It would only be fitting to choose a melodramatic title (as well as using a word from the urban dictionary) to describe the beginning of the school year. I love what I do; I teach 5th grade this year, and I am in charge of Social Studies for my own class, then we switch for our 4 core subjects, so I am the Math teacher for all 100 kids. I love it. The first day of school went in the direction I had planned as I told kids that math is something real and challenging but not a thing to fear or be stressed over. I wrote a story that I put on the Promethean board; it follows two kids on their first day of school who were bogged down by their fears about math. We discussed as a class what could have made them feel worried about math before they even tried it out in 5th grade. Students gave me answers like "Maybe the didn't pass the SOL," or "They might not have been very good at their times tests" or "Maybe they were really good at math, but the people around them made it hard to learn." Wow! Then, in my class that has some of the top kids in it, one of my boys raised his hand and said, "I bet they were really upset and worried about a zombie apocalypse."
Goodbye happy, inspirational teaching ambiance. The next four comments were all boys trying to one-up each other on zombie end-of-the-world scenarios. I cut them off and said "Listen. I don't mind creativity in my class, but that doesn't make any sense. It has nothing to do with our conversation, and your comment doesn't apply to anyone at your table, or anyone else in this class. You need to think about your comment and change it so it is helpful to other people in our room. Raise your hand when you have done that." The next kid raised his hand immediately and said "They are worried about dying." and I told him that was inappropriate again. Sent him back, had him think. Each of those boys apologized of their own volition; I give them credit for that. Their next comments were very applicable to our discussion. We finished the story and pulled out two themes: a light at the end of the tunnel (hope) and you're never up the creek without a paddle...even if all you see next to you is a piece of driftwood (math has all kinds of tools to use, and not just one way to find the answer). I don't know if that makes sense outside of the context of the story, but the kids did a good job picking that out.
Fast forward two days. Things went considerably zombie-free. Yesterday we worked on creating math goals for the year, and their homework last night was to write up a math vision statement. My classes did a really amazing job writing them... I was proud of their efforts. I feel very positive about where we're going. Even when I saw one kid...again in that class. His vision? Become a ninja.
We're working on relating that to math.