First Day Fears

by Hope Hahn

I walked into the classroom at my new school on the first day of third grade. I stood in front of the class alone and silent, while everyone stared at me awkwardly, like a zoo animal on display. My nerves on edge ran through my body like pack wolves. At the same time, a river of sweat beaded down my face, and my hands shook uncontrollably.

Rather forcefully, the teacher, announced to the class, “Everyone, this is our new student, Hope.”

After a few moments, a student broke the uncomfortable silence and asked me, “Um, excuse me, but why are you dressed like that? I don’t like your clothes; they are out style." Not knowing what to say to her, I said nothing until she prodded, “well aren’t you going to say anything?”

After what felt like an eternity of sweat and anxiety, the teacher said to me, “Hope, please take a seat, so we can start the lesson,” Little did I know the bullying wouldn't stop there. It was only just beginning.

Later, that morning, the teacher announced “Time for PE.” When we arrived in the gym, she told one of the PE teachers I was a new student from Minnesota. Now, this is where things went array, big time!

Being a young child in a new elementary school, you would expect at least adults to respect you, and teach students how to respect others as well. Not at this school! Not only had I been bullied by kids, but adults would join in on this so-called fun, too!

ADULTS! I know it’s hard to believe. I sat there in gym class listening to the instructions of the upcoming activity until one of the teachers said to me, “So, I heard you are from Minnesota. Do you watch the Vikings?” The little nine-year old girl in me wanted to sit there and say nothing, but instead I replied, “Sometimes, I do.” Right there, I'd opened a huge can of worms that would follow me for years to come until the day I graduated high school. Those three words, Sometimes, I do, said out of fear, anxiety, and apprehension, were words I could never take back. Those words would haunt me every single day of my elementary life, and beyond.

Shaken to the bone and scared silly, I continued with the rest of the day, and when we returned to the classroom, the teacher announced it would soon be time for lunch and then recess. I thought, oh, well, it will get better! I realized how mistaken I was, the moment I walked into the cafeteria and received confirmation of my worst fears. Lunch — Nasty. Finding a place to sit — another nightmare. I felt alone and unwanted, trapped in a place where nobody liked me.

At lunch, a girl came up to me and said, "You know, no one likes you.”

Those words confirmed what I already knew: The beginning of my lone existence in public school would be solely judged by the opinions of other kids.

Once I finished eating what they called food, I went out for recess, which turned out a bigger nightmare than the previous one. During recess, I played alone on the swings or by myself where there were no groups of people congregated. But, that didn’t stop kids from being mean. Another girl came up to me at recess and said, “You know something, you are ugly.” I didn’t respond I just walked away, feeling hopeless.

At the end of the school day, I went home to my mom and poured out my heart. She took immediate action to fix the problem, but even that did not work for me. Little did I suspect bullying would be an ongoing problem that would encourage everyone to label me a misfit until the day I graduated high school.

At the end of each stressful school day, I needed to go home, take a deep breath and relax. And more importantly, I needed to prepare to suffer through the bullying again the next day.

My mom talked to me about how some people were nasty to me because they were jealous of me. After our talks, I realized I was not the one with the problem; it was the bullies, bullies who have nothing better to do than to pick on their peers. I would work up the courage to be brave and strong, and ready to suffer through the bullying all over again on the next day. There were three things I had to remember:

Always be yourself,

Believe in yourself, and

Stay true to what you know.

Bullying is a problem for many kids in elementary and middle school. It can happen to anyone whether you are a boy or a girl, a new student, or someone who’s been there a while. And in order to get through it, there are a few things you can do to help yourself become a stronger person and nip that bully in the butt:

1. Don’t let anyone get into your head! Believe in yourself.

2. Confide in someone you trust for help.

3. Walk away from the situation — if someone demeans you, walk away immediately and seek help.

4. Learn about self-esteem and how bullying can affect you down the road. Learn how you can become a stronger person and eventually stand up for yourself in any situation.

Reflecting on my experiences with bullying in grade and high school, I eventually determined to be my own voice and stand up for myself when someone was putting me down. A bully is a bully no matter what. Nobody should be treated with disrespect simply because they are different from the others. They should not be told how to feel, dress, or what to say, simply because a few people don’t like it. If there is one thing I learned,

it is to be a friend and not a bully.

Copyright by Hope Hahn

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