Hope: The Basis of Positive Change

Hope.  I fear it is a feeling that several of our youth have never experienced.  Hope is:

“the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life” - Wikipedia

As a principal I have several students who come in and out of my office, some of them are frequent-flyers.  And through my conversations with them the underlying issue sometimes seems to be a lack of hope.

Just the other day I had a young lady in my office for her aloof attitude towards a teacher when directions were given.  She was redirected several times, but she instead chose to ignore the teacher as if he was a figment of her imagination.  This isn't the first time she appeared detached from the reality of a school's or authority figure's assurances.  And the reason became overwhelmingly evident during my conversation with her.

Me:  So what do you think is getting in the way of following a direction that is given to you?

Her:  I don't know.  I guess I don't get life.

I guess I don't get life.  This statement caused a jolt to my system.  After a prolonged pause ...

Me:  Well what do you think is the purpose of life?

Her:  I don't know.  To go to school and do what you're told?

I was saddened by her response.  Not just because this is what she believes, but because this is what many students believe.  Much of this is because they are egocentric at this age and can't think much past themselves and their day to day.  However, I believe it's also because we are not engaging students in conversations about dreaming about what the future holds for them, helping them set goals and action plans to reach them, and setting the stage for hope in their life.  When we do this well they see that every action they make produces part of the outcome for their future.  This mindset promotes grit, courage and determination.  And it keeps the humanity of treating others well at the forefront of their thoughts.

So how did this conversation end?

Me:  Yes, school is part of life.  But school only supports our purpose?  Do you want to know what I think the purpose of life is?

Her:  Yea, sure.

Me:  For me, the purpose of life is all about engaging positively with the circle of people around me.  To somehow be the sunshine in their day.  To make sure I contributed to the goodness in their day.

Her:  Yea, I try to do that with my friends.

Me:  That's good!  When I say 'people' I mean every human, not just those who I like or prefer or who are like me, but everyone.

By the end of the conversation, her attitude was upbeat and she was excited to start monitoring her own attitude and the energy she brings to any situation.  I know, though, that this conversation alone is not enough.  To create and sustain hope, an effort will need to be made everyday. 

Gallup has completed research on hope in students and their findings state that measuring hope is as important as measuring graduation rates.  In a sense, I suppose if a student has hope they will more than likely graduate and if they don't they won't.

Hope is the basis of all positive change.  It is my job, as a mentor/principal/leader, to inspire everyone who crosses my path to do their best -- whether that happens to be a student or a colleague.  Not a small task, but certainly an important one.

To read more about the benefits of hope from Gallup News click here.  And if you have ways in which you create hope please comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.