Leann Pettit

New Kid At A New School

I’m starting out 10th grade in a suburb outside of Philly — here are my first thoughts

It’s 6:00am in the morning, and I’m waking up extra-extra-extra early for my first day of school. Gotta go downstairs, gotta get cereal, you know how it goes.

At 6:55am I wait outside for the bus then realize that I have no clue where the bus stop is so I walk to school (a decent 10 minute walk.)

I arrive to school clueless where I should enter. This staff member welcomed me and told me to enter through the side door where the busses are unloading.

As I walk to the side of the school, I stare into the mountains in the distance for a few minutes and then this random girl ran straight up to me, kissed me in the cheek, then dashed off into the building.

“Um, okay then,” I thought. That was really my first interaction with any student at this school whatsoever and it was awkward.


So then I walk into the school for my “Forum/Homeroom,” more specifically it’s room 201. I have not much of a clue where it is as I walk around the school confused what I should do with my life.

It seems like everyone knows each other, and I tried saying hi and introducing myself but everyone is busy talking to each other about summer, even the freshmen!

I’m the lone duck with no friends to start out with, and my goal for the day was to make some friends.

As I walk around the school, I notice that the people here are taller, more muscular, and have more of an athletic body build compared to where I was from.

It’s 7:25am and I have no clue what to do and I just located my Forum/Homeroom. I walk in and the teacher greets me (somehow already knowing who I am.) I get an agenda and a quick lecture not to do drugs, alcohol, and tobacco (this place is next to Philly after all...)

I get my schedule, student login, locker combination, and everything I need to survive a day. I am surprised to find the sheet of every single rule is a 2-page spread titled “Code of Academic Integrity and Conduct” instead of a huge 1/3-inch “Code of Behavior” booklet. I will probably take the time to read this since it’s much shorter then I am used to and the rules are different here…

So the Forum is basically a small group meeting every day for 10 minutes, and every single person seems to know each other. Two wonderful girls greet me and then show me how everything works around here.


Class is dismissed at 7:45am and I am confused as I wander around trying to find my math class. In other words, I’m on my own.

I randomly find a refrigerator blocking the middle of the hallway, but no one seems to care.

So I arrive at my math class a few minutes and everyone doesn’t seem to notice that I exist. I didn’t really get a chance to meet anyone but it is a class I am looking forward to.

UPDATE 10:01pm: All of the other students in my math class are juniors.


It’s 8:35 and I arrive at gym. I greet the teachers and they welcomed me as they explain how we need running shoes, uniforms, locks, and that there is a fitness center.

We get put into squads, and it just so happens that this girl I met in my Forum/Homeroom is in the row next to me. She introduces me to a few of her friends and I meet a few more people. They all proceed to asking for my phone number but I don’t have a phone. :/

Then I realize how everyone else has an iPhone and the few that have Android probably don’t realize that it’s Android. I have yet to see a “feature phone,” flip phone, bricks, jitterbug, or a Windows Phone.

I introduced myself to as many people as I could, and that’s really what I tried to do all class.


So then PE gets dismissed at 9:22am. As I walked down the hallway looking for my writing class, I think “I really hope they have a swim unit!” because of the swimming pool and the fact that I have PE in the morning. It’s cooler outside but then I am concerned that I will be sweaty all day.

Walking down the hallway I then notice the signs reading similar to “Rooms 100-107 ->” for the first time. I then quickly find my writing class, and it’s a computer lab.

I walk into my writing class and notice the computers. 1080p monitors, steel tough-looking yet small DELL computers, and WOAH Windows 7! (YES!) I am overjoyed that after being stuck with Windows 2000/XP at school all my life I finally have Windows 7. And these computers have 8GB of ram instead of 1.7GB. Life is so much better already. :)

So then the teacher tells us all to login and the username and password isn’t simply student/student. I was told that it was given in my homeroom (I find the paper) and it’s id#/randomlygeneratedpassword. It will be a while before I remember but I logged in.

Then as I log in,I click Start Menu > All Programs, naturally. I see iTunes, Skype, Adobe CS5, Office 2010, and SpeechToText instead of the educational Novell bloatware. And then there’s browser choice with the latest versions of each major browser (new Firefox logo too!) This is way better than being stuck with IE6/7/8 in my previous school.

I get introduced to “Virtual Locker” where I will store my files. The user inteface looks like the Windows XP file explorer but it works more like Dropbox. It’s a cool idea and can access it from home. I also get introduced to teacher inbox/outbox folders where I’ll be receiving/submitting and it’s just like the Z drive from my previous school but it’s also accessible from home.

For this class I need a folder and nothing else. I didn’t get an opportunity to greet anyone new in the class but there’s always tomorrow.


By the time it’s 10:06am class is dismissed, and I am off to Spanish. The teacher welcomes me and introduces me to everyone else. I had the chance to pick my Spanish name and guess what? It’s Víctor!

