"In classrooms using the Responsive Classrooms approach, teachers begin their year generating 'Hopes and Dreams.' The process of developing hopes and dreams each year is a process of reviving hope -- and hope is one of our most critical community resources. How do we teach or learn without it?" Ruth Charney shares strategies for developing hopes and dreams.
"My hope for you this year is that you will become a good problem solver. Everyone will learn that they can figure out some tough answers even when they feel stumped and frustrated in math, or reading, or at recess. Instead of giving up, you will say in your own mind, `I can figure this out! I can do this.' That's my hope for you." (4th grade teacher)
"I want to read harder chapter books this year." Keisha, age 9
"I want to not go to time out so much." Daren, Age 7
"I want to learn cursive." Jennifer, Age 8
"I want to have a friend who likes me every day." Monique, age l0
HOPES AND DREAMS
In classrooms all over the country using the Responsive Classroom approach, teachers begin the year generating "Hopes and Dreams." They offer their own hopes for their class. They ask their students to construct hopes of their own. As we create and speak our hopes, we begin to imagine a year full of delicious and shared challenges.
The process of developing hopes and dreams each year in our schools is a process of reviving hope -- and I am convinced that hope is one of our most critical community resources. In today's schools, hope seems almost fragile and under siege from so many external, as well as internal, sectors. Yet, how do we teach or learn without it?
To do our job well, to teach with conviction, patience, and skill, requires a steady infusion of hope. We have to maintain our hope that children can succeed, even in the face of struggle. We need to believe in our own efficacy; our ability to reach hard-to-reach children. We need to assert our own priorities and knowledge of how children learn. We need to say out loud that we have high expectations and good plans. We also need to invite our children to articulate their social and academic goals. When we ask our children to explore their hopes, we give them the opportunity to invest in their own schooling and, with eagerness, to bring their hope into the classroom each year.
Thus, we begin the year with a hopeful statement and a hopeful question: "My hope for you this year is.What is your hope for this year?"
When we ask ourselves and our students to generate hopes, we activate our imaginations and practical knowledge. Our best hopes can be translated into successful action plans. If I want my fourth grade students to become problem solvers, I am ready with opportunities to learn and appropriately phased interventions. To help Keisha become a better reader, a reader of chapter books, together we will select appropriate texts and a series of instructional steps. What is important is that teacher and students are a team working on student- and teacher-named goals.
A FEW PROCEDURES
The teacher names and models "Hopes and Dreams" for the class.
It is important to remember the following:
The students generate their own "Hopes and Dreams" for the year, and add a way to work on them.
"My hope for myself this year is______________. I will work on it by_________________________."
The teacher and students follow-up on their "Hopes and Dreams."
A FEW TIPS
In sum, "Hopes and Dreams" is a strategy to engage children and teachers in setting a positive, workful tone for the year. It gives us all permission to begin the year recalling the apt words of Sara Ruddick, "for children, hope is as important as breathing."
For more information, consult the following books from Northeast Foundation For Children -- or just visit their Web site!