Every math teachers’ most hated words, or at least something close. I pride myself in making math fun, understandable, and relatable to my students. I view instruction as a way to dispel myths created by negative experiences within math classrooms. This year, I even implemented I Love Math month to combat math stereotypes and myths.
I’ve read and heard countless messages from students this year about how their perspective of math has changed. But there were 3 vocal mindsets that had yet to change. I began with encouraging words and motivational speeches to try and change their thinking. And yet, negativity still prevailed.
So about March, I made a decision. As my pastor puts it, I decided not to hug their fears. When they would say statements like, “I’m not good at this” or “I hate math”, I responded with, “That’s unfortunate”. When they would sit in their seats and not make an attempt while everyone else was engaged, I didn’t acknowledge them. The bible puts it this way (in a different context of course): “…wives, submit to your husbands; so that even if some of them do not believe the Word, they will be won over by your conduct, without your saying anything, as they see your respectful and pure behavior.” 1 Peter 3:1-2 CJB. What does that have to do with me and teaching? At some point, it isn’t our words that change the behavior and mindset, it’s our actions, passions and desire to do the right work.
What caused those students to come around was observing the enthusiasm of their peers and our stick-to-it-ness of challenging their fixed mindset. Not giving into their demands of being less than their very best. Not wavering from my core belief that math makes sense. And establishing boundaries to say, this is where I begin and end and where you pick up to do the rest.
In the end, my hope is that they realized, when they put forth their best try, positive results occur. My hope is that they realized it is a decision they must make in order to overcome the obstacles in which have been constructed in front of them. My hope is that they realized love comes also in the form of encouragement in words and actions.
I’m not saying this is the antidote to the world’s problems, but it worked for me this year. Every sickness does not have the same cure. You will have to find what works for your relationship with your kids and that fits your core beliefs. But I can guarantee you, when you lead with love (for math, kids, teaching, serving, etc) you will never lose.