Triangulating hope, Part II

From my perspective I see that hope and teaching are somehow fundamentally linked. I tried to explore that idea in my last post, but even at the time I recognized that the thought was incomplete. (After all, I ended the post by asking readers for their definition of what hope means to them.) It has only been two days since writing that post but after reflecting on a few conversations, a few emails, and one comment (thanks, Tom!) that the post initiated, I think I have gotten closer to pinpointing what hope means to me and my life as a teacher.

Flimsy or circular

My problem was that I couldn’t nail down a satisfactory definition for hope. Its importance, its role in my life, and its role in my teaching all made perfect sense. But defining hope was problematic because each definition either seemed self-referential (“hope is hoping for good things!”) or weak (“hope is thinking that maybe something good might happen at some point down the road”). 

Many of the conversations that followed my last post suggested a connection between hope and trust: that hope is a kind of trust in a future good. But I reject this definition too. I have been trying for a while to wrap my head around an understanding of what faith is and how it relates to my life and my role as a teacher. And so if hope is defined in this way — with the language of certainty and time — isn’t hope just going to end up looking like faith’s weak little brother? Is the difference between the two only measured in degrees?

Courageous, resilient hope

I now think that something about hope, by whatever optimistic definition you choose, recognizes the presence of doubt. Hope is not about certainty. And with that in mind I see that uncertainty doesn’t make hope weak. It makes hope brave.

I think of my eighth grade students and their wild-eyed ambition, which will be tested and tempered as they try to realize their dreams. It will take courageous, resilient hope to keep those dreams alive.

I think of my twelfth grade students as they jump through the hoops of the college admissions process. And I see that it will take courageous, resilient hope for them to pick themselves up and try again if their first plan does not work out.

At this point I feel one step closer to understanding something worthwhile about hope. And I feel one step closer to ensuring that I can kindle and nurture it in my students’ lives.


6 thoughts on “Triangulating hope, Part II

  1. In a way, for me at least, hope is circular and intertwined with teaching. It is, after all so wildly improbable that we exist at all, but yet, here we are, and the next group of wildly improbable beings is right there, surrounding me. I have hopes for myself, and my own children, but the interactions I have with young children and the optimism they exhibit both fills me with hope, and a sense of mission to foster hope in them.
    Last week I had delved into a little bit of atomic structure and had presented the idea that all the elements are built up from hydrogen inside stars. Trust a second grader to see to the root of things “but… Where does the hydrogen come from?”
    Right to the core, of course.
    I gave her the best answer I could ” I don’t know, I hope you will be the one to figure it out”

  2. heady stuff BC. isn’t teaching at its core a fundamentally hopeful exercise? It should be. I suspect it is for all the good ones. And it likely is true for many of the bad ones. But can a good teacher be not hopeful?

  3. Pingback: Triangulating hope | They Call Me BC

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  5. For me, as a current student (aren’t we always?), Hope is closely intertwined with desire. We are learning for tomorrow and tomorrow, with the hope that what we learn will help us down the road. So much future awaits me and I desire so deeply for it to be perfect. I have hope that events will allow my desires for a good future to come true. This is a way of thinking of hope as maybe a means to the ends that are desires and wishes. You can desire without hope, but you cannot hope without desire. Or can you?

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