Hope is not a Wish


Christmas and New Year’s are seasons of joy, love, and hope. We share the joy of gift-giving and receiving. We love the time we have with family and friends. We hope for a better 2016 when we create New Year’s resolutions. In the spirit of the season, I’d like to dig a little further unwrapping one of these feelings through this blog post. Only a Grinch would analyze joy or love, so we’re not touching either of those. We’re going to dig into, unwrap, and redefine hope.  

We do a lot of “hoping” in education. We “hope” school finances will improve so we can afford the resources we need to teach and lead. We “hope” students’ home lives will stabilize so they can focus at school. We “hope” students become more motivated and thus work harder. We “hope” that a grumpy, burned-out colleague retires at the end of the year.   

We sound desperate when we use hope this way. We sound unconvinced that anything willactually improve as a result of our hope. Because hope is tossed around so desperately and unconvincingly, it gets a bad rap. Hope is used interchangeably with wish, diminishing its value. The aforementioned statements are not ones of hope, they are wishes. Go back and substitute “wish” for “hope” and you will detect zero change to the meaning and feel of each comment. They are wishes, and wishes, my fellow educators, are for genies and folks gazing at shooting stars. Wishes are not for change-agents, striving to make a lasting impact on their students they serve.

I’d like to help us create a new definition for “hope.” A definition that will guide us to better outcomes for our students. Hope is not a wish, folks. Hope is a confident expectation of what will be. In other words, it is a promise. See how different that is than a mere wish. When we truly hope, we confidently expect a given something to happen, and through our volition, we promise a given outcome will be reached.  

We hope a student will read fluently by the end of the year because we are going to present him with ability-appropriate texts, confer with him daily, and maintain a laser-like focus on his reading strengths while simultaneously supporting his skill deficits. Do you see how different that is than wishing he will reach grade level by the end of the year?

We hope a student will show self-control in whole group settings because we are going to create an environment that engages his interests and passions, conveys mutual respect, and is rich with unconditional love. See how different that is than wishing he will mature?

We hope a veteran colleague channels her passion for her craft in a way that cements herself as a teaching legend in the last years of her tenure. We hope a veteran colleague will do this by collaborating with her daily, empathetically relating to who she is in and out of the classroom, and giving her the benefit of the doubt if she’s less than perfect on a given day. See how different that is than wishing she will realize she’s burned-out and stay home next summer, permanently?

Do you see… better yet… feel how hope transcends our normal use when we frame it as a promise backed by action?  

Unwrap hope this Christmas. Don’t wish things will get better for you, your students, or colleagues. Confidently expect success.

I’d like to thank Andy Addis, Pastor at Crosspoint Church (Hutchinson, Kansas), as the inspiration for the idea of unwrapping hope.  I enjoyed “schoolifying” his conceptualization of hope.  Lead up and preach on, sir! 


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