” Elizabeth’s focus had gone from choosing a perfect outfit to worrying about being late for school.
Looking at her watch, her Mom asked, “Are you sure? I think we have enough time.”
Already heading for the door, Elizabeth replied, “Uh-huh. Let’s go.”
Her mom followed, grabbing a piece of toast on her way out of the kitchen, hoping she could convince Elizabeth to eat it.
The drive to school was mostly quiet. Elizabeth spent the ride wondering what the first day of school had in store: Is the teacher going to be nice? Who will be in my class? Will the things we learn be too hard?
Pulling into the drop-off area at school, her mom reached back to put a hand on Elizabeth’s knee and said with a smile, “Okay, here we are. First day of school!”
Elizabeth undid her seatbelt and swung her backpack into place. Her mom pulled her in close for a side hug and kiss on the cheek and said, “I love you, Lizzy. Have a great day!”
Elizabeth leaped from the car and onto the sidewalk. As she looked ahead, her eyes were drawn to the large letters above the entrance of the school: White Creek Elementary.
Entering the school, Elizabeth joined a flood of other students, all of them bigger and taller. Elizabeth reminded herself of what she had learned at back-to-school night: to find my classroom, turn left at the first hallway, and go to the fourth door on the right. Remembering how to get there was easy, the hard part was going to be finding her way with all these really big kids around.
As she made her way to class, she was reminded of a scene from one of her favorite movies. The movie starts with a bunch of animals walking together to celebrate a new baby lion. Elizabeth always laughed at the part where a group of birds are walking in front of a herd of elephants, and one of the birds is running around the elephant's legs squawking really loud! Elizabeth imagined the kids around her as giant elephants and herself as the little squawking bird that was trying to not get stepped on!
Elizabeth knew she had found her classroom when she saw the face of her new teacher, Ms. Quinn. Ms. Quinn was standing outside the room, greeting students as they arrived. She had long brown hair, round glasses, and the brightest smile Elizabeth had ever seen.
Ms. Quinn greeted Elizabeth, “Good morning! “I’m so glad you’re here. Do you remember where to hang up your backpack and where your desk is?”
Elizabeth nodded and replied, “Yep, I remember!” She felt a little less nervous now that she had found her classroom and was there on time.
She walked to the long line of hooks and found the one that had the name “Elizabeth” written above it.
Elizabeth had always liked her name, but sometimes preferred her nickname, Lizzy. Elizabeth was the name her parents and other adults would use whenever she needed to hurry up or if she was in trouble. It would sound like, “Elizabeth, we’re late, you need to get in the car!” or “Elizabeth, you forgot to pick up your toys!” Whenever she wasn’t in trouble or there wasn’t a rush to get something done, her parents would use the name “Lizzy”. This would sound more like, “Lizzy, you want to come with me to the store?” or “Hey Lizzy, let’s make some cookies!” For a moment, Elizabeth wondered if she should sneak a new sticker above her hook that said “Lizzy” instead of “Elizabeth”.
After hanging up her backpack, Elizabeth walked to her desk. Her desk was part of a four-desk cluster near the back of the classroom, furthest from the door. Elizabeth was the first to arrive and sit down at the cluster. She looked down at her desk and saw a nametag with “Elizabeth” written on it. She leaned over to discover that the desk next to her belonged to a girl named “Gabriela”. Elizabeth didn’t recognize this name. Twisting her head a little and doing her best to read upside down, she saw that the desk across from her belonged to “Lukas”. Elizabeth knew Lukas, but only a little bit. He was in another kindergarten class and always liked playing by himself at recess. The desk next to Lukas and kitty-corner from Elizabeth had the name “Jamari” written on it. Elizabeth was less than excited about this. She and Jamari had been in the same class in kindergarten and Elizabeth thought Jamari was always so distracting and never followed the rules.
The first bell rang and Elizabeth jumped a little in her seat. She had forgotten how loud the bells were! A lot of her classmates started coming into the room after the first bell rang. The first to join Elizabeth at the cluster was Lukas. As he sat down, Elizabeth waved and said, “Hi, Lukas!” He made eye contact with her but didn’t respond.
Jamari arrived just before the late bell. Elizabeth thought she caught the moment when Jamari noticed they would be sitting in the same cluster. His face looked like someone had just told him that his birthday was canceled. With a bit of a scowl, he sat down and waited for class to start.
After the late bell, Ms. Quinn moved from the door to the front of the classroom, “Good morning class! Welcome to first grade!”
Ms. Quinn started the day by explaining the classroom rules. Elizabeth listened closely to make sure she understood the rules but was also wondering how long it would take for Jamari to break every single one of them.
Ms. Quinn then took the students on a tour of the classroom. During the tour, they had a visit from the school principal. Elizabeth noticed the principal had a girl with her. The girl seemed nervous and looked down as the principal introduced her, “Good morning, Ms. Quinn. I’ve got one more student for you. This is Gabriela. Her family just moved here, and she is brand new to our school. I know each of our students will help her feel welcome.”
