The First Day of School From A Middle Schooler’s Perspective

Tennessee Department of Education

Tennessee Department of Education

Williamson County rising sophomore Hannah Balint reminds us what it is like to size up your middle school teachers on the first day of school. Will this teacher give me a lot of homework? Will she help me if I don’t understand? Hannah writes about her eighth-grade math teacher who, yes, assigned a lot of homework, but also ensured that Hannah and her peers were equipped with the skills needed to excel in their math courses for many years to come. Hannah won the high school category of our “Why I am Thankful to My Teacher” essay contest this May and a $500 scholarship to the college of her choice.

By Hannah Balint, Rising 10th grader, Page High School

Hannah Balint is a ninth-grade student at Page High School.

I sat down in an empty desk in the far corner of the room, staring at Mrs. Tidwell, trying to guess whether or not she would fill my afternoons with hours of homework.

As a grumpy eighth grader on the first day of the last year of middle school, all I wanted was to be finished with my long and hard middle school experience and move on to high school, and the last thing I wanted was another difficult math teacher. As everyone settled into class, Mrs. Tidwell started talking about how she loved homework and planned to give it every night that she was legally allowed. In her words, “If I’m here you have it, and if I’m dead, I left it!” I was silently groaning when she decided to start teaching us right away. She lifted a marker to the whiteboard and started writing algebraic equations so fast my eyes could barely even follow, looking at us expectantly, wanting us to write it down as she wrote. I stared in open-mouthed shock. Little did I know, however that this teacher would change my academic career forever.

The moment Ms. Tidwell realized Hannah’s winning essay was written about her.

The moment that she started talking, I thought that the year would be impossibly hard and that I would hate every minute of it. I soon realized that I had the completely wrong attitude. Mrs. Tidwell worked through half of our homework with us, making sure that we understood every concept thoroughly before she expected us to do it on our own. She also created a way of factoring called The Box, which I  now use in geometry. She wrote so fast that my hands hurt trying to keep up, but by the end of the first semester I was writing faster than her! This skill is helping me to this day. In her class, we made projects that we would be able to use in the future, such as a portfolio of Algebra I skills that we could look back on for reference. She did everything to help us, even when she could have helped herself instead. Many people suggested that she try to sell her Box idea, but she said that she didn’t need to. She just wanted to use it to help her students.

She made class entertaining by throwing in words like “bumpfuzzle” (my personal favorite) and laughing after everything she said, a habit that everyone called her “after giggle.” She is a brilliant woman who taught in ways that seemed hard in the beginning, but over time became very manageable and helpful to us. She explained things to us and made sure that we understood them, which is one of the most important things that a teacher can do for his or her students. She did everything with our futures in mind, which is why I am thankful for her. I will never forget the wonderful impact that Mrs. Tidwell made on all of us.

Amy Tidwell is still bumpfuzzling through Algebra I at Page Middle in Williamson County Schools.