How teaching hope in school may be the elusive key to success

  • Richard Miller is an expert in child development and a professor at the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamic at Arizona State University.
  • He says science has documented how teaching hope as both a cognitive function and a practice can be a powerful strategy for success.
  • Miller believes that teaching children to imagine their goals encourages the brain to plan and prepare for future challenges and opportunities.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On Erin Gruwell’s first day as a high school English teacher, she faced a classroom of 150 “at risk” freshmen. Most of these kids, statistically, were going to fail. They were tough, their young lives already defined by poverty, gangs, violence, and low expectations. These students, she wrote, knew nearly every “four-letter word” except one: hope.

Yet four years later, every one of her “at risk” students at Wilson High School in Long

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Science untangles the elusive power and influence of hope in our lives

<span class="caption">Traditional dancers celebrate Hari Raya, the end of Ramadan. </span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="https://unsplash.com/photos/pKyY_fosG90" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Photo by Aniq Danial for Unsplash">Photo by Aniq Danial for Unsplash</a>, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:CC BY-ND">CC BY-ND</a></span>
Traditional dancers celebrate Hari Raya, the end of Ramadan. Photo by Aniq Danial for Unsplash, CC BY-ND

On Erin Gruwell’s first day as a high school English teacher, she faced a classroom of 150 “at risk” freshmen. Most of these kids, statistically, were going to fail. They were tough, their young lives already defined by poverty, gangs, violence and low expectations. These students, she wrote, knew nearly every “four-letter word” except one: hope.

Yet four years later, every one of her “at risk” students at Wilson High School in Long Beach, CA, had graduated from high school. More than half went on to graduate from college. The stories written by Gruwell’s students were published as a book called “The Freedom Writers Diary”. It became a New York Times bestseller and in 2007 was made into a major motion picture called “Freedom Writers” starring Hilary Swank.

<span class="caption">Graduation carries many messages of hope.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="https://unsplash.com/photos/mUd_SVGiFrA" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Photo by Marleena Garris for Unsplash.">Photo by Marleena Garris for Unsplash.</a>, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:CC BY-ND">CC BY-ND</a></span>
Graduation carries many messages of
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