There was a summer assignment, which was a presentation introducing ourselves. I was giving a due date of next Friday, but that doesn’t mean I will slack off — I will finish it as soon as my day off on Thursday (because of a Jewish holiday.)

So I go thru the introductions and I see a lot of interesting going around. Notably, lots of Eagles fans and everyone going to Lake Eire (my school is right next to Philly after all!)

I will also be using a different textbook for this class (not Expresate) and a workbook, which I will be required to lug into class every day. I will likely store these in my locker unless I need to bring it home to study.


It’s 10:56am and it is lunch already! Instead of a long period where all of the classes go to lunch (which usually cuts in the middle of teaching time), the bell schedule is cleverly arranged so that it does NOT cut through class, it’s its own separate period.

They call the periods this: 4A, 5B, 6C, 7D

I have B lunch, a little early (I find 11:30am my ideal time for food) but nonetheless it’s lunch! I sure am getting hungry!

So I am confused to see how to order lunch and I happen to run into the really really nice lady who did scheduling with me. I then proceed to look around the lunch line and well… it’s an American feast:

  • Fries, onion rings, pepperoni pizza, cheese pizza, two hard-shelled tacos, yogurt, “corn puppies”, corn itself, pre-made sandwiches (but no salad.)

Then I look around the drinks and I see a variety my previous school didn’t offer:

  • Milk cartons, Wawa tea, Wawa milk, Wawa juice, soy milk, water, and *gasp* the Pepsi & Co. sodas!

That’s right, sodas! My school sells soda! So I just grab, two tacos, fries, and a milk carton then proceeding to the checkout. I assumed that this added up to a standard meal and that my tocos were my entree, fries was my side, and my milk was my drink.

So before I move on, my previous school counted a standard $2.85 meal as an entree, two sides, and a small milk carton. ALL OF THAT COMBINED for only $2.85. No more (unless if you get $.30 chips or FizzEd) no less (unless if you’re on a reduced/free lunch plan.)

So I punch in my student ID (it’s a 4-digit code that I use to log into the computers) and my total? $5.60. Five dollars and sixty freaking cents. Either school lunch here is a joke or I’m doing it totally wrong.

I explained to the lunch lady that I was new, she put back the fries and my milk and my total was $2.20. It turns out that all of these were entrees and there sides cost at least a dollar. It’s a really confusing model, and I have two small hard-shelled tacos for lunch, nothing else.

Just when I thought my previous school lunch is a terrible joke, it’s much worse here. The school here charges outrageous prices for small meals (but then it’s probably to control obesity and keep the school system profitable. And it’s probably the norm around here, so I will get used to it (or even pack my own food!)

School lunch: IT. IS. A. JOKE!

But then food is food the there are hungry people that don’t get food to eat, so I probably shouldn’t have complained about this in the first place but it’s an issue to address.


Lunch is over at 11:22am and my next class is a combined class period: English and American History. I found out that I will be reading The Great Gatsby and many American classics while learning about the history of America (in more detail, or course) at the same time.

My two teachers were very welcoming, giving me a shoutout to the point where everyone pretty much knew my name! :)

My teachers then give out red cards that we turn into nametags and make us write poems about ourselves that we read along to the class…

V is for Vertical Thinker, I is for I Like Robots, C is for Crazy Awesome, T is for Trying New Things, O is for Open-Minded, and R is for RGIII! L is for Loves Science, O is for Optimistic, U is for Understands Others, R is for Reader, N is for Nerd, and G is for Geek,.

A curious teacher then comes up to me and asks why I like the Redskins. I explained that I was from the area, which is basically nothing more common sense. He then told me how he doesn’t understand why there are Cowboys fans in Philadelphia and so on…

There’s also a group activity we had to do, and some of the students were kind enough to invite me into their group! We basically had to add a stanza to “We Didn’t Start The Fire”, incorporating current events from the last 10 years. I came up with this, without the assistance of a phone:

Y2K, 9/11, iPod, Invasion of Iraq, Bombing of Afghanistan, Avian Flu, Hannah Montanna, North Korea, Osama, Gay Rights, Lbyia, iPhone, iPad, nuclear weapons, Syria, and Obama’s NSA YO!

I know it’s not in chronological order and focuses more on what happened in the past few years, but you get the point.

I found out that I also had a summer assignment, which was to read Maggie: A Girl on the Streets but I didn’t have to do it nor do I have to take the test tomorrow, but I will read it anyways because it will most likely be discussed in class.

(By the way, SparkNotes is not a replacement for reading, which many of my peers learned the hard way last year. It’s a totally different experience when you actually read the book, as you pick up many of the small-yet-important details and you’ll actually understand the story!)

But yeah, that’s my combined English/History class. It makes sense because the curriculum constantly overlaps each other and I made quite a few new friends in the class!

Class is dismissed at 12:56pm, and my Chemistry/Physics class is right across the hallway. How very convenient!


Now that I made it to class, I noticed that I am the only sophomore in a freshmen-filled classed. Confused yet curious as I daze around, I wonder if I’m even in the right class. I ask my science teacher, and he straight down told me: “You’re in the right class.”

