Life After the Pandemic: Creating Hope for our Students

Apr 28 2022

Key Takeaway: 

The pandemic has sparked many questions about the wellbeing of youth in today’s society, shedding light on issues such as stress and time management, social media exposure, obesity, and educational disparity amongst others. With the shift to online learning, the pandemic has not only compromised academic progress for students but has also led to a lack of social-emotional support, especially for those students coming from underprivileged backgrounds. Thus, educators must become critical advocates of hope in order to foster a sense of hope for our most vulnerable learners as we look ahead to the years following the peak of the pandemic. —Taryn McBrayne 

Hope Theory

In this article, author Bruce Barnett (2021) shares insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and despair amongst students. A survey of students by Brooker (2020) reveals that “over 50% report declining mental health; deteriorating family relationships; increasing loneliness and anxiety; and being despondent about losing friends, job opportunities, scholarships and compromising college plans.”1 Without educators and administrators having regular contact with students and their families to work through these challenges due to online learning, “students’ emotional fragility is affecting their motivation and drive to engage and succeed in school activities.” 

The author specifically focuses on the conditions affecting urban communities and schools during this time. “Many urban communities have high rates of poverty, family mobility, homelessness, incarceration, and drug abuse.”2,3 As a result, Barnett (2021) and Duckworth (2016)4 suggest that youth raised in these environments are more likely to have their sense of hopelessness reinforced, particularly during challenging times.

Barnett (2021) challenges educators to consider how they can nurture hope in their own contexts, emphasizing that hope-building programs, such as Making Hope Happen and Kids at Hope, need to become embedded into our schools. However, Barnett (2021) argues that these programs alone may not be enough to help our students, and states that “when educators understand the guiding elements of hope, they are better prepared to design and deliver programs and other instructional activities.” 

The article uses hope theory as a basis for helping educators and schools understand how best to foster hope amongst their students. This theory suggests that hopeful individuals are able to set goals, have the agency to achieve goals, and are able to identify pathways to overcome any obstacles to achieving the goals that they set for themselves.5,6 Below are strategies outlined in the article that may help educators with the implementation of hope theory in their daily practice. 

Setting Goals 

“Establishing and monitoring goals requires individuals to determine an accomplishment to be achieved, identify measurable outcomes, set timelines and milestones, and assess personal and resource costs.”7 Setting clear goals from the start will allow students to accurately assess where they are in their goal progress. 

Possessing Agency 

To promote the development of agency, “teachers are being encouraged to use a variety of SEL strategies, such as reflective journal writing, artistic expression, active listening, buddy systems, role playing, mindfulness, and discussions about growth mindsets and empathy,”8 in addition to allowing individual choice and self-monitoring of goal progress. 

Establishing Pathways

“Solution-focused training includes “solution talk” rather than “problem talk” by encouraging students to counter their negative self-talk by substituting positive self-statements (e.g., “I can do this,” “I’m a capable person”).”9 Educators may also work in partnership with school counselors to assist students in this problem-solving process. 

The article places emphasis on educators fostering “critical hope” for their students as compared to “false hope.” Barnett explains that “critical hope results when educators provide students with high-quality teaching and learning resources to help them gain a sense of control in their lives; examine the realities of injustice, oppression, and marginalization they face; and stand alongside students to share their pain, suffering, and successes.”

In conclusion, although fostering a sense of hope will not necessarily resolve the economic and social disparities caused by the pandemic, Barnett believes that it can help students to display more desired academic, social, and emotional behaviors overall, thus improving 21st-century life and career outcomes in the future. 

Summarized Article:

Barnett, B. G. (2021). How Can Schools Increase Students’ Hopefulness Following the Pandemic? Education and Urban Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/00131245211062525 

Summary by: Taryn McBrayne — Taryn believes in the power of student voice and, through the MARIO Framework, strives to create more opportunities for both educators and students to regularly make use of this power.

Additional References:

  1. Brooker, J. (2020). Schools bring mindfulness to the classroom to help kids in the COVID-19 crisis. The Hechinger Report. https://hechingerreport.org/schools-bring-mindfulness-to-the-classroom-to-help-kids-in-the-covid-19-crisis/ 
  2. Duke, D. L. (2008). The little school system that could: Transforming a city school district. State University of New York Press.
  3. Picus, L. O., Marion, S. F., Calvo, N., & Glenn, W. J. (2005). Understanding the relationship between student achievement and the quality of educational facilities: Evidence from Wyoming. Peabody Journal of Education, 80(3), 71–95.
  4. Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Scribner. 
  5. Helland, M. R., & Winston, B. E. (2005). Towards a deeper understanding of hope and leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 12(2), 42–54.
  6. Luthans, F., & Jensen, S. M. (2002). Hope: A new positive strength for human resource development. Human Resource Development Review, 1, 304–322.
  7. Rouillard, L. E. (2003). Goals and goal setting: Achieving measured objectives (3rd ed.). Crisp Publications.
  8. Singh, N. (2020). 15 strategies to incorporate Social Emotional Learning in classrooms. https://www.henryharvin.com/blog/strategies-to-social-emotional-learn-ing-in-classrooms/ 
  9. Snyder, C. R., Feldman, D. B., Shorey, H. S., & Rand, K. L. (2002). Hopeful choices: A school counselor’s guide to hope theory. Professional School Counseling, 5, 298–307. 
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