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.