24) What do you do to help your students learn in a climate of optimism and hope? Do you have a successful strategy you can share?
I don’t allow the words “I can’t” to be used in my classroom. I have a poster on the wall that suggests instead “Please help me.” “I don’t understand.” “I’m struggling.” If I hear “I can’t” my immediate response is “Yes, you can! I know you can! You’re smart!” Often the problem is students looking at a large problem and rather than break it down into smaller steps they just put up a wall. So I stand behind them and help them break it down. As I walk around my room watching students work I offer lots of praise verbally and through pats on the back. Sometimes the thing that makes a student smile the most is when I see what they’re doing and say “Ok you don’t need me, I’ll go help someone else.” I have also nurtured my classes to be helpful to one another through coaching; I explain that doing for someone is not the same as helping. We help by offering hints “coaching” that lead the person to the right answer. The students have taken to it so well, if someone is stuck and I’m helping another student invariably they will end up with at least one classmate at their side talking them through. They cheer for each other as well.