I have been teaching high school math for 7 years full time and teaching since 1987. This is the first year that I have had success in introducing my class as a Success Training class, not whatever the math title. I had the students draw pictures of or write down their dreams. I proceeded to talk to them about what it takes to fulfill dreams and the traits it takes to be a successful person. I told them that there will be people to drag them down and people to push them along. They should surround themselves with the people who will encourage them and be life long learners with them. If they can do this, there is no way that they will not have success in my class. The entire atmosphere of my classes has changed. The ninth grade is a little slow in their learning of the traits, but all in all, this is a positive approach to beginning a class. I have also implemented a behavior modification plan that tracks positive behaviors and, unfortunately, negative behaviors. This lets the students know the behaviors that will bring them success.
Today I also learned how to use the APPS feature on my graphing calculator for Probability Simulator 'games'. I can't wait until tomorrow to show the students!
Have a great evening!