On The First Day of School 2020 Edition

on the first day of school 2020 edition

On the first day of school, when I taught 8th grade math…there was a little speech I always gave to my kids.


I knew that a lot of them were coming to me with negative thoughts and experiences and beliefs about themselves around math.


“I hate math.” “I’m not good at math.” “I’m just not a math person.” “I don’t have the math gene.” Sometimes their parents would say similar things too.


I asked them to let it all go. I asked them to trust me. I told them that I was the best math teacher and that this year would be different.


If they listened to me and did what I asked, they would leave my class feeling good about their math skills and *gasp* possibly even LIKING math (even if they’d never admit it out loud).


I asked them to put in the effort and trust me that it wouldn’t be wasted in the end. I asked them to replace the bad thoughts with new hopeful thoughts. I reinforced this a lot during the first few weeks of school especially.


And I did just that for a lot of my kids…


They left my class liking math and feeling powerful. I know because of the cards and emails I got from students. I know because of the things the parents said to me.


One year, at the end of the school year, I had a kid proclaim himself “a math god” when we were solving systems of equations. That was at the end of the first year where I gave my speech.


What I didn’t realize back then, is that my little speech was getting my kids to reframe their thinking from the fixed mindset about math (“I’m not good at math, and there’s nothing I can do about it…”) to the growth mindset (“Math is a skill that can be practiced, learned, and improved upon…”).


Now, after a few years of personal development work and reading Mindset By Dr. Carol Dweck, I see why that speech was so powerful.



As we head into a new school year, you might have a lot of thoughts about remote teaching (or learning).


I swear, your mindset going into this is what is going to make the difference between a bad year or a good one.


Teachers have the chance to set the tone for students at school and parents have a chance to frame the thinking of their children and set the tone at home too. Both are very important. When parents are negative at home, it’s almost impossible for teachers to reverse that in the classroom.


Figuring out how to teach (or how to be a student) online is just another skill that can be learned. We’re not going to be perfect at it right away, but we’re going to keep learning and improving as the year goes on.



*Be careful about what you repeatedly think and say*



Our brains love to think the same things on loop. It saves energy vs thinking new thoughts. Journaling can help you recognize this brain loop.


Once something is repeated enough times (whether you say it, your parents say it, your teacher says it, you hear it on the news, etc.), it becomes a belief.


Once something is a belief, it becomes part of your identity.


It forms your feelings and directs your actions in life.


{This is all happening on a subconscious level by the way.}


We always want to be right. We especially always want to be right about who we *think* we are.


Your brain will filter the information coming in from the world around you to support whatever belief you are holding (confirmation bias).


Your brain cannot hold two conflicting beliefs at once (cognitive dissonance). It’s too uncomfortable. So your brain will actually reject and ignore any evidence that contradicts your belief.


So YOU ARE whatever you believe about yourself. THE WORLD is whatever you believe about it. True or not.


Kind of crazy how that works.


Kind of scary how easily a belief can be formed and control our lives.


But on the flip side, that means you hold the power to change your thinking and change your beliefs about yourself and therefore change your life.


Thoughts —> Beliefs —> Feelings —> Actions


You get to choose your thoughts! Start paying attention to what your brain is chattering about on repeat.


Change your thoughts to change your life.


I hope you pick some good ones to get you started this school year.


*Put on a big smile. Talk about how excited you are and about how this is going to be the best year yet.*


“There are so many cool things we are going to be able to do with online learning!”


Even if you don’t believe it yet yourself, help your kids get there, and that’s half the battle.


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1 Comment

  1. Brenda J Matt
    September 7, 2020 / 7:35 pm

    This is great and all so true. Thoughts are things. Wish all students could have a teacher like you.

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