“Of course,” replied Ms. Quinn. “Come join us, Gabriela, we’re taking a tour of our classroom.” Gabriela walked slowly to join the group and Elizabeth could now see that Gabriela was looking sad. As she wondered what might be making her sad, Elizabeth remembered: Gabriela is sitting next to me!
After the classroom tour, Ms. Quinn had everyone introduce themselves through an art project. Ms. Quinn handed out a piece of paper that had “All About Me” written along the top. The students could draw whatever they wanted: their family, their favorite foods, games they would play, their favorite animals, or anything else that came to mind. On her paper, Elizabeth drew ballet slippers, kittens, a unicorn, books, and bacon. Overall, Elizabeth had fun with the project but got frustrated a couple of times when she couldn’t make the drawings look just how she wanted them. When everyone was finished, Ms. Quinn invited each student to come to the front of the class and talk about what they had drawn.
When it was her turn, Elizabeth was nervous to show what she had worked on. She felt that everyone else could draw better than her, and she worried they might tease her if they saw her art. So, she chose to talk about her drawings but didn’t show them.
After talking about their art projects, Ms. Quinn let the class explore the books she had on her shelf. Elizabeth loved to read and was excited to find a book about kittens and puppies. As she read the book and looked at the pictures, Elizabeth dreamed about having a kitten one day.
After Elizabeth had a chance to look at a few more books, Ms. Quinn called out “Alright everyone, let’s put our books away. It’s time for morning recess!”
A few students let out a cheer. Elizabeth was liking school so far, but she was also ready to go outside and take a break. Before going outside, Ms. Quinn showed everyone a box in the hallway that had everything they could take out for recess. Elizabeth, along with a few other girls, chose jump ropes.
As Elizabeth jumped, she was curious about what the other kids in her cluster had decided to do for recess. Jamari was where you could always find him: playing basketball with his friends. Lukas was also in his normal spot, out by the fence at the edge of the schoolyard. Elizabeth was surprised to find that Gabriela was sitting right next to the door that led back to their classroom. She wondered why Gabriela wasn’t playing anything. Elizabeth thought about inviting her to jump rope but was a little too nervous about the idea of just going up and talking to her.
A little while later, Ms. Quinn came outside and blew a whistle, signaling that recess was over. When they were all settled back at their desks, Ms. Quinn handed out a worksheet to practice their handwriting. It had a lot of lines with dotted numbers and letters. Elizabeth worked hard to make sure her writing stayed on the lines.
As she worked, Elizabeth noticed a woman had come into their classroom. Elizabeth recognized her as someone who worked in the front office of the school. She was carrying a rolled-up piece of paper tied with a red ribbon. The woman approached Ms. Quinn’s desk and handed the piece of paper to her. The woman and Ms. Quinn exchanged puzzled looks before the woman exited the classroom.
Elizabeth watched as Ms. Quinn opened the paper and looked over the note. She could see that Ms. Quinn looked confused. Elizabeth’s heart skipped a beat as Ms. Quinn looked up from the paper and directly at her cluster. Ms. Quinn looked down at the paper one more time and called out, “Elizabeth, Lukas, Jamari, and Gabriela, will you come over to my desk for a minute?”
Elizabeth’s heart and mind started to race. What was written in that note and why did Ms. Quinn need to talk to her about it?
"Come on you silly shoelace! Just go!" Lukas exclaimed in frustration.
Lukas was getting himself ready for school and everything had been going great up until he tried tying his shoes.
Lukas’ Mom came into the room after rushing to get ready for work. Somewhat flustered, she said, “Okay, sweetie. I got to get going. I’m running late. Do you want any help with your laces?”
“No, I got it,” Lukas replied as he began another attempt.
“Alright, Mr. Independent,” she said as she swung her bag over her shoulder. “Don’t forget the school bus will be at the corner at 8:35. That gives you about fifteen minutes before you need to go.”
She leaned over and kissed Lukas on the top of his head. Noticing a few hairs out of place, she licked her fingers and began trying to fix them.
“Ahh, Mom, stop! Don’t mess up my hair!” Lukas shouted.
“Sorry, honey. I was just trying to help.”
Lukas let out a huff and continued working on his shoes. In a whisper, he tried repeating what his mom had taught him, “Over, under, around, and pull…no, that’s not right. Over, under, through, and around… ugh, that’s not it either.”
Seeing that Lukas needed help, his mom set her work bag on the floor, sat cross-legged at Lukas’ feet, and reached for the laces. At first, Lukas resisted and even pulled the laces away from her.
“C’mon Mr. Independent, we have to get you to school,” his mom said in a playful voice.
For as long as Lukas could remember, his mom’s nickname for him was “Mr. Independent”. She would sometimes tell stories about how Lukas always wanted to do things on his own. Even as a toddler, he would say things like “No help!” or “Me do!”. As Lukas grew older, he had grown even more independent.
