Friday, 3 August 2018

All you need is….hope.

It’s so important to cultivate an attitude that allows you to maintain hope.  Hope can make a great difference to how you respond to problems and difficulties.  The most fundamental aspiration of all human beings is to seek happiness, to overcome suffering.  You may go to bed at night confronted by many problems in your life, but it is hope that motivates you to get out of bed and carry on with your life next morning.

Dalai Lama

Over the past few months of my life I have been reminded of the true power hope can bring to situations of real despair in life.  A doctor looking after my mum in hospital reminded me of the importance and power of hope.  Hope is an energy that you can bring to any given situation in life.  It is a belief that anything is possible.  I truly believe that this one doctor’s attitude and hope that my mum might just defy the odds is what enabled her to recover when no one else thought it was even possible.  Other doctors in the hospital didn’t share this hope.  It really made me think.

You see, this doctor reminded me that being hopeful, not giving up, exploring all the avenues is what makes a doctor a good doctor.  I’m sure you’ve all experienced doctors who are not so good.  This made me think about my own profession, teaching, and how important I feel hope is in education.  The education sector are constantly trying to figure out the ingredients for great teaching.  What is great teaching? What does it look like and how can we teach all our teachers to be great?  Truth is, I’m not sure we can, just like I’m not sure all doctors can be great doctors.  But let’s not give up hope just yet.

I believe the most important thing a teacher can possess is hope.  They must bring that energy to their classrooms every single day and this carries with it a true belief that the children they teach can learn, can achieve and can succeed at school, no matter what their background or starting point.

Hope is defined as, ‘a feeling or expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen’, yet so many teachers lack this hope and expectation for their students. Surely it couldn’t be that simple, could it?  That if our teachers had a true belief and expectation that the children they teach can achieve and hold a true desire to make that happen this alone would make the difference.  As a parent I hope my children are taught by hopeful teachers.  Teachers who find ways around the many barriers in their way to learning and achievement.  A teacher who will never give up on them and will explore all the avenues to achievement possible no matter what their ability level might tell them on paper. That is what I want for my children and what I believe the parents of the children I teach would want too. 

In my class all my students are taught to A* standard.  If a student wants to achieve an A* they will have to work damn hard to get it but I will show them how, that’s my job as a teacher.  For some students the path to A* is pretty straight forward – these tend to be the students who have a lot of self-control and who are willing to work hard.  For other students the road to A* is a very rocky one that challenges them every step of the way.  The growth you witness in a student who has a target grade of a C yet defies the odds and goes on to achieve an A* is remarkable and a true privilege to be part of.  Yes, I taught them the content, showed them how to answer exam questions and showed them ways to revise and learn but the most important thing I brought to the table that made the real difference to them is hope.  I expected them to do it and shared this expectation with them every day – I showed them I believed in them and this desire and expectation lead me into finding ways to help them achieve the A*. For other students in the class who may not set their sights so high they too improve and achieve above their target grades as a result of this expectation to succeed. 

Having hope provides my students with the will they need to achieve their goal and I show them the different routes to achieving it. A teacher who has hope in her students helps the students approach problems and barriers with the right mindset to overcome the barriers in their way.  You see hope provides a motivation and drive in the brain.  Hope is where emotions follow cognition not the other way around.  Hope often leads to goals and hopeful individuals actively engaged in the process of improvement, development and learning.  They find ways to meet their goals and most importantly, they ensure they stay on track by constantly monitoring their progress.  That is a lot of energy that ultimately leads to success. There is a plethora of research evidence that links goal setting to success in life from sport to academic achievement.

In one study conducted over 6 years researchers were interested in the relationship between hope and academic achievement. They found high hope students achieved more academically than their low hope counterparts and many of these high hope students had lower entrance exam scores at the start of the study.  In my experience though teachers can make their students more hopeful.  If you can make your students believe that you believe in them and that they have what it takes to be successful you will see these young people transform before your eyes.  Yes, we know ability is important but to be successful it takes much more than just ability – it is something else deep inside an individual that drives them to succeed.  Often the hopeful student will use this motivation drive they have within themselves to improve their ability and when they see success every time they get an essay returned to them or a test score back where they have improved this just fuels their drive and sometimes makes them push themselves even more.

So maybe, just maybe, we can cultivate good teachers just by helping them realise the importance of hope and the positive energy that brings to the classroom. Don’t be afraid to be hopeful for your students and use this positive energy in your classroom daily to help your student realise their potential and even exceed it.   The real question for all of you teachers out there is what do you want to be?  A teacher or a good teacher? 




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