“Hope is not a strategy.” Those were the words I heard in a meeting recently, and I was taken aback by the force with which they were spoken. I suppose there was some level of accuracy to that statement if you use the dictionary definition of hope, which is heavily based on feelings and desires. However, I don’t always like to abide solely by dictionary definitions, so I decided to redefine HOPE.
Students who live in poverty often come to school with low expectations for success. Many find academic work to be challenging because they have had very little prior exposure to reading and mathematics. Many find the behavioral requirements and social structures to be challenging because the rules are dissimilar to those in their homes. Many have not had exemplars of grit and perseverance necessary to overcome all the challenges faced. As such, students who live in poverty often give up on school very early.
Teachers are uniquely positioned to be highly effective in combating all of these negative experiences. They do so by giving students HOPE:
- High expectations – Every student needs high expectations for academic achievement and behavior. By setting high expectations for all students, teachers convey respect that is vitally needed.
- Opportunities – Students need opportunities to engage with content in a safe and nurturing environment. They need to experience content in real world contexts. They need to be creative and explore areas of interest. Teachers have the ability to create such opportunities.
- Praise – Students need praise, and the strongest praise is for effort. Praise encourages continuation and helps students overcome fear of failure. Teachers have the ability to praise student effort.
- Examples – Students need to see positive examples. The old adage, “More is caught than taught” is often true. Students will take their cues from teachers based on what they see. Teachers have the ability to provide positive examples for students.
As you prepare for your classes next week, think about how you can include the actionable strategy of HOPE (High expectations, Opportunities, Praise, Examples). You and your students will be glad you did!