Hope is a force that no one doubts or disagrees is a good thing. What we are unsure of is what exactly hope is and, more importantly, what it looks like in our lives and in the lives of our students.
We use the term so casually: I hope to see you soon, hope that works out for you, let’s hope for the best, etc. It’s no wonder that hope seems like a fleeting feeling or simple emotion when it’s everything but that. Hope is not something we feel; hope is something we do. Hope is a verb—an action we take.
Hope is driven by our daily choices and disciplined efforts, which not only define our current state but orient our future. We are here to remind each other, especially in the presence of our children, that no matter what today brings, tomorrow can and will be better because we will make it so. There’s nothing fleeting about that.
For the past 33 years, I have been following a practice that was inspired by my kindergarten students when I first began teaching. The great thing about five-year-olds is that they are fearless and confident in their genius. The challenge is that they do this all at the same time. They all want you to notice and note the genius in your presence at the same time. For a first-year teacher, this was exhausting.
I sat all of my students down in a circle and was honest with them. I let them know they were all amazing, but I couldn’t keep up! I made a schedule and promised them that I would notice and note five people every day. With 25 kids in the classroom, this meant that all of my students would be noticed for their unique genius each week. This schedule, combined with my noticing notebook, allowed me to be still and notice the genius in my presence. When a kid believes that you care about their well-being and value their uniqueness, that’s truly powerful for them.
I’m excited that we’re deliberately approaching these invisible forces of hope and mattering to give our students a better future. This message needs to be considered equally as important as the skills, strategies, and technologies our students typically learn in the classroom. Hope is not a promise we make to people—it’s a practice that we must model for our children so they can engage in that practice of being purveyors of hope themselves.
The world has brought us a lot of things that we wish didn’t exist. As education leaders, we don’t have crystal balls to predict the future. But with hope, we can shape the future.
To learn more about putting these ideas into practice in the classroom, listen to the Hope, Mattering, and Moving Forward webinar, which was recently hosted by edWeb. Along with my experiences, you’ll also hear from Derrick Conley, executive principal of Birch and Parkway Elementary Schools in Pine Tree Independent School District, and Dr. Quintin Shepherd, superintendent at Victoria Independent School District, to learn how they instill hope in their students.