Lisa Fathers, Director of Teaching School and Partnerships at Alliance for Learning offers some thoughts on why hope can give us energy for the future
As teachers and education colleagues our role is to be with children and young people, to help them have the best learning experiences to inspire and motivate, also offering security to a degree.
In the current climate we have been doing our best and over the last three months or more, we have been on a rollercoaster journey of emotions. Many of us have experienced fear, sadness and even anger or guilt because of the situation we have found ourselves in due to the pandemic. Now we must focus on the powerful emotion that is hope.
Hope concentrates our thoughts on the future, giving us motivation and confidence. Even if the present is unpleasant, the thought of a positive future can be a barrier to experiencing stress. Hope is not just a desire for things to get better, it is having the knowledge that they will improve.
We know many parents and carers continue to struggle educating children at home and that includes those of us who are teachers! We have been worrying about the emotional experiences that young people are going through and the impact this may be having on mental health and we are worrying about the vulnerable families. As we begin to see schools welcoming increased numbers of students, we must continue to focus on the future and unite with determination, knowing things will get better.
Many of us who work in education chose this line of work to make a difference to others and it’s part of who we are to want to help people. For some of us, it’s not been easy working from home when we’re used to seeing so many faces each day and being part of fast-paced school life. But, as a sector, we have embraced new ways of working and have taken positive action to ensure that vulnerable students are protected, key workers can continue to do their jobs and children and young people can continue to learn. Seeds of hope started to grow weeks ago, and we are now turning our efforts towards recovery and returning to school more widely in September.
So how can we focus on work together as a society, yet making our own individual contributions for a hopeful future?
We’re all small parts in this global crisis and for some people, their contribution is that they have to step back to limit the virus spread. For many it isn’t a choice, but it is essential.
Feelings of guilt and frustration are understandable in this situation, but we must be kind to ourselves and take steps to cope with these feelings. By trying to stay positive ourselves, demonstrating hope and keeping colleagues and students positive, we are playing an active and important role.
Focusing on what we can influence will help to concentrate on what is achievable. With hope we can take action, make plans and protect ourselves against despair. There are so many things we can’t change, including organisational decisions or even mistakes that may be made, when more of us are working under pressure. As leaders you may feel overburdened with the volume of information that needs to be processed. But we must treat one another with compassion – we are all doing our best. Focus on your own values where possible and express these in areas and ways you can. Look back over your day and remind yourself of the things you are grateful for, be thankful for small wins and acknowledge them as significant achievements. It’s easy to forget the small things when we are in ‘survival’ mode.
When we constantly feel like we are experiencing setbacks, suffering and loss, it’s easy to feel our own hope waning. Therefore, professional self-care is such an important part of what we do.
The distinguishing feature of all great leaders throughout history has been that they inspire hope and they have hope. If we think about great leaders in history who overcame real adversity like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, hope was their driver. For them, hope was not something passive, it was a choice, a can-do attitude accompanied by the active intent to get there.
Clinical psychologist and co-author of Making Hope Happen, CR Snyder, said: ‘It’s exhilarating to encounter high-hope people, how they think about life is infectious.’ Hope can give us energy and positive feelings and while we may continue to experience tricky thoughts and feelings for a considerable time yet, if we have hope we can recover from anything and everything.
For a range of resources you can visit the recover and return to school section on our website [http://allianceforlearning.co.uk/covid-19/recovery-post-covid-19/