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At-Risk, Education, Students, Teaching

Building Hope


cc flickr photo by loop_oh

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.


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


6 thoughts on “Building Hope

  1. Nice post, Jeff. A very helpful list of reminders that i will share with colleagues. Too frequently we are quick to complain about deficits rather than recognizing the possibility of making a real difference in a student’s life. We set the stage for powerful teaching when we accept that hope matters most to those who appear to deserve it
    the least.

    Posted by @terryainge | October 16, 2011, 9:31 am
  2. When a child faces little positive in their life, they can lose sight of hope. That is a tragedy. You’ve made some good points here in building self-esteem and hope.

    Posted by Ross Mannell | October 16, 2011, 2:28 pm
  3. Hi Mr. Delp. My name is Owen Gill and I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, AL. This post was really why I am inspired to be a teacher and eventually an administrator! I tell my wife that I want to show students that regardless of what your background is, school and education can provide you with the tools to break that cycle and succeed. I want to take students on tours of college campuses and potential employers so they can see what the result of their hard work can get them. So many teachers are failing in giving the poor kid that lives in a bad neighborhood an opportunity to succeed. They assume like everyone else that this student is hopeless and will never want to better themselves. It is my goal to change this stigma and open their eyes to a world with so much hope!! I am excited to get the chance and it is so refreshing to see an administrator that has the same passion. You set the tone for everyone in your school with this attitude. Thank you so much for taking the time to mention a topic that is so important to me!!

    Posted by Owen Gill | October 17, 2011, 8:41 am
    • Thank you for taking the time to comment Owen. I am glad to hear you are pursuing a career in education. We need dedicated teachers and school leaders who will advocate for a quality education for all students. It is so important that we give all of our students the opportunity to “taste” success and, as you mention, allow them to see the opportunities that lie before them. Best of luck in your studies. Be sure to stay connected, develop a personal learning network, seek advice and opinions from colleagues, and stay committed to doing what is best for kids.

      Posted by azjd | October 19, 2011, 7:35 pm

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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