Instilling a sense of hope in students is more important than demanding responsibility…. Hope must precede responsibility because kids who lack hope have no reason to act in responsible kinds of ways. ~ Allen Mendler (Motivating Students Who Don’t Care – ASCD)
As I have written before, in Providing Hope for the Hopeless, it is alarming to see students in junior high school (or younger) who have lost hope for their future. Imagine a child, going to school each day, with the belief that they have reached their pinnacle of success — things will get no better. Many have become so accustomed to failure that making any effort seems senseless. Some blend anonymously into the classroom, forgotten souls. Others seek negative attention, masking their lack of hope with disruptive behavior.
As educators, perhaps the most powerful thing we can do for our students is build, or in many cases rebuild, hope. But how? I recently finished re-reading Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen. Jensen provides the following suggestions for building student hope:
- Using daily affirmations (verbally and posted)
- Asking to hear students’ hopes and offering reinforcement of those hopes
- Telling students specifically why they can succeed
- Providing needed academic resources (i.e. paper and pencils, computer time)
- Helping students to set goals and build goal-setting skills
- Telling true stories of hope about people to whom students can relate
- Offering help, encouragement, and caring as often as needed
- Teaching students life skills in small daily chunks
- Avoiding complaining about student’s deficits. If they don’t have it, teach it.
- Treating all the kids in your class as potentially gifted
- Building academic, emotional and social assets in students
While this is not an exhaustive list, it is a good starting point. The key is to be mindful of the need, reflective of our practice, and conscientious about taking action.