Lukas’ mom began to maneuver the laces, “Over, under, around, and through. Meet Mr. Bunny Rabbit, pull and through”.
She repeated the same thing on the other shoe and then patted Lukas’ feet, “I love you Lukey, I hope you have a great day!”
Lukas got one more kiss from his mom, this time on the cheek. She stood up, put her bag back over her shoulder, and headed out the door.
When it was time for Lukas to catch the bus, he walked down the steps of the apartment where he and his mom lived. He was feeling a little nervous for his first day of school but also excited to learn new things. His favorite things to learn about were animals, planet Earth, and space.
When he arrived at the bus stop, a handful of kids were already there. He recognized their faces but had never played with them before. Lukas rarely wanted to play with others, he preferred games and activities he could do by himself, like reading, building with his Legos, and video games.
After a few minutes of waiting, a big yellow bus approached their stop. The door opened and the other children that had been waiting got on the bus first. As Lukas stepped onto the bus, the driver said, “Good morning! Are you excited for the first day of school?” Lukas managed a nod and a small smile. The bus was still mostly empty, and Lukas found a row he could sit in by himself.
The bus made many more stops before arriving at the school. At each stop, the bus would pick up children that all seemed bigger, and much louder, than Lukas. As the bus grew louder and more crowded, Lukas found himself wanting the ride to be over and for them to be at the school.
When the bus finally arrived at White Creek Elementary, Lukas made his way to the front doors. Lukas’ mom had brought him to the school the week before to show him where his class was and to meet his teacher. He started trying to remember exactly where the classroom was, but it was hard to see anything over the big kids that surrounded him. As Lukas tried a couple of little jumps to get a better view, he heard a bell ring. He remembered his mom explaining about the first bell and a late bell. Lukas looked down at his watch and saw 9:00, meaning it was the first bell that had rung.
With the ring of the first bell, the hallways quickly started to clear up. This made it much easier for Lukas to find his classroom. He soon found his classroom and the teacher standing outside the door.
“Good morning, Lukas! I’m so excited you’re here!” his teacher said.
With a glance at her nametag, he was reminded that his teacher’s name was “Ms. Quinn”. Lukas gave a little wave and replied with a quiet, “Hi”.
“Do you remember where to put your backpack and where your desk is?” Ms. Quinn asked.
“I think so,” Lukas replied.
Lukas found the hook under his nametag and hung up his backpack. Out of the backpack’s main pocket, he pulled out a pencil box that his mom had given to him. As he approached his desk, Lukas noticed a girl was sitting across from him. Her face looked familiar, but he didn’t know her name. As he pulled the chair out from his desk to sit down, the girl said, “Hi, Lukas!” He looked up and saw that the girl was smiling and looking directly at him. Lukas, surprised and a little embarrassed, sat down without saying a word. Lukas wondered how she knew his name.
Waiting for class to start, Lukas opened his pencil box. He saw all the pencils, erasers, crayons, and colored pencils that he and his mom had picked out. But now there was something else inside: a folded-up piece of paper. Lukas unfolded it to find a note from his mom: “My sweet Lukey, I hope you have an amazing day and meet some great friends! Lots of Love, Mom.” Lukas smiled, folded up the note again, and put it in his pants pocket. Lukas’ mom loved giving him notes and he loved getting them.
Just before the late bell rang, a boy sat down next to Lukas. His face looked familiar too, but Lukas didn’t know his name either. The boy was resting his chin in his propped-up hand, already looking bored. Ms. Quinn was now standing at the front of the classroom and welcomed everyone to the first day of school. The day began with Ms. Quinn explaining the classroom rules. None of the rules were very surprising to Lukas and he felt like he wouldn’t have much trouble following them. It seemed like a lot of the rules were about staying on task and not talking when it was time to listen.
After reviewing the rules, Ms. Quinn took everyone on a tour of their room. Lukas’ favorite part was the corner where Ms. Quinn kept her books. Lukas tried his best to see what kind of books Ms. Quinn had. He saw one about the solar system, one about volcanoes, and lots of books about animals. Seeing these books made Lukas excited and he felt lucky to have his cluster be the closest one to the reading corner.
Lukas had been focusing so much on Ms. Quinn’s books that he was surprised when he realized the principal was now standing in their classroom. Lukas noticed a girl standing next to the principal and he thought he heard the principal say something about the girl being new at the school. When Ms. Quinn finished with the tour of the classroom, she brought the new girl over to their cluster, “…your seat is right here, Gabriela. This is Elizabeth, Jamari, and Lukas.” Lukas could tell that Gabriela was trying to not make eye contact with them.
For their next activity, Ms. Quinn handed out a piece of paper that had “All About Me” written across the top. She explained, “Since it is our first day together, I would love to get to know each of you a little bit better. On this piece of paper, draw or write down your favorite things. You can also show us what you did during your summer vacation. You are welcome to borrow anything you need at our arts and crafts station.”