My science explained that freshmen in PA take Chemistry/Physics and sophomores take Biology. I’m in a sophomore in a freshman class because I took Biology freshman year. “This is going to suck” I thought at first.

We all introduced ourselves, and quickly learned that the teacher is really really strict — but in a fun way! He likes to shamelessly point out how tiny things and makes a big deal out of it but it is in a way that is enjoyable (not because they are all freshmen.) It’s hard to put into words, but he is a fun teacher!

So I made a nametag with the magic of good ol’ food coloring and shaving cream and it turned out surprisingly better than I thought!

My next homework assignment was to sign up for Edmodo and enter a group code, then to submit a “selfie” of you and your nametag clearly visible in the picture so that the teacher can know you a little better.

Update 10:01pm: It’s called Edmodo, not Facebook.

Since I didn’t have a phone (and I had a hard-yet-fun time explaining myself to the freshmen) one of them was kind enough to let me borrow an iPhone AND wanted to submit the assignment for me.

As I struggle to operate the timer function of some generic Camera app (like a noob) my photo turned out pretty good. I’m not a selfie type of guy, but behold… here it is a really tiny portion of the photo:

I normally don’t publish these kind of photos but here’s me holding my nametag.

…annnnnd that was my first selfie in 9+ or-so-months. Then I realize that there was a front-facing camera on the iPhone I should have used the entire time! But hey, I got my homework done in class. *sigh*

Then the bell rings. It reminds me of the airplane tone, even though I have only ever been on an airplane twice.


It’s 1:42pm, and my last period of the day is my Documenraty/Film class. I struggle to find room 100, as it is tucked away in a corner of a school, isolated from the entire school by a little-known stairwell and a cafeteria shortcut.

Sooner or later, I am tardy! I didn’t know any better since I didn’t know the school but I was glad that it didn’t count because it’s the first day, after all!

Cutting to the chase, I take a entrance survey and I mainly took this class because 1) I am interested in this type of stuff 2) I was at a few film festivals and 3) I have (mainly self-taught) friends who make really cool films: Zev, Connor, Kent & Jaehoon, and so on.

As I gaze deeper into the room, it’s a studio. And there are Apple Computers. Macs. Big Macs. Macs with big screens, and tiny macs that fold like books. I soon realize how exciting this class will quickly get judging from the equipment alone!

I get paired up with someone and we are immediately put to work with a simple task: to make a one-minute introduction in iMovie (essentially a one-minute long “selfie.”) I have never really touched any of these iApplications that come with a Mac before but as soon as my teacher showed my the library buttons tucked away in the bottom-right corner of the UI, I got started and got ahead of the game right away!

The iMovie library UI.

Sooner or later though, we will move on to Final Cut Pro to produce a full-on professional documentary by the end of the semester. I enjoy this class already!

Update 10:02pm: These Big Macs and iApplications have names — iMacs and iLife, respectively. This is also mainly a senior class I am taking as a sophomore, interestingly enough.


School ends at 2:25pm. As I find by bus (I remember the route number) I noticed that they are run by third-party contractors, notably First Student. This makes sense for a small school district (in many ways you and I probably can’t comprehend.)

As I walked on to the bus (a small bus apparently) I noticed that these busses actually have seat belts and that we are required to put them on. This would pretty much reduce most of the up-and-down bus bullying I have seen at my previous school and make everything so less complicated! I am also surprised to find that these fleet of busses actually play per-recorded noises like “Please sit down, the bus is in motion” whenever it detects something fishy is going on.

The bus leaves through a “back entrance” that I have never heard of (and I still can’t seem to find it on Google Maps — recently built I guess) but it drops me off in front of my house, which is really convenient.


Reflection:

At the end of the day, I did meet a few people and made quite a few friends (not bad for a new kid at a new school in a new place.) I hope to make more friends because apparently magical (er I mean good) things happen when you have friends and meet new people. And my school’s ~100-student sophomore class is a social circle that I will be actually capable of managing. It’s a great school with great people, and I look forward to the school year and seeing my family.

In addition, I like the fact that I get to see all my teachers every day (compared to block scheduling with even/odd days) and I really have a good grasp on how the school works. I like how the teachers understand what they are doing and I like how the class sizes are much smaller (from 5-20 except PE.) In the end though, I will leave it to you this way: I like it!

I’m gonna eventually get situated with this school, especially working on remembering the names and faces of everyone. I want to really to get hands-on with the school, seeking leadership positions whenever possible and asking about extracurricular activities, notably SCA, FIRST Robotics, Charities, and Pop Culture Groups. I will also try to wing a spot at the Homecoming Crown —it’s definitely worth a shot!


Notes:

  • Later in the school year, I will take Humanities (Socratic) Seminar and Science 2.0 (Engineering.) I look forward to taking these two classes when the right time comes.
  • I also don’t have PE every day, just on Monday and Tuesday. I will have study hall on all of the other days.