What do you get when you hope a lot

Christmas was a wonderful time of year.

A time of hope.

I grew up Catholic and knew the secular reason for Christmas.  Once out of high school, I actually came to realize that that time of year is really about giving to others, for I must admit, that like so many others, Christmas was a time to acquire things.  There were GI Joe figures — the big ones, a new bike, Bill Cosby records, and, when I was older, a Buck knife.  Every year, I would make my list and hope.

Hope.  It is such a wonderful thing.  It always allows us to look towards what we want.  It can create in us a feeling of good — that everything will be ok.  It enables us to think of what we want, and then make, or not make a plan.  So, hope is good.

Except when it’s not.

I’ve sat around many meetings to talk about students who are currently failing a class.  Then, the person leading the meeting will ask what we think we can do.  Very rarely is the expression, “Well let’s hope. . . ” not uttered.  This is the last place that that idea should be used.  Here is a student who needs help – and needs it now.  The team, maybe it’s a School Based Intervention Team, attempts to create what the student needs.  Then, from there, it should all be action, review of action, next course, and repeat.  No hope involved at all.

I don’t use it anymore when I talk about kids.  I say things like, “If he works hard enough. . .”, or “This plan seems solid. . . “. or “Let’s review this in a few weeks. . . ” because when you’re attempting to help a student, hope is good, but it isn’t where we should be putting our energies.

When I hear people – students, teachers, administrators – talking about hope (“I hope I do well on the next test”, “I hope those people go to that seminar”, “I hope they understand this new plan”) I often like to say, “Do you know what you get when you put a lot of effort into hoping?”

(Pause for silent reply as listener realizes it’s a rhetorical question)

“You get good at hoping.”

And that’s about it.

When we are working with students, and we are about to say, “I hope that. . .” we should stop ourselves and reflect on the plan that we have created.  What have we missed?  What else do the people involved need?  What else should we put into the plan?

Please don’t get me wrong.  I hope all the time.  I hope about dreams I have and things that I have little control over.  Hope is amazing.  Hope is great.  Hope is the what allows us to keep moving towards the impossible.  But when we are trying to support a student who needs specific instruction, structure and support should be focused on — those things that we can control.  But when we put our efforts — our students’ futures, our teachers’ needs, our administrators’ vision – into hope, most likely, we’re only going to get one thing, and, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I need to get any better at hoping.


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