Lukas was excited to use his new pencil box. He immediately began thinking about which colors he would use and whether he would use crayons or colored pencils to draw certain things. He decided that he would start by drawing some of his favorite animals and bugs. He later added other things like Legos and video games. When the class had finished, everyone shared what they had drawn. Lukas didn’t usually like getting up and talking in front of people, but he was okay with it this time since he got to talk about the things he liked.
After everyone had shared, Ms. Quinn let the class spend some time looking at the books in the reading corner. Lukas was the first to the bookshelves. Ms. Quinn told everyone they could only take one at a time, so Lukas had to be careful about which one he chose. He decided on a book about cheetahs. Lukas loved cheetahs! There was hardly anything in the book that Lukas didn’t already know, but it was still fun reading it and looking at the pictures. Lukas had enough time to finish 3 other books before Ms. Quinn told the class that it was time for recess. While he was disappointed to have to be done reading, Lukas quickly became excited at the idea of returning to his favorite place at school.
While most kids spend recess at the playground, the courts, or the swings, Lukas could always be found at the far corner of the schoolyard. Out in this corner, the schoolyard shared a fence with a large field. Lukas liked everything about this spot. It was quiet and nobody would bother him there. What he liked even more was how this was a great place to spot bugs and small animals. The usual suspects were all out today: ants, rollie pollies, and grasshoppers. One grasshopper was even willing to walk out to Lukas’ finger and stay there a while before jumping away.
As usual, recess was over too quickly. Ms. Quinn had blown her whistle to let everyone know it was time to go back inside. When everyone was settled in, Ms. Quinn handed out an assignment that had the students focus on their handwriting.
While this wasn’t as much fun as reading, Lukas didn’t mind it too much. The worksheet had the students practice a lot of different numbers and letters. When Lukas got to the “S”, he wanted to see if he could get the curves just right. He became so focused that his tongue even came out of his mouth a little bit. He was somewhat startled when Ms. Quinn called out, “Elizabeth, Lukas, Jamari, and Gabriela, will you come over to my desk for a minute?”
Looking up from his paper, Lukas realized that Ms. Quinn had only called up the kids that were in his cluster. Lukas wondered if they had done something wrong or broken a rule, but everyone seemed to be working hard and not talking.
“Jamari, you ready?” his coach asked as he tossed him a basketball.
“Yeah! Let’s do it!” Jamari responded.
Jamari’s basketball team was playing in a special tournament, and they had made it to the finals! Jamari was the star of his team, and everyone was counting on him to have a great game. Before the team left the locker room, the coach called everyone in for a huddle.
“We’ve worked hard for this! It’s time to go out there and show everyone what hard work can do!” the coach shouted.
“Yeah!” the team cheered in unison.
The coach continued, “Go out there, play hard, and remember what we’ve practiced! If we win this game, I’ll take you all out for pickles!”
What? Did his coach just say pickles? Usually, coaches take their team out for ice cream after a game, not pickles. Jamari shrugged it off and brought his focus back to the game.
The coach put his hand in the middle of the group and said, “Alright, everyone, hands in. Let’s do this! Pickles on three: one, two, three!”
“Pickles!” everyone shouted. Everyone except for Jamari. What kind of cheer was that? What was his coach doing? Jamari again had to do his best to keep his focus on the game.
His team made their way out of the locker room. As Jamari entered the tunnel that led to the court, he could already begin to hear the rumble of the crowd. Jamari felt the butterflies going like crazy in his stomach. As he exited the tunnel and reached the court, Jamari could now see how large the stadium was. There must have been thousands of people there! When the crowd saw Jamari, their volume reached a whole new level.
After a short warm-up, the referee called the teams to the center of the court. Trying his best to be heard over the noise of the crowd, the referee shouted, “Best of luck to both teams! Great job making it to the finals. I just wanted to remind both teams of some rule changes for today.”
Rule changes?! Jamari was shocked, why would they change the rules right before a championship game?
The referee continued, “We’ve had some teams trying to play on tricycles. We wanted to remind you that you are not allowed to do that. Also, other teams were trying to bring trampolines onto the court so they could start doing flippy dunks. Your team will be disqualified if you try using either of these items to win.”
Tricycles?! Trampolines?! Flippy dunks?! Jamari wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be angry about what those teams had tried to do. The referee gave one last “good luck” to the teams and then stood in the middle of the court to begin the game. The referee tossed the ball in the air, and it was tipped to Jamari. Jamari caught the ball, and his instincts took over. He dribbled up the court and immediately crossed over his opponent, opening himself up for a jump shot. Jamari let the ball go and it felt perfect! He was shocked and horrified to see that his shot had somehow gone 40 feet over the backboard and landed in the crowd! Jamari didn’t know it was possible to miss a shot that badly. He tried to forget it happened and kept playing.
