Column: The First Day at Archer


A collage of senior Isabel Adler’s One Card photos throughout her years at Archer.

I always, silly as it sounds, wait eagerly for the first day of school.

There is something about starting all new classes, decorating a new locker and seeing everyone again that gives me so much satisfaction. Secretly, I revel in the strong sun that causes everyone to hide under their formal uniform sweaters. Admin speeches, grade bonding, extended advisory, I love it all. Except, of course, the photos. There is something brutally cruel about making us all smush together closely on the first day of school under the scorching sun to smile — or squint, really — at a camera.

For weeks before the event, I practice grinning in the mirror. I try open mouth, closed mouth, hair up, hair down, hair half up-half down. The night before school, I debate black skirt or gray, polo or button down. I want to look polished and effortless. The morning of the first day of school, I smile awkwardly in the mirror, practicing the final effect. In my seven school photos at Archer, I have tried the Ambitious Student, the Effortless Princess, the Natural, the Thinker and nothing has worked the way I want it to.

Perhaps worse than the individual is the group photo. For this one, there is no practicing. After awkward summer growth spurts, you never know who, exactly, you will end up next to. Inevitably, someone’s hair gets in your mouth, and your face is obstructed by another person. If you are lucky enough to be seen, you will either be blinking in all of the photos taken or slightly taller than everyone else, therefore standing out a little too much.

After what feels like twenty brutal minutes, everyone is allowed to stand up from their squats or lower themselves gingerly onto their heels after maintaining tippy toes for way too long. What happens next is probably the worst part of the entire day. Nay, the entire school year. Yes, it is time for the silly photo. After about five years of trying, I have finally settled on my funny face.

I just don’t do it. For anyone else who suffers from awkwardness, I highly recommend the completely blank stare. While yes, it isn’t exciting and some may go so far as to call it annoying, it blends in seamlessly. To my left, a girl is dabbing; to my right, one is sticking out her tongue. I am simply the neutral transition.

Now that the ordeal that is picture day is behind us, we can forget about it until our OneCards show up in advisory, looking even worse than we thought possible. Then, after that, we can really stop thinking about it, launch into our daily routines and enjoy all that Archer has to offer.

That is, of course, until it rolls around again next year.

Truth be told, however, being a senior this year makes me rather nostalgic about school pictures. Since many people in my grade dressed up for our senior photos this year, the general feeling of trying to look my best didn’t really hit me. As I stood in the hot sun, faking a smile and standing about .0002 centimeters away from the girls on either side of me, I did not feel annoyed. Instead, I was weirdly sad that this nuisance would be over for me within Archer’s walls.

At least I’ll always have my OneCards to gaze at, right?