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Calling all leaders: Hope is not a strategy

5 steps to help you harness the hopes and dreams of students and staff

Hope is critical to greatness but not the strategy to achieve it. Hope is not wishful thinking—as in “I hope I win the lottery.” 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. As leaders, we need hopes and dreams and to encourage them for our staff, but we control how to turn hope into action and greatness. How can we do that?

One transformative relationship can change the life of a staff or student, which is why leaders are essential to harness hope and turn that into greatness. 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. As leaders we tend to focus on academics, but without students present—both physically and cognitively—we can’t teach the academics.

Hope is a critical first step for staff or 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?

1. Break down goals (or hopes) into steps.
Goals do not have to be accomplished all at once; instead, visualize goals as steps. This will also give reasons to celebrate small successes along the way and keep motivation high.

More than one way to reach a goal. If you have only one path or method to reach your goals, the focus may turn to obstacles. Without key problem-solving skills, people may abandon the quest. Our role as leaders is to encourage effort, prototyping, and grit to try many paths.

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

3. Make personal connections.
Manny Scott (@ManuelScott) says everything starts with building relationships. I agree. Nothing helps more than leaders who support a teacher or a teacher who shows that he believes in and cares about a student. People learn just as much for someone as from someone. We have all had that person who made a significant difference in our lives. Be that person.

4. Celebrate success.
Focus more on what someone does right rather than what she does wrong. People can absorb only a limited amount of correction, so focus your feedback on growth and celebrate the effort and success.

5. Be passionate.
Who are the individuals you most admire? Chances are that we choose those who perform with genuine passion. For me, it’s Manny Scott. He and General Colin Powell were keynote speakers at ASCD Empower 18 earlier this year 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; his content was relevant but it was his passion for teaching and the knowledge he was empowering us with that made that session so impactful for me.

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

So, to all the leaders and educators out there, encourage someone to follow their hopes and dreams by setting clear and attainable goals, developing multiple strategies to reach those goals, and encouraging them to stay motivated to use the strategies to attain the goals, even when the going gets tough.

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