The next time down the floor, Jamari worked hard against his defender and got himself open for another shot. He yelled “pass!” to his teammate. The teammate sent the ball speeding toward Jamari. As the ball flew toward him, something truly bizarre caught Jamari’s attention. The teammate that had passed him the ball was wearing a chicken suit! Jamari’s mouth dropped open. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Miraculously, he managed to still catch the pass.
With the ball firmly in his hands, Jamari decided to scan for his teammates. To his surprise, ALL his teammates were wearing a different animal suit: one was a flamingo, another was a donkey, and one was a t-rex! Jamari’s attention was then drawn to their opponents. Somehow, the other team was now driving go-carts. How was the referee okay with this?!
Having no idea what to do, Jamari looked over at his coach. Not only did the coach seem perfectly okay with the whole situation, but he was now wearing a full-body pickle suit! What is happening right now? Everyone has gone crazy!
Jamari’s eyes darted toward the crowd, hoping that he could find something normal about this basketball game. But sure enough, the crowd was also dressed in all sorts of costumes. As Jamari looked over the crowd, he finally found where his parents were sitting. To his relief, his mom and dad weren’t dressed in crazy costumes, but Jamari could tell that his mom was trying to tell him something. The noise of the crowd made it impossible to hear what she was trying to say. Suddenly, his mom pulled out a megaphone. She placed it up to her lips and shouted, “Jamari, wake up! You’ll be late for school!”
In an instant, everything around him, his teammates, the opponents, the referee, the crowd, and the stadium disappeared. As quick as the flip of a switch, Jamari was back in his bedroom. Laying on his back and looking up at the ceiling, Jamari realized that the whole thing had been a dream.
“Jamari, come on, it’s time to get going!” his mom called from outside his bedroom.
Jamari stretched and let out a growl that sounded like a bear waking up from hibernation. He switched out of his pajamas and made his way to the kitchen to see if there was something good to eat.
“Oatmeal?” he groaned.
“Yes,” his mom responded. “I want you to have lots of good energy for your first day of school.
“I don’t like oatmeal,” he protested.
“Well, it’s what we’re having today. How did you sleep?” his mom asked.
“Fine,” he responded as he put a spoonful of oatmeal into his mouth. “I had another crazy basketball dream.”
“Oh really?” his mom responded. “What was your coach dressed up like this time?”
Jamari smiled, “A pickle. A PICKLE!”
His mom laughed.
Jamari and his mom ate together and laughed as he told her about the rest of his dream.
“Alright, big guy. Let’s get you ready to go to school.” his mom said as she cleaned up their bowls.
“Do I have to?” Jamari whined. “School is so boring.”
Jamari had been dreading this day. For him, the first day of school felt like an end to the fun and freedom that he had enjoyed that summer. This summer had been especially awesome: lots of fun with friends riding bikes, swimming, sports, video games, and late-night movies. School was the opposite: sitting at a desk all day, teachers telling you what to do, not enough recess, and homework.
“Oh, come on, Jamari,” replied his mom. “It won’t be so bad. I think you’ll really like school this year. You also have some of your best friends in your class.”
“Yeah, but it’s still gonna be boring. School is pbbbbbbfffft!” he said while giving a thumbs down.
His mom smiled as she helped him put his backpack on.
“Don’t forget,” his mom said while sticking a sack lunch in his backpack, “you need to hurry home after school because we’ve got football practice.”
“Oh yeah!” he replied, excited to have something to look forward to.
“Okay, off you go. Don’t be late on your first day!” his mom said as they walked to the front door.
“Bye, Mom!” Jamari called out as he hopped on his bike and sped off.
Jamari rode up to the school just as the first bell was ringing. He quickly hopped off his bike and parked it at the bike rack. As he walked up to the front door, he began running into some of his friends, giving high fives to some and fist bumps to others. He was quickly able to find his classroom and saw his teacher standing at the door.
“Just in time, Jamari!”, the teacher said, “did you have a good summer?”
“Yeah, the best!” Jamari responded as he walked into the classroom to hang up his backpack. He then walked over to the corner of the room where he remembered his desk being. He found his nametag and noticed there were already two kids sitting at his cluster. One was a boy that he didn’t know and the other was…Elizabeth. Not Elizabeth! He and Elizabeth had been in kindergarten together and she was always tattling on him or telling him to stop doing things. Jamari felt like Elizabeth didn’t know how to have fun and was always trying to make sure he wasn’t having fun either.
The late bell rang, and the teacher walked up to the front of the class. “Good morning, class! Welcome to first grade! My name is Ms. Quinn,” the teacher said.
Ms. Quinn started the day by talking about the class rules. Class rules are one of Jamari’s least favorite things about school. He felt like rules were just adults saying, “Be quiet, stay in your seat, don’t have fun.” Because he felt like he already knew what the rules would be, Jamari didn’t pay very close attention and instead tried to twirl a pencil in his fingers.
