I haven’t been the “New Kid” since 2001 when I first moved to the high school where I am currently working. At that point, I was one of many new kids so we kind of blurred together and fell into the woodwork…or, rather, a trailer for me since the school was so over-crowded.
I had forgotten the weird anxiety of being the new kid. As an army brat, I moved several times (not nearly as often as many of my peers), and so being the new kid was kind of a normal thing. You walk into class, hope to God you will meet someone who can deal with your peculiarities, and then start learning. I never had a teacher ask me to stand in front of the class and say something about myself. I never had any horrible bullying experiences. Maybe, even then, I was still just part of the woodwork. No, I’m not crying. This is just fact and I’m comfortable with these facts.
I returned to school today, but this time, I was on the other side of the building from where I have ever been. I have walked through the specialty center’s halls many times, but only as a tourist going from one destination to the other. I have worked with my specialty center colleagues, but I was still a visitor, a guest…a tourist.
Last week, I set up my classroom which was a nice, easy experience. But, today, I finally felt like I moved into my room. After the morning faculty meeting, I returned to my room where I was greeted with a welcome basket from the specialty center’s parent group. On the outside of my classroom’s window as a little sign welcoming me back to school. In my basket, I found a ream of paper, a box of dry erase markers, and several types of goodies and snacks that I will certainly enjoy when I am having a chocolate craving.
As the day progressed, many people stopped by my classroom and welcomed me, asked me if I needed anything. I am sharing my room with a math teacher who is a fabulous woman and will certainly stand as a fantastic role model for the Girl. This math teacher loves Disney, specifically Disney Princesses, is a woman of pure and unadulterated energy, and is an incredible person who lives life with an unbridled passion. I can’t help but feel like I’m not such a loner after all…..
The Boy and the Girl will both be new kids this year. The Boy has it easy. He has been coming to my school since he was six months old and, this year, he will be a freshmen in a building with people who have helped raise him. He understands classroom changes, locker combinations, and PE uniforms. He is used to the idea of new settings and new classrooms and new teachers every time he turns around. The difference is that since his middle school is so close to my (our) high school, he has been walking to the high school for the last two years and has become close to the teachers in the building. He isn’t a new kid. He’s just a student who is entering the building for the first time as an enrolled student.
The Girl, though, is entering the middle school her brother used to inhabit. She has been in this building a handful of times, has never really experienced classroom changes, and lockers are a foreign country to her. I bought her a lock and she has mastered the three numbers on our pink dial. However, the idea of doing a lock in a timed situation (classroom changes) terrifies her. Add on to that the idea of going to the bathroom during the few minutes relegated to classroom changes in addition to the fact that she really will be the new kid because she is not going to the middle school she is supposed to attend and I have an eleven year-old terrified new kid.
And I know her anxiety. I remember the terror of middle school but, at least, I was going with all my friends. And I remember the terror of being the new kid in the new school and having all those eyes staring at me. But, that’s just it. I remember. I’m not experiencing it nearly as much as the Girl is.
However, daily, she will have the ability to walk from her school to mine and she will join me in my room where she is already a welcome presence because the incredible math teacher will eventually meet the Girl and help her see that she is not such a “weirdo” as she thinks she is because she still likes Disney princesses. And the Girl has already found out that she loves the field hockey team who were awesome to my daughter and fed her breakfast-snack (the Girl is a bit of a hobbit) and made her feel loved and welcome.
Being the new kid is hard. Whether it is eleven, fourteen, or forty-three, it’s never easy to penetrate a new environment with a set of codes and regulations and expectations and established relationships and find your place where other people have stood before. Fortunately for me, the people who stand on either side of me are willing to give me a hand up into this new place and will stand by me until my footing is sure. And, at this point, it feels pretty good.
I worry for the Girl. She is entering that treacherous world of middle school where people will pick on one another for nothing more than a mis-matched polka dot. But she has her haven. And I know that she will survive this brief time of being the new kid. The Boy did fine. He stepped out of the shark cage and entered the big pool only to find it inhabited with rubber ducks.