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Why Kids Need Hope and High Expectations

• ExcelinEd

Last week, The Atlantic published a must-read piece by Jessica Lahey on the desperate need to cultivate hope in kids who have grown up without it.

Hope, Lahey establishes, is the most important predictor of success, both in school and in life. And positive relationships with adults seem to be the most important source of hope for children at risk of poor educational outcomes.

Given that a single positive relationship can change the life of a child, Lahey asked Valerie Maholmes of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development how schools can increase the chances of these transformative relationships happening. In the following excerpt, Maholmes responds:

First, she said, the entire school community must believe that all kids can achieve. “We can’t pick who will achieve and who will not. If these kids in front of us are the kids we need to educate, we have to figure out how to unwrap their gifts,” Maholmes said. “It’s not an easy job, and I don’t mean to suggest that all you have to do is believe and magical things will happen, but the foundation of belief across the entire community has to be there.”

Self-efficacy, or the belief in one’s ability to perform acts that will lead to achieve a goal, is essential for both the student and the teacher. Once teachers believe that every kid is capable of achievement, they must also believe that they have the ability to help make that happen. This can only happen when teachers have high expectations for all students, not just the high-performing, wealthy, motivated or talented ones. Research bears this out: When teachers believe a student can perform at a high level, the student is much more likely to do so.

Maholmes goes on to explain that the intergenerational cycle of effect of low expectations and hopelessness is powerful. Yet she believes that adults can seed hope where none exists. Sometimes all that takes is earnestly speaking four simple words to a struggling child: “I believe in you.”

Read the complete article at



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