After Ms. Quinn talked about the rules, she took the students on a tour of the classroom. Jamari didn’t pay very close attention to this part either. The most interesting thing about the tour was when the school principal interrupted and introduced a new girl who would be joining their class. Jamari noticed that the new girl wouldn’t look up and just kept staring down at the floor. After the tour, everyone went back to their seats and Ms. Quinn showed the new girl her desk, directly across from Jamari. The new girl didn’t say a word and just kept staring at the floor.
Ms. Quinn had everyone in the class draw their favorite things on a piece of paper. Jamari made his paper all about sports. Basketball, football, baseball, and any other sport he could think of. Ms. Quinn then gave everyone a chance to show what they had drawn. When it was Jamari’s turn, he talked about each of the sports and told everyone about the dream he had last night. This made almost everyone laugh, including Ms. Quinn.
After everyone talked about their favorite things and showed what they had drawn, Ms. Quinn told the class that they could spend some time looking at the books in the back corner. Jamari immediately went to see if Ms. Quinn had any books about sports. She didn’t have a ton, but there was enough to keep Jamari interested. After a while, Ms. Quinn let everyone know that it was time for morning recess. Jamari let out a cheer! Now we’re talking, he thought to himself. Before going outside, Ms. Quinn showed everyone where they could find the balls to play with. Jamari went straight for a basketball and headed outside with his friends.
Recess was by far Jamari’s favorite thing about school. Nobody telling you what to do, you could run around as much as you wanted, and the only rules were the ones that were part of the game you were playing. Jamari and his friends had a great time playing basketball during that recess. Whenever Jamari noticed someone standing on the sidelines of the game, he would say something like, “C’mon, come be on my team. We need another player!” To Jamari, the only thing wrong with recess was how quickly it was over. Ms. Quinn had come outside and blown a whistle. In that moment, Jamari wondered if it might be possible to hide Ms. Quinn’s whistle. Maybe that could mean recess would last forever. He mentioned this idea to his friends and they all laughed, knowing that it wouldn’t actually work.
As the class got settled in after recess, Ms. Quinn handed out a paper that was supposed to help students with their writing. At times like this, Jamari would usually try to start a conversation with someone sitting next to him to make things a little more interesting as they worked. He realized he was going to have two big problems with that in this cluster. First, he hadn’t heard the new girl or the boy sitting next to him say a single thing all day, except for when they had talked about their favorite things in front of the class. And second, even if they would talk to him, Elizabeth would immediately start shushing him.
The worksheet quickly became boring to Jamari. He already knew had to write these letters and numbers! He decided to get a little creative. With each letter or number, he would copy it like he was supposed to but then he would add something else to it. For example, he turned the O’s into all sorts of faces, the V’s into pizzas, and he turned the S’s into dragons.
His doodling was interrupted by Ms. Quinn’s voice calling out some student names and asking them to come to her desk. Jamari was pretty sure his name was one of the names that had been called. He wondered if he was already in trouble. Did Elizabeth tell the teacher that he had been doodling on his worksheet? He thought to himself, my mom won’t be too happy to hear I’m already in trouble.
“I still don’t understand. Why can’t we go home?” Gabriela asked.
“Gabriela,” her mom said as she began opening a moving box, “we’ve talked about this. This is our home now.”
“Why?” Gabriela asked.
“Because dad’s work needed him to come here.” her mom replied, now pulling kitchen supplies from the box.
“But why did we all have to come? Why didn’t just Dad come?” Gabriela protested.
“Gabriela,” her mom’s voice now sounded a little more exhausted, “we would never see him. Home—I mean our old home—is over ten hours away. That just wouldn’t work.”
Gabriela paused for a moment and then asked, “Well, when do we get to go back?”
Now with sadness in her voice, her mom replied, “We talked about this. We aren’t going back.”
Gabriela and her mother had been having this same conversation every day since her parents first told the family they would be moving. The move had been difficult for everyone, but especially Gabriela.
Gabriela was now sitting on the floor, her arms crossed. Her dad entered the room and called out, “Okay everybody, I’m off to work. Have a great day!” He went up to Gabriela’s mother and kissed her on the cheek. She handed him a bag with his lunch and said, “Good luck, honey. Have a great day!”
Gabriela’s father then walked toward her, leaned over, and kissed her on the head. Before leaving, he said, “Have a good day, Gabriela. Thank you for all you do for our family. Remember: when one door closes, another door opens.”
Gabriela didn’t respond and kept her arms crossed. She didn’t understand what doors closing and opening had to do with anything.
After a brief silence, Gabriela’s mother spoke up, “Okay, honey. While I get your breakfast ready, can you go get dressed for school? You’ll get to be there for the first day!”
Being reminded that she was going to a new school only made Gabriela feel worse.
“Do I have to go?” Gabriela asked.
