Building Hope

Researchers have found that cultivating hope is pretty challenging but offers significant benefits for those who have it.  Hope isn’t just wishful thinking.  It is the ability to see yourself in the future in a positive light. It involves setting attainable goals, having more than one path to get to the goal and the ability to stick with it when the going gets rough. Students who are high in hope have greater academic achievement, stronger friendships, more creativity and demonstrate better problem-solving skills. They also have lower levels of depression and anxiety and are less likely to drop out of school. Hope is a skill that can be taught. Here are some research-based guidelines to help students build hope.

  • Help students grow their capacity to see themselves in the future. Make sure that your students, regardless of their background know stories about people like them. They need to be able to see their lives reflected in the literature they read. They need to know their roots by understanding their peoples’ contribution to history and to making the world a better place.
  • Know their strengths. So many of the adults we talk to think back to a teacher who really saw their strengths as someone who helped them be the person they are today. They say things like, “She saw me.”  “He had faith in me even when I didn’t.”  “She knew I could do it before I did.”
  • Share stories of dreams, obstacles and how things turned out. Think about bringing in elders from the community that can share stories of hope.
  • Teach goal setting, g e n t l y. Goal setting can be a powerful tool for hope and also a source of deep discouragement. Encourage students to set small goals and then to notice when they are accomplished.
  • Teach problem solving. Reaching goals is rarely a straight path. When students become fluent problem solvers they grow their ability to navigate the obstacles that are part of life.
  • Class meetings! Positive Discipline class meetings are one of the best ways for students to learn and practice problem solving. When students listen to each other solve their own problems several times a week they gain problem solving tools, learn how others solve problems and more importantly, understand that life is a journey that you don’t have to walk alone.