Innovative Leadership and Digital Learning

Dr. Matthew X. Joseph – Follow on Twitter @MatthewXJoseph

Hope is Not a Strategy

I was thrilled to be asked by Craig Martin @CraigCMartin12 to be a part of Perkins School Genius Week.  When I started to think about sessions it was right after hearing Staff Sgt Roberts Powerful, emotional, and inspirational message during our Memorial Day program saying “Don’t ever give up on your dream. It is up to you to live your dream and believe in yourself – you control your effort – I urge you to give your best effort – there is greatness in all of you”

It got me thinking that we need hopes and dreams, but we also control our effort and how can we turn hope into action and greatness. Thus, my session was born

Below is the session outline.

  • Students will identify core “hopes and dreams”.
  • Student wills research how to develop life goals or wishes
  • Students will create a life tag line or motto
  • Students will write a promo message to themselves
  • Students will be filmed
  • Workshop will conclude with a website of all messages that the students can look back to and district can use as the students matriculate through the system.

So how can we as educators turn hope into greatness.  There is no right answer. I know coming from a home raised by my mother and growing up with a younger sister – hope looked a little different and it took amazing people to turn our hope into dreams and actions. I grew up in a single parent home with my mother and younger sister.  My mother earned her high school diploma traditionally.  Following her divorce, she went back to school (when I was in middle school) to earn her associate’s degree.  I knew this was done out of necessity rather than her excitement of expanding her education.  However, as I reflect now on her decision I realize how this helped shape my understanding of the connection between the value of education to success.

The most influential person of my youth was my aunt Nancy. At an early age my aunt, a university administrator, began communicating to me the importance of school and getting a good education. Through my middle school and high school years, she continued to reinforce that school is a place everyone can succeed and for me to apply myself and strive to reach my full potential.  She continued to push me to develop the work habits required to be successful. She lived in Boston and would call weekly and when visiting the Berkshires, she would always review my current and past work and sit with me to discuss goals of graduating high school and getting into a good college.  With her support, guidance, love, and passion for my success I did graduate Pittsfield High School and enter Springfield College the fall of 1989.  Springfield is where I would take my next steps to finding myself as a student, leader and an educator. My aunt has continued to this day to provide support through all my professional roles and was the biggest push to get me to apply to the BC doctoral program – and yes, the first phone call I made after I was accepted. And yes by my side when I graduated.

Because there were many people along my time who helped turn hope into greatness and I felt this maybe a good session for the event. However – what does it take to turn hope and dreams into greatness? My motivation for my session goes beyond lessons in grammar and punctuation, to a more pressing goal – to build students’ confidents and drive to unwrap their gifts.

Given that one transformative relationship can change the life of a child/person (Thank you Nancy), I am motivated to bring this to schools through interactions with kids, including the most at-risk, vulnerable children. In my reading on this I have read that students who are high in hope have greater academic success, stronger friendships, and demonstrate more creativity and better problem-solving. They also have lower levels of depression and anxiety and are less likely to drop out from school.  We focus on academics, but without students present (physically and cognitively) we can’t teach the academics.

In schools, hope is a critical first step for students to identify goals and develop strategies. Those hopes and goals will turn into motivation through the support of staff and peers Hope creates active engagement with learning. Learning becomes real, powerful and useful. This is when hope turns into action.

So how do we harness the hopes and dreams of students (and staff for that matter)

Breakdown the goals (or hopes) into steps. Goals do not have to be accomplished all-at-once. Teach students how to visualize goals as steps. This will also give students reasons to celebrate their small successes along the way and keep motivation high!

More than one way to reach a goal.  If students see only one path or way to reach goals, often the focus turns to obstacles. They often lack key problem-solving skills, causing them to abandon the quest for their goals. Our role as educators is to encourage effort, prototyping (trying), and the grit to try many paths.

Calibrate goals to the student’s age and circumstances. Children tend to give up hope the minute they see that success is unattainable. There are several ways to keep success attainable for all students. It’s far better to help a student feel that he hasn’t yet learned something than that he’s failed at trying. If a goal is cognitively or physically unattainable due to age, we must break that goal and action down for the students age or circumstances.

Make Personal Connections. Manny Scott (@ManuelScott) says everything starts with building relationships, I fully agree. Nothing helps a student more than a teacher who shows that she/he believes in him, and cares about him as a person. Students learn just as much FOR someone as from someone. We have all had that teacher who genuinely cared about us who made a significant difference in our lives. Be that person.

Celebrate Success. Focus more on what a student does right rather than what he/she does wrong. Students can only absorb a limited amount of correction, limit yourself to focus on feedback for growth and celebrate the effort and success.

Be Passionate. Who are individuals you most admire? Chances are that we choose those who perform with genuine passion. Passion is contagious. I spoke about Manny Scott earlier in this blog. He and General Colin Powell were keynote speakers at ASCD and their message was powerful because of their passion. I attended Model School 2017 event and was in Weston Kieschnick’s (wes_kieschnick) pre-conference session and his content was relevant but it was his passion for teaching and the knowledge he was empowering us with was what made that session impactful for me. I think Craig Martin is one of those people too and my I am inspired to be part of his event and to see his rise to greatness as a leader. Dr. Diane Pullin at BC – he mentorship and passion is a blog post all to itself.

Those are just a few of many people I can think of. Passion touches us in ways that say, “I believe in this, and so can you.” Passion doesn’t mean jumping off the table or the loudest cheerleader of something, it means loving what you are doing in the classroom and expressing that love the same way that the people you admire express it.

Hope is critical to greatness but not the strategy to achieve it. It is the core for developing pathways and thinking tactics (strategic planning). Hope is the belief that things can get better and is the foundation upon which motivation is built.  Hope is not wishful thinking—as in “I hope I win the lottery.” Staff Sargent Roberts said turn hopes and dreams into greatness– I believe these steps are the way to do that.

  • Articulate what your hope or dreams are
  • Set clear and attainable goals to reach them.
  • Develop multiple strategies to reach those goals.
  • Stay motivated to use the strategies to attain the goals, even when the going gets tough.

These bullet points will be the core of my time at Michael J. Perkins School. We are going to use FlipGrid to record our hopes and dreams to memorialize our thinking and maybe students can look back and use their own words as motivation. The Michael J. Perkins School has cultivated a #MJPGeniusWeek to promote the intellect, creativity, and resilience. The Michael J. Perkins Elementary School is the Home of Outstanding World Learners & Leaders. It is also the home of 2019 Thomas Passios Principal of the Year Craig Martin @CraigCMartin12 . Check out the event at https://mjpgeniusweek2018.weebly.com/

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2018 by in Leadership.

Dr. Matthew X. Joseph

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