Continuing some of the ideas I expressed last time about grit, I have been thinking a lot about hope.
Roth and Hemmelstein defined hope as “expectancy that a positively related event is likely to incur in the future.” It follows, logically, that prior experience with positive events would increase one’s belief that subsequent positive events will occur.
Cognitive research sheds light on this important fact: hope is not an emotion. It is a learned process acquired through socialization. According to C. R. Snyder, hope has three different components: 1) ability to set realistic goals; 2) ability to tolerate failure; and 3) belief in yourself and your abilities.
The question, then, is: how can we teach and/or instill hope in our students? According to Snyder, it is by modeling and allowing students to struggle that we can teach hope. By overcoming failures, students begin to believe in their ability to succeed in the face of a challenge. The result: A change in their schema. They can begin to see failure not as an end in itself, but as a step toward success.
It’s important that we as adults and teachers send the right message: It is of less importance that we experience failure than that we don’t give up when we do. If we adhere to Snyder’s deductions about the components of hope, then we need to take action and support students in setting realistic goals and encourage them as they pursue these goals.
We must reinforce the important of effort and perseverance over immediate results.
We must change our own attitudes that grades are the end point of student learning.
We must model the daily struggle to grow through our own failures for students.
They need to see us struggle with things, too, and we need to model and consistently reinforce the most power tenant we can give them: Do not give up.
In the classroom, practices that teach hope can take on a variety of routines and messages: Explicitly teaching hope and talking about struggle and how we have overcome it; praising effort over immediate results by building in responses such as, “I really like how you thought through that problem; can someone check the math?” or “thanks for getting the discussion started, can someone build on John’s response?”
We should view grades as a step towards success rather than an endpoint of student learning. I routinely allow students to rewrite papers. We need to let students productively struggle while reinforcing our belief in their abilities, never allowing failure to be the end point of a learning experience, by using words such as “take another look at your notes, then try the problem again;” “if we take our time with this passage, as a group I know we can break it down”.
I wrote, a while back, a post about teaching MacBeth to ninth graders. To me, this stands out as the most powerful example of productive struggle I have seen in my teaching career.
We need to model what we want to see in our students. Let them know we struggled and that we expect them to struggle. Don’t give up on them. Hold them to realistic expectations. Keep believing in them.