January 2015 newsletter

    Principally Speaking

 I recently read an article entitled “Making Hope Happen in the Classroom” by Shane Lopez in Phi Delta Kappan. Lopez reports that only half of American children are hopeful– that is, believe their future will be better than their present and think they have the power to shape a better future.

“Hopeful thinking combines future thinking with a sense of agency or efficacy,” says Lopez. Studies have shown that a person’s positive expectations for the future are tightly correlated with academic and life success. After controlling for other variables (previous grades, IQ, psychological status), researchers have found that hope boosts a student’s school achievement by 12. Lopez has found that students who are hopeful about the future have three characteristics that set them apart from students who are not:

 • They are excited about something in the future. “That one thing can be big or small, novel or run-of-the-mill, close at hand or far in the future,” says Lopez, “as long as it teaches them to look forward with positive expectations.” It can be a weekly visit to the park, a family trip, a sporting event, a school dance. This is part of a hopeful mindset that gets young people excited about the future and their future selves. “They become more animated and this display of positive emotions attracts attention and support from people who can help them along the way.”

• Hopeful students have good school attendance. Lopez and colleagues at Gallup studied student absenteeism and found a close correlation between excellent attendance and hope.

 • Hopeful students are engaged. They are psychologically invested in what is happening around them and eager to get something out of classes and other activities.

 Lopez goes on to describe three specific strategies to increase students’ level of hope:

• Give students goals that really matter to them. Nobody washes a rental car. For the same reason, students don’t work hard on assignments they don’t own or find meaningful. Students won’t get fired up about goals like raising reading scores or graduation rates. But goals directly linked to having a good job and a happy family can be highly motivational.

 • Teach students to put hope into action. According to a 2011 OECD study, U.S. students are more confident that they’ll graduate from high school and college than students in any of the other countries studied. But only 60 percent of U.S. students strongly believe they can implement strategies that will get them good grades, according to the Gallup Student Poll. Lopez describes the Hope Camera Project as an example of how to fill in the missing ingredients. Fifth and sixth graders are given disposable cameras and over several months they photograph and write about something that documents hope in their lives, with the goal of presenting their best photograph and their edited essay in a gala evening event. Students in the project over-came family strife, academic struggles, and health problems to finish their work; it taught them to match their will with their ways, think flexibly, and create alternative strategies to reach their goals.

• Show students how to make when/where plans. Studies have shown that students who decide when and where they will work on and complete a project are three to four times more likely to follow through than students whose action plans are vague. Setting action triggers is straightforward, says Lopez. “Each time, give a student an assignment or set a goal, help them choose the day and time they’ll start working on it, and the place where they’ll work.” As we move throughout the school year and in preparation for Student-Led Conferences in June let’s work together to instill hope in our scholars!

Tamarah Grigg


Pleasant Valley Middle School 

14320 NE 50th Avenue
Vancouver, WA 98686

(360) 885-5500
(360) 885-5510

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