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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

One word for 2019


Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. ~Desmond Tutu

A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning. ~Brad Henry

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. ~Helen Keller

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” 

I believe that ultimately it is our job to kindle hope. We must be merchants of hope!We should strive to make hope building pervasive for every student, every day, and in every period. Regarding hope, Barak Obama might have said it best, 

The 2017 Student Gallup Poll says this about hope:
“Hopeful students are 2.8x more likely to say they get better grades than their discouraged peers. Hope: The ideas and energy students have for the future. Hope has also been linked to student success in school. Hopeful students are positive about the future, goal-oriented and can overcome obstacles in the learning process, enabling them to navigate a pathway to achieve their goals.
Among the 808,521 2017 Gallup Student Poll participants, 38% STRONGLY AGREE that the adults at school care about them. Of students who participated in 2017, 4 in 10 students STRONGLY AGREE they feel safe in their school”!  

Dr. Amy Fast (@fastcrayon) an assistant principal at McMinnnville High School in Oregon tweeted, “Our school is a high poverty school. And thus, many of our kids face more than I can imagine. Yet, they constantly outperform districts around the state on traditional measures. It can’t be a coincidence that the % of students who indicate they’re hopeful is also off the charts.” You see, our students are not looking for miracles; they are looking for hope. They only get that when they struggle and make the choice to keep going. We need to help them make that choice — to persevere when adversity is in their lives. Brene Brown, author of Dare to Lead says hope is not an emotion but rather a behavioral process born from overcoming adversity — a habit of mind founded in resilience. So when we talk about fostering hope in our classes and schools, we should not mistake that with making everything easy or running away from struggle. Hope is not a soft nebulous option; it is what we do inside ourselves, the inner work of clearing the disappointment, fear, hopelessness, choosing hope over despair, and making the effort when it feels the hopeless creeping in.

Hope is the belief that our tomorrows can be better than our todays. Hope is not magic; hope is work. The importance of giving hope, especially to students from poverty is that, “Hope changes brain chemistry, which influences the decisions and actions that we take.” Hope involves the spirit in us. It is the belief that something will turn out better, regardless of the outcome. You see, the poor often feel less in control; therefore, building hope is powerful. We should be relentless in building hope with our students. Do not want think that hope is just  a rainbows and flowers kind of attitude. It is not just giving pep talks with words like “You can be the next president, a rocket scientist, or an NBA star!” But instead say to your students, “You have goals and dreams, and that is a great beginning. It’s going to take grit and hard work. I will be by your side every day and I will do everything I can to help you achieve your greatest potential and dreams. Let’s go for it!”

In my initial faculty meeting as Principal of two high schools and district convocation when I was Superintendent, I made a point of saying,“I believe in the three As of education: advanced academics, arts, and athletics.” Those three provide a balanced curriculum, it is like a three legged stool. If you take away one of those, it is out of balance and will not stand. In almost every high performing school, high expectations, (no matter the demographics) include a complex, challenging curriculum, including arts (performing, musical, and media), athletics (including as many sports as possible) and advanced academic classes. However leaders also added support to each student that needed it. A great example of this kind of support is AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a college readiness system for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade. AVID provides a curriculum in the AVID Elective class that includes Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading (WICOR) strategies to help students become college ready. AVID also provides teacher training in every subject which enhances the college-going culture of the school. 

When you teach the whole child, (mind, body and spirit) you help them obtain hope. If you take away any one of these you are cheating the student. This includes free play at recess when kids learn creativeness in making up games and also how to fend for themselves. The arts and a rigorous curriculum enhances learning skills and cognition. Athletics, recess, and physical education classes help the brain grow neurons (neurogenesis) and decreases depression. Therefore, every school should include athletics and physical activity, arts, and advanced academic curriculum in every school day.This curriculum is in addition to any gifted & talented program that might be in place. A rigorous curriculum is needed for every student. 

Hope is the inner fire that warms us, the inner light that gives us direction, the fuel that gives us the energy to keep moving forward. It is born out of meaning and purpose and in turn creates meaning in for our lives. Hope is a powerful force that can change the trajectory of each student that it touches. 

As I continue to ponder hope, I am inclined to think that it originates with love. Maybe the most important things I looked for when I was interviewing educators was, do they love kids — all kids. I believe that this love is a choice. It reminds me of Who I believe is the greatest teacher and leader and how He addressed love.“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 36-39 NIV

I find it interest3ing that neighbor is not defined. I believe this was intentional so that we could not qualify who our neighbor is. Isn’t it a huge relief that we do not have to create a list of who our neighbor is and maybe more importantly who we do not have to love. You see we are commanded to love both the lovable and unloveable, the smart and the not so smart, the clean and the dirty, the athlete and the thespian, the black, brown, white, and all color of kids. I want to make it simple — just love the one in front of you. Our school is a neighborhood. Mr. Rogers said or should I say sung it best. 
“It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
It's a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let's make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we're together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?
Won't you please, won't you please,
Please won't you be my neighbor?” —  Won’t You Be My Neighbor by Fred M. Rogers. © The McFeely-Rogers Foundation

     In one of my presentations, I use Walt Disney World and Disneyland great examples of culture. The motto for Walt Disney World is “The Most Magical Place on Earth.” The motto for Disneyland is “The Happiest Place on Earth.” If we have a culture of happiness or magic, we will kindle hope and give love. A classroom or campus where a student feels magical or happy will experience hope and love every day. Let’s try to have that kind of culture in every classroom, every period, for every child.