“Yes, Gabriela,” her mother replied. “Today is the perfect day to go. Everybody will be starting a new school year together.”
Gabriela knew there was no point in trying to argue with her mom. She stood up and headed to her new bedroom. The bedroom was still mostly boxes since the family had just finished moving in the night before. She found a box labeled “Gabriela Clothes” and chose an outfit for the day.
Gabriela came back to the kitchen to discover eggs, bacon, toast, and orange juice. Her mom knew this was her favorite breakfast.
“Thanks, Mom,” Gabriela said in a quiet voice.
“You’re welcome, Gabriela. Let’s eat together and then I’ll drive you to school.”
Spending some time with her mom made Gabriela feel a little better. With how busy everything was, Gabriela hadn’t been able to spend as much one-on-one time with her mom.
After breakfast, Gabriela and her mom searched moving boxes for her backpack. Once they found it, they headed out to the car. On the ride to school, Gabriela was feeling nervous but also curious about her new school.
As the school came into view, Gabriela spoke up, “This school doesn’t look as good as my old one.”
“What do you mean?” her mom asked. “How does the school not look as good?”
“I don’t know,” she replied. “It just doesn’t look good.”
Gabriela’s mom parked the car, walked around to her door, and held out her hand, “Alright, honey. Let’s go inside.”
Gabriela hopped out of the car and took her mom’s hand. As they walked toward the entrance of the school, Gabriela looked around to see if she recognized anyone. She quickly remembered she wouldn’t be seeing anyone she knew. She held onto her mom’s hand a little bit tighter as they entered the school.
Once inside, Gabriela’s mom pointed toward a door and said, “We need to stop here first.”
As they walked into a small office, a woman at the desk looked down at Gabriela and said, “Good morning! Welcome back to school. We’re so glad you’re here!”
“Good morning,” Gabriela’s mom replied. “This is actually my daughter’s first day at this school. We are the family that has just moved here. We’re here to get all the paperwork completed and make sure she is ready to go.”
“Ah yes, I’ve got everything right here,” the woman replied, reaching for a stack of papers.
Gabriela’s mom looked toward her and said, “Sorry, honey. This should only take a minute.”
Gabriela’s mom and the woman behind the desk began working through the stack of papers. Gabriela decided to sit and wait in a nearby chair. As she was waiting, another woman came out of a room that was behind the desk. The woman came around the desk and started talking to Gabriela’s mom, “Good morning, Mrs. Mendoza. I’m Mrs. Sorensen, the principal.” The principal’s eyes then shifted down toward Gabriela. “And this must be Gabriela.” Surprised to hear her name from someone she didn’t know yet, she gave a nervous smile.
The principal knelt so she was eye to eye with Gabriela, “It’s nice to meet you, Gabriela. I’m Mrs. Sorensen. We are so happy to have you hear. I know moving can be hard. We moved a lot when I was a little girl. I’m so proud of you for choosing to be here with us today.”
Gabriela couldn’t help but smile back at her new principal.
“There’s a smile! I’ll tell you what, your smile is worth a million bucks! I hope we give you a lot of reasons to smile at White Creek.”
Mrs. Sorensen stood upright and looked to the woman behind the desk and asked, “Are we all set, Ms. Earl? Is Gabriela ready to go to class?”
Ms. Earl replied, “I think we’ve got everything,” and then looking down at Gabriela she said, “Welcome to our school, Gabriela.”
“Perfect!” Mrs. Sorensen replied. “C’mon Gabriela, I’ll take you to your classroom. Should we say goodbye to mom?”
With a tear in her eye, her mom slowly knelt to give Gabriela a big hug. “Have a great day, sweetheart. I’ll be right outside to pick you up after school.”
“Thanks, mom,” Gabriela replied, squeezing her mom tightly.
Gabriela’s mom kissed her on the cheek and said, “Off you go. Have fun.”
Gabriela walked with the principal out of the office and down the hallway. The first thing she noticed was that the hallways were now empty. School must have started and everyone was in class. Gabriella worried that she might be in trouble for being late, but then she remembered she was with the principal.
Approaching a classroom door, Mrs. Sorensen said, “Here we are. You are going to love Ms. Quinn!” Gabriela became nervous again and hesitated to follow her into the classroom. Mrs. Sorensen smiled and motioned for Gabriela to follow.
“Good morning, Ms. Quinn”, Mrs. Sorensen said as she put her hand on Gabriela’s shoulder, “I’ve got one more student for you. This is Gabriela. Her family just moved here, and she is brand new to our school. I know each of our students will help her feel welcome.” Gabriela could feel the eyes of all the other kids looking at her.
Gabriela joined the class in the middle of a tour of the classroom. When it finished, Ms. Quinn approached Gabriela and said, “I’m so excited to have you in our class. Let me show you where you can put your backpack.” After helping her get her backpack hung up, Ms. Quinn took Gabriela to a group of desks where three kids were already sitting. “Your seat is right here, Gabriela.” Ms. Quinn pulled out the chair for her and then added, “This is Elizabeth, Jamari, and Lukas.” Once again, Gabriela felt like she was being stared at.
