“Have a good first day of grade four”, my mom yelled as she hurried us out the door with packed lunches and backpacks stuffed with new school supplies. Kyle and I gleamed with excitement as we walked past the rivalry school, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, and finally reached the St. Francis Elementary playground. Summer had flown by, and although we had had fun family time in the sun, we missed our friends and classmates and we were excited to meet our new teacher. The bell seemed to take an eternity to ring but eventually it overpowered all the chattering on the playground and hummed into the fields signalling flocks of students to charge the doors and locate their classrooms. Teachers stood in front of their cheerfully decorated doors welcoming their students and providing guidance for those who were confused or lost. I quickly located my classroom and was greeted by Mrs. Holash who leaned into me and whispered “I’m excited for you to be in my class this year Kendall, this year will be different for you but I’m here to help you with those challenges.” For the most part her words went right over my head as I eagerly wanted to pinpoint my desk and find my friends, but the word different did linger with me.
One week prior
“Mom we’re back” shouted Calvin as we quickly piled into the house and slammed the door to to trap the cool air inside. Summertime meant my brothers and I spent our afternoons outside biking around the neighbourhood until the heat became too much and our stomachs started to grumble for an afternoon snack. The sweet scent of crisp watermelon lingered in the air as my mom peeked out of the kitchen with a fruit tray and cut up sausage and cheese and motioned us downstairs to the basement where we could cool off and relax. “Kendall can you come up here, I need to talk to you” bellowed my mom down the stairs from the kitchen. Immediately my mind began to wander with questions. What did I do wrong? Why did she only want me? What was she going to make me do? I hesitantly climbed the stairs unsure of what to expect; was I in trouble, did she just need some help, or did she have something exciting to tell me? Turns out she just wanted to talk, no biggie, I could relax. She sat me down on the couch and started with “I know you’re excited for school” when I cut her off with a rant about my new pink backpack and the markers I couldn’t wait to try out. I had been talking about it for weeks. My mom butted in when I stopped to catch my breath, “yes, yes Kendall, I know you are excited that’s why I need to talk to you. This year is going to be different for you and it will have some new challenges.” Ring, ring, ring, the phone cut off our conversation as my mom hurried to answer the call and I rushed back downstairs without thinking twice about what she had just told me.
So, there I was, first day of grade four being faced with the repetition of the word different, but oblivious as to what it meant for my school year. I sat in my desk and the scent of freshly sharpened pencils and brand new indoor sneakers filled the room. Mrs. Holash walked to the front of the room and began to speak when it all suddenly hit me, the lightbulb went off in my head. The friends I was waiting for would not be coming, I was not in a split class this year, I was the only girl in grade four. I understood now why my mom and Mrs. Holash told me it would be different, and made an effort to warn me ahead of time. This year was going to be different, but I still didn’t comprehend why these differences were going to make it challenging. I didn’t mind doing group work with the boys, and I enjoyed talking about hockey and baseball with them. The boys were my friends and included me in conversations. I didn’t need other girls in my class to feel comfortable. The first day of grade four was exciting for me, and it didn’t matter who was in my class, they were my classmates, and they were my friends.