Zombies in the Classroom

Warning: zombie students are contagious. There are many characteristics of zombies that have been portrayed in books and films since the 1930’s, but in 2013, do modern day students possess qualities similar to the bloody rotten flesh that is usually seen in a horror films? While pondering whether the zombie apocalypse can ever become a reality, I gazed at my students and realized that they (zombies) already live among us.

The first indication that you have zombie students in your presence is the dreadful blank stare. In this zombie moment, students stare at you like you just started speaking a foreign language giving you the hibby gibbies. This reaction may result from complicated or creative questioning for which wait time is appropriate, and most importantly teachers must learn to accept the uncomfortable silence. This silence allows students to let their minds wonder for possible responses and holds them accountable for their learning. Teachers need to remember that the more creative we want our students to be, the more wait time we must provide them. The usual wait time for a lower level knowledge or comprehensive question from Bloom’s Taxonomy is five seconds but don’t be fooled. In the zombie moment a few seconds can feel like hours. 

Lack of challenge or interest in the subject matter is another factor to consider when receiving the blank stare. So how can you bring these students back from the dead? One option results in changing the environment of the classroom and allowing students to be active while being creative. Yes, this means let students get out of their seats and move around with a purpose. For example, allow students to read in pairs while sitting on the floor or allow a group of students to act out a scene from a short story. These are just a few ideas that can awaken the mind and shake the zombie-ness out of students.

After the ‘if looks could kill” moment, you might also hear the painfully aching moans expressed from the mouth of a zombie student whom for whatever reason is dead bent on spreading the contagious zombie mind set. It’s as if the zombie’s brain is yelling, “Help Me! I’m bored and dying for some excitement. I wonder if anyone’s posted a new picture or fifteen second video on Instagram which would be way more exciting than whatever Miss What’s her face talking about? ” Yes, this is probably what a zombie student thinks, but the muttering of this dreadful moan usually can be associated with certain trigger words. For example, words like: write, essay, exam, test, read, or even the death STAAR can trigger the shut down button in students’ mind and then releases of the awful sound that makes the teacher’s eyes roll to the back of his or her head and beg for the bell to ring.

Also remember that zombie students are contagious; after all, another zombie characteristic is the ability to sense each other’s deadness and travel in “herds”. The term used on AMC’s popular TV series, “The Walking Dead” Season 2, episode 1, “What lies Ahead”. The herd or group of zombies demonstrates Belongingness on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs chart. In this category, students crave to fit in and may not be zombie mode when they step into your classroom but will be attracted to join the mind-less herd with their staring and moaning appeals. To combat this attraction to zombie mode, take a lesson from Lev Vygotsky, assign meaningful and purposeful writing pieces that not only incorporate the students’ interest but are also relevant to their lives.

You might be thinking how does someone create a raise of zombie students without anyone noticing because teachers aren’t exposing students to toxic chemicals, or trying to prevent the aging process by experimentation; they are however, using outdated teaching practices which mold and program student to become mindless zombies. In order to help students unlearn zombie behavior, we must first understand where zombies originated and how teachers are creating this contagious being.

Teachers want students to be successful in their classroom and in life, but teachers cannot continue to control students every move. According the article, “The Origin of Zombies” by Ryan Omega, the word zombie originates from West Africa where someone who religiously practices voodoo can manipulate or control. From this origination, we start with the human desire to control, either ourselves or someone else. In ourselves, we want to control our feelings, our desires, and our paths in life because we don’t believe that we are not in control of our lives, but what about the lives of our students? As a seventh grade teacher, I want to have control over my students’ behaviors, actions, and learning outcomes. I want them to sit in their desk, listen to instructions, follow direction, and make my job easy. As we know that is not how it goes in the classroom, but through these simple tasks that are demanded of our students, we slowly create mindless zombies.

By the time students reach middle school, they want to be told what to do and how specifically to accomplish the task. These zombies are taught not think for themselves or try to exceed in their task because teachers have killed their brains by telling them exactly what to do, what to write about, and how many sentences and paragraphs to include instead of allowing them to discover the writing process.


Works Cited

Chapman, Alan. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs .” http://www.businessballs.com/maslowhierarchyofneeds5.pdf, 2001.

Fitts, Catherine A. What Are Zombies? Where do They Come From? And Why are They So Popular? 19 Aug 2012. 25 June 2013 <http://solari.com/blog/what-are-zombies-where-do-they-come-from-and-why-are-they-so-popular/>.

Omega, Ryan. examiner.com . 2 Aug 2009. 25 June 2013 <http://www.examiner.com/article/the-origin-of-zombies>.

“Wait Time Definition.” lamission.edu. 26 June 2013 <http://www.lamission.edu/learningcenter/waittime_definition.htm>.

Essay By Jenna

I'm a recent graduate from Texas A&m University San Antonio and just finished my first year teaching 7th graders. This assignment was written during Writing Institute for Northside (WIN) abydos training.

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