More Than a Feeling, an Indicator of Success

I recently had the opportunity to author a piece for Education Week magazine titled, “The Four Steps to Becoming a ‘Leadership Artist.’” I embarked on the journey at a time when  many in educational roles were feeling downtrodden and exhausted by the experiences of the last two years, yet I was observing the educational landscape  from a different perspective. Through that article, I sought to provide my colleagues with clear steps to move forward and offered a look inside what we have been doing in Lake Forest Schools over the past year. 

As I dug deeper into why I felt optimistic about the future amidst the many hurdles and contentious clashes while others were not, I struggled to put my finger on what made my outlook vastly different from my peers. While attending a conference with EdLeader21 and Battelle for Kids, a partner in the District 65, 67, and 115 Portrait of a Learner work, I found my ah-ha. My “why” was a deep, driving, and enduring sense of Hope. 

By definition, Hope is “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” And to my core, I felt, and still feel, Hope for the future. I feel it for my own children; I feel it for the students in our districts; and, I feel it for the field of education as a whole. As Frank Sinatra warbles, “the best is yet to come.”

More than a Feeling

At the conference, I was reminded of the science behind Hope. There, Battelle for Kids and EdLeader21 reviewed research findings that indicate Hope is more than a feeling. There are dozens of scientific studies demonstrating why a driving sense of Hope can make all the difference — not only for adults but more importantly for our students. 

One study shows Hope is a more robust predictor of future success than the ACT, SAT, and a student’s GPA. Let that sink in — Hope is a better predictor of future success than today’s gold standard measurements of knowledge or academic performance in the collegiate environment. 

Going Beyond Success with Hope

We know that academic success is not the only predictor of the well-lived lives that we desire for our students and children. That is where the research shared in Hope Rising: How the Science of Hope Can Change Your Life, by Casey Gwinn, J.D. and Chan Hellman, Ph.D., caught my attention. 

In their book, the researchers write, “In every published study of hope, every single one, hope is the single best predictor of well-being compared to any other measures of trauma recovery.” 

Pre-pandemic schools saw about one-third of students living with trauma. Today, most in the field believe that number is likely far higher. Each community, including ours, finds itself in the race to ensure our students are and feel safe, secure, and mentally, emotionally, and physically well. That is why, to me, now is the time for us to dig deeper in our understanding of the role of There has never been a more important time for us to understand the role of Hope in student growth.

Nurturing Hope 

Hope is more than wishful thinking and, despite what some may believe, it is not a personality trait or genetic predisposition. According to C.R. Snyder’s Hope Theory, there are three components associated with having Hope: 1. Having goal-oriented thoughts, 2. Developing strategies to achieve goals, and 3. Being motivated to expend effort to achieve goals. 

Think back to a success you have had in your life. Did the achievement come by way of someone else’s hard work? I am guessing not. It was most likely the result of your goal setting. Your careful planning. And your ability to overcome obstacles — because you believed you could — or that the outcome you desired was still possible, despite the hardship. It’s only through having Hope and working hard for what we have that we can truly appreciate our successes.

Our challenge today is to provide those same opportunities for our students to nurture a sense of Hope in age-appropriate ways. I could (and likely will) write more on the topic of allowing our students to struggle without rescuing them — it is a critical piece of being able to feel, have and grow a driving sense of Hope. 

Becoming Cultivators of Hope in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Knollwood Schools

In summary, Hope is a predictor of long- and short-term success for students. Moreover, a sense of Hope is directly linked to the ability to overcome difficulty or trauma, a necessity to continue moving onward and upward. Therefore, we must pursue how we nurture Hope in ourselves and our students — and that is precisely what we intend to do.

In the coming weeks, we will unveil our Portrait of a Learner, which comes after many hours of work and input from parents, staff, and students in Districts 65, 67, and 115. Hope is interwoven throughout. It will be an illustration of what we want and expect our students to learn in our public schools. It is predicated on a belief that our students will be able to overcome barriers and rise to new challenges with the Hope that the best is yet to come — and they can be the ones to lead us there. 

WIP Citations: 


Additional References:

Busteed, B. B. (2022, March 24). Make a Difference. Show Students You Care. Gallup.Com. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/178118/difference-show-students-care.aspx

Definition of hope. (n.d.). Www.Dictionary.Com. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/hope#:%7E:text=the%20feeling%20that%20what%20is,no%20hope%20of%20his%20recovery.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2022, April 22). Understanding Child Trauma. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.samhsa.gov/child-trauma/understanding-child-trauma.

One thought on “HOPE

  1. I keep returning to this episode of Hidden Brain (https://www.npr.org/transcripts/519234721), where the researchers discuss the relationship between hope and fear. HOPE tends to foster action, while FEAR tends to foster inaction. If you want people to NOT do something, you use fear to motivate them. But if you want to encourage action or change, hope is the better way to go.

    Thank you for staying positive, optimistic, and hopeful. The profession needs leaders like you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: