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First Day of School: Behind the Scenes with San Gorgonio Student

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By Rory O'Sullivan –

It is Aug. 16, 2011 at 8:02 a.m. on the grounds of San Gorgonio Middle School in Beaumont and the temperature is fast approaching 80 degrees. A little sweat is starting to trickle off eleven-year-old Carissa Szot’s brow. Her mother Tanisha Grant is sweating for a different reason, this is after all her only child’s first day of middle school.

Carissa is wearing blue jeans and a white shirt with a vest.

“She is very nervous,” Tanisha explains to Principle Brian Woods. “This is...”

“Mom I’m not nervous you’re nervous, it’s no big deal,” Carissa chimes in.

“It is okay to be nervous Carissa this is a big step in your life.” Principal Woods seems as anxious about the first day as Carissa’s mother.

Carissa does not stay long enough for her mother and principal to pine on about how fast kids grow up, instead decides to find her friends.

“Bye Mom,” and with quick hug she disappears into a sea of adolescents.

Mom Tanisha is already late for work but lingers around the entrance of the school trying to get one last glimpse of her daughter.

Carissa meets her friends outside of band class and they are all overly excited. They share stories about how boring their Summer was and tussle for the award of who had the least exciting Summer in history.

Band director Dale Sanders is a dry middle-aged man with a wit sharper then a steak knife. He will most assuredly win most popular teacher after instructing students to check Facebook and Twitter to receive updates about the class.

Mr. Sanders will also use the website SmartMusic.com to ensure the students are performing up to his high standards.

The bell rings Carissa and her friends whisk off to Physical Education. There are few things that have the aroma of adolescents and gym equipment.

The bell rings again and Carissa is off to Mrs. Tedrow’s history and English classes. Posters in the class adorn the walls from boxing great Muhammad Ali standing over boxer Sonny Liston to historic cultures long since gone.

Mrs. Tedrow gives out an assignment and instructs the children to read each line of the assignment carefully and follow the guidelines.

The directions instruct the students to read everything carefully, doing nothing until the end. Students seem perplexed by directions that include yelling your name, loudly counting backwards from ten, then standing out of your chair.

Each student follows the instructions blindly, except for Carissa. She seems to know something is in the air. Could it be that she knows something or could it be young pre-teens have not learned the importance of deodorant yet.

She is right. The last direction states to do nothing accept write your name on the paper. She beams having learned one of life’s most important lessons, read all the directions, then do it. She will go far, once she starts buying and assembling furniture from IKEA.

The lunch bell rings giving students time to relax and de-stress, except Carissa appears like she has been doing this middle school thing for years.

“Some kids are really nervous” says San Gorgoino Counselor Elda Strawater.

Counselor Strawater says the best way to keep kids happy and safe is to keep them involved in extra curricular activities.

I explain to Counselor Strawater that Carissa doesn’t seem nervous at all in contrast to her mom’s obvious nervousness earlier that morning.

She explains it is normal for parents to feel nervous. “They are your babies.”

Next is math and science with Ian Young. He is young and full of energy as he moves from one side of the room to the other. The energy is needed because the end of the day is approaching and every child is fidgeting and starting to trail off into daydreams.

The final bell rings and the day is over. Carissa Szot has made it through her first day of middle school without a bruise or scrape.

Did Carissa enjoy her first day of school, “It was alright.”

Was Carissa nervous at all during the day, “no.” You weren’t even a little nervous, this is a big stepping stone, “uh no.”

Well maybe there was nothing to worry about after all.

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