This holiday season– let us find ways to foster HOPE in the classroom.
Joy. Love. Hope. These are words we all hear this time of year. They are all important, but we tend to underestimate the value of hope. In the classroom, hope is vital. When students are hopeful the world looks brighter and they feel that they can accomplish anything. Having hope, though, isn’t something that always comes naturally to kids. Luckily, hope is something that can, and should, be fostered in children. Helping kids to be hopeful helps them be successful in many areas.
Some kids seem to be naturally hopeful while others seem to have a negative outlook. Being hopeful is often based on children’s past experiences, though personality and other factors play a role. Children who come from homes in poverty or those who have experienced trauma are less likely to be hopeful. Really, it makes sense. If their past experiences have taught them that no matter what they do life is still hard, it is difficult to have hope.
Luckily, we can help them to learn to hope. There are a few things teachers can do to help their students become more positive and hopeful.
Model Hopefulness: Perhaps one of the most important way teachers can help kids to be hopeful is to model that hopefulness for their students. When teachers are optimistic and positive that attitude is catching. Thinking aloud and drawing connections between the work you put in and the results you get helps too.
Write a New History: Children who don’t draw connections between their hard work and the results they get have a hard time being hopeful. When kids have a sense of control over their destiny, they feel much more hopeful. We can give kids new experiences where they can be successful. Some ways to do this include:
– Give kids an in-class job (such as feeding the class pet or inspecting the floor) and praise them for a job well done.
– Give them tasks that are slightly easy and work up to more difficult tasks. Guide them to see the successes they are
having along the way.
– Encourage students to write or draw about past successes and tell the why behind how they happened.
– Help them draw connections between their own hard work and the outcome.
Focus on Self-Talk: The most powerful voice in a child’s life isn’t that of a parent, friend, or teacher; it is the voice in their head. How kids (and adults) talk to themselves is largely indicative of their ability to be optimistic and hopeful. We can teach kids to change their self-talk to become more empowering and hopeful:
Identify self-talk: The first task is to identify what they are saying to themselves. Our self-talk is such constant chatter it can easily get lost in the background and be difficult to identify.
Give alternatives: Teach students alternatives for what they already say so they can begin replacing it with something better. For example, if a student tells himself ‘I can’t do this.’ They can instead say ‘I don’t know how to do this yet, but I’ll keep working at it.
Implement Changes: Write down or practice new ways of thinking. Make them mantras and use them in class as much as possible. This will help kids implement them and make them a natural part of their everyday thought patterns.
Set Goals: Teach kids to set and reach their goals. Reaching goals also help build a new history. So often we use hope as if it was a wish but, “Hope doesn’t mean wishful thinking—as in “I hope I win the lottery.” Instead, a person who is high in hope knows how to do the following things.
1. Set clear and attainable goals
2. Develop multiple strategies to reach those goals.
3. Stay motivated to use the strategies to attain the goals, even when the going gets tough.”
We must teach our students to set and reach goals, even when it gets hard. We must teach them to not give up, problem solve, and overcome obstacles that are put in their way. Celebrate their small victories and encourage them to keep going.
Find Heros: Learn about others who have overcome obstacles and been successful. When kids learn about other people that have overcome difficult times (especially when they are similar to their own) it gives them hope for their own futures.
Believe in Them: Genuinely believe in your students and what they are capable of. Tell them that you believe in them often. When they don’t believe in themselves, they can use your faith in them to get them through difficult times until they build their own belief in themselves.