Ms. Quinn had everyone in the class draw pictures to tell everyone more about themselves. As Gabriela thought about what she might draw, everything reminded her of home. She drew herself and her friends singing, watching movies with family, yummy food, ice cream, and swimming.
“Alright, everyone,” Ms. Quinn called out. “Now I want to give everyone a chance to come to the front and show what they’ve drawn.”
Gabriela’s heart sank. She didn’t normally get nervous talking in front of others, but she really didn’t feel like talking about what she had drawn.
When it was her turn, Gabriela made her way to the front of the room and spoke softly, “My name is Gabriela and I like to sing, watch movies, eat food, eat ice cream, and swim.”
“Great, Gabriela!” Ms. Quinn said. “I’m curious if you have a favorite food?”
Gabriela thought about it; it was hard to pick just one. Everyone in her family knew how to make such delicious food.
“My favorite food is the enchiladas my abuela makes,” Gabriela said with a smile coming to her lips.
“What is an ab…wa...la?” a classmate called out.
“Abuela,” Ms. Quinn corrected, “It means grandmother, right Gabriela?”
“Uh-huh,” Gabriela responded, nodding her head. She was a little embarrassed. She wasn’t used to people asking about the words she used. Back home, you would hear a lot of English and Spanish, and people hardly ever had to explain what they were saying.
“It sounds like your abuela makes very yummy food,” said Ms. Quinn.
Gabriela nodded and all at once she was hit with a wave of emotions. Thinking about her grandma’s food now made home feel further than ever. Gabriela felt a lump in her throat and tears come to her eyes. She really didn’t want her classmates to see her cry, so she did her best to wipe tears away quickly and tried to stop thinking about home.
“Is there anything else you’d like to tell us, Gabriela?” Ms. Quinn asked softly, almost in a whisper. Gabriela didn’t speak, she simply shook her head and gave Ms. Quinn a half-smile.
“Well, thank you, Gabriela. You can sit down now,” Ms. Quinn said gently.
As she sat down, Gabriela looked at her picture and thought about all the things she wouldn’t get to do with her friends and family anymore. The tears came again, but Gabriela was still determined to not let any of her classmates see her crying. She wiped the tears as quickly as they came.
Ms. Quinn told the class they could spend the next few minutes reading some of her books. Many of the kids were excited and ran straight for the corner where the books were. Gabriela was the last one to pick out a book. She usually liked books but didn’t feel like reading right now. She eventually picked out a book about an elephant and a pig. The story had some fun parts in it that made Gabriela smile, but she was still feeling sad.
After the class had been reading for a while, Ms. Quinn told everyone it was now time for recess. Gabriela slowly returned her book and followed the class out the door. Ms. Quinn showed everyone where they could find things to play with for recess. For a moment, Gabriela considered grabbing one of the jump ropes. She loved to jump rope and did it all the time with friends and family back home. But for whatever reason, she decided not to and went outside.
Gabriela looked around and noticed all the other kids playing. Everyone had someone they were playing with. Except for one boy that was out in the field. It looked like he was playing with bugs or something. She then noticed a group of girls jumping rope. A piece of her wanted to go join them, but she didn’t feel like she could just go up and invite herself. Gabriela decided to sit in the grass near the door her class had come out of.
Gabriela pulled at the grass as she thought about her day so far at this new school. She liked the principal and Ms. Quinn seemed nice. She hadn’t talked to any of the other kids yet and she worried that she wouldn’t make any friends. When Gabriela was done thinking about her day so far, she started to daydream about home.
After a while, Ms. Quinn came out of the door and blew a whistle. Gabriela assumed this meant it was time to go back inside. The students started to make a line in front of Ms. Quinn, and she led them back inside. As everyone was sitting down, Ms. Quinn gave the class a worksheet that was going to help them with their handwriting. Gabriela thought about her mother and how beautiful her handwriting was. She wanted handwriting like that and got right to work.
As Gabriela was making progress on her worksheet, she noticed someone walk into the classroom. It was the same woman from the office who had helped her mom with all the paperwork. She was holding something in her hand and walking toward Ms. Quinn’s desk. Ms. Quinn looked up and greeted her. The woman handed Ms. Quinn what looked like a rolled-up piece of paper with a bow tied around it. Gabriela kept watching the woman as she started to leave the classroom. The woman saw Gabriela and must have remembered her because she smiled and waved. Gabriela smiled and waved back. Her eyes then went back to Ms. Quinn.
Ms. Quinn was looking over the paper she had just been handed. She tilted her head a little and had a puzzled look on her face. After a moment, she said, “Elizabeth, Lukas, Jamari, and Gabriela, will you come over to my desk for a minute?”