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Hope: The Forgotten Curriculum

Our classrooms are full of hope; it may not be part of the explicit lesson plan but should be. Learning follows a pattern of Knowledge > Hope > Action > Inspiration, which leads to new knowledge and increased hopes and the cycle continues. We often teach and measure knowledge, and may have the students act (design a webpage or write a poem or measure a triangle), but we have skipped over hope and leave it to students to make the connection. Sure, some hope comes naturally. "I hope for a good grade," or even better, "I love this book and want to write a story like it." But, what if the teacher includes hope as part of the discussion?

A teacher contacted me about "Natalie." Natalie was in her second year of kindergarten and had never said a single word. Natalie could read and write, and from meetings with her parents, we knew that she spoke at home. She had the knowledge, but she would not speak, until she had reason to do so. HOPE would be the key. I received permission for her and a few students to stay after school and play games. I remember the first day. We played "Go Fish" where children are required to ask for a matching card. The incentive was a small piece of candy to anyone who spoke (a low bar for most of the group). It would only work if Natalie "hoped" for a piece of candy. I considered this a low level incentive, but we were looking for any entry point to build her confidence and to act. We took turns around the circle, each child asking for a card and picking a piece of candy. One child looked at Natalie and said, "Do you have a three?" In the tiniest voice, Natalie responded, "Go Fish." She had her candy, and from that day on she spoke.

When I have a student who is not progressing, I ask, "What are his or her hopes?" That question may lead to a lesson, a conversation, or an activity to help see the possibilities. Or, when planning for a new topic, I ask how knowing this (linguistic pattern or equation or technique) leads to new hopes? It may be hope for a job, a new skill, or for love of learning and new connections. I plan for those conversations in the lessons and teach hope. Hope is motivator to stay focussed, to act, and to increase learning.

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