Shaya Helbig is the Accelerated Classroom Teacher at Benton Harbor Charter School Academy.
What keeps your students aiming for success in the classroom?
Practicing growth mindset in the form of weekly mindset lessons has been vital in helping students believe that they can attain success. I pair this practice with making individual goals known to students, and celebrating even the smallest success toward those goals.
How do you remind your students of the expectations you have?
In the beginning of the year, we spent a lot of time going over expectations. Expectations are also posted in the room. At this point in the year, expectations have become so engrained in our class culture that students remind each other of what is expected.
Your students seem to take an active part in the classroom. In what ways are they active in their learning?
Most of our learning is center based, or uses Kagan strategies. This allows students varying levels of independence throughout the day. We have also started practicing peer reflections where students review each other’s work. They identify where their partner glows (is succeeding), and needs to grow (needs additional practice). This helps to not only reinforce what the learning expectations are for a given lesson, but also how to coach and guide each other in appropriate ways. It also helps support growth mindset in how students view mistakes as opportunities to grow.
With such independent students, how do you incorporate teamwork into your classroom?
Students are expected to problem solve and discuss their thinking in groups, turn and talks, classroom jobs, and classroom buddies. Although Montessori students focus on independent work, it is discussed that working with others is a practical life skill so I aim to include this as well.
In what ways do you build a family-like atmosphere in your classroom?
It’s very important to me that students feel that they belong in our classroom. Aesthetically, I have tried to create a warm and welcoming environment. I also greet my students every morning with a smile and a handshake, high-five, or hug. I want them to know that this is a place where someone is happy to see them every day.
What’s the ‘secret ingredient’?
Attitude for me is the secret ingredient. Having a positive and excited attitude about what we are doing is contagious in a classroom.
How do you keep your students interested in learning?
I try to provide a lot of variety in learning activities, and pair that with student interest.
How are creativity and innovative thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom?
In our class, we do a lot of problem solving, both in terms of learning and behavior. Solving problems on their own, and coming to their own learning conclusions requires students to think creatively. This to me is where real lasting learning happens.