Someone close to me died recently. She passed away suddenly and left us all at a total loss. The time has now come for us to begin the impossible task of emptying her house.
My plan for coping with what feels like an appalling invasion of her privacy had been to start small. Do the little things first. Best not to start with the things that will evoke tears and memories, I thought. Do the easier bits first; the linen cupboard, the kitchen shelves – places so mundane and every day that the grief will be easier to hold at bay. So I stayed clear of the photograph albums and headed for the kitchen.
How wrong I was.
Turns out that there’s nothing sadder than a half-empty bottle of ketchup that will never be finished. Her gone-ness was amplified by all the half-finished packets and jars, all the things that would never be. Looking around the kitchen, I saw the mug upside down on the draining board, the dirty tea towel in the washing machine that was waiting for the next full load.
Little, everyday acts of hope that are built around that quiet belief we all have that tomorrow will happen, that life will go on. Acts of hope so woven into the fabric and rhythm of our lives that they become noticeable only when we become suddenly hopeless.
Hope is the heartbeat of our lives.
As educators, we take this even further. Hope is our currency. To teach, to stimulate learning presupposes that this learning has a purpose. That it will be nurtured and grow into something useful, something that will change the world for the better.
Teachers teach. Great teachers teach hope. Making learners inherently, eternally hopeful is the most important thing we can do. Learners who believe that what they learn today will make tomorrow better have purpose, determination and the will for change. These learners are unstoppable.
Teaching is an act of hope. We must always teach for tomorrow- if it doesn’t matter for tomorrow then it shouldn’t be happening today. Skills-based learning is the essence of this. Learning how to compromise, empathise, strategise, solve problems and the myriad of other skills that make up a successful learner happens through a great many small, hopeful acts. It happens when teachers say:
Try it and see.
How do you know?
What will happen if…?
How would it feel to…?
Questioning and challenging the learner to find a way, to make it work.
And it shouldn’t be a big secret that this is what we are doing. For learning to matter, it has to matter to the learner. This means the learner has to know what the score is. Learners must see the point of learning:
How will this help me?
Why do I need to know this?
What is the point in practising this?
If you can’t answer these questions honestly and immediately for your learners then you probably shouldn’t be teaching it.
Hope-free teachers are like delivery drivers. They move information from A (textbook) to B (learner’s memory). Usually ensuring a major detour around the learner’s brain.
Hopeful teachers invite learners to select and fill the boxes, plan the route, decide where the learning is going. Sometimes they even let them drive the van.
So as you enter the new school year, make hope your currency. Make your teaching hopeful and teach for all the tomorrows.
Make hope the heartbeat of your classroom.
And make sure your learners know it.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Susan Ward and published with kind permission. The article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2020 by the UKEd Editorial team in accordance with website and policy updates.
The original post can be found here.