The Hope Project
I like to end every year with a project on a relevant topic and this year, or at least this spring, seems to be the spring of hope. Hope comes from a lot of different places – faith, art, self, friends, family, ideas, places, and love. Hope is as much an emotion as it is a spirit, an energy, and a life force that has its source in consciousness and imagination. Art, even art that shows the darkest moments of humanity, can lift us up and inspire us to treat each other better.
There’s no shortage of reasons to not have hope, just read the news or history and it feels like we haven’t learned a thing from our mistakes. But then a strong voice, a voice of common sense, comes along and reminds us that problems can be easy to solve, we just need to have a good conversation.
Schools contain an incredible amount of hope. They are miniature think tanks in a way, filled with positive energy and children on a relentless pursuit of the truth. Students find out about all the world and then reimagine it in conversation. We want students to walk out of our classroom with a sense that they can do better than the generations before them.
I have a long list of quotes that guide the project. Below are a few. Baldwin talks about jazz, Woolf about painting, Hamid about migration, and Pinsky about nature; their words all contain a deep sense of hope:
“He and his boys up there were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin, destruction, madness, and death, in order to find new ways to make us listen. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness.” “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin
“With a sudden intensity, as if she saw it clear for a second, she drew a line there, in the centre. It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.” To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
“Rumors had begun to circulate of doors that could take you elsewhere, often to places far away, well removed from this death trap of a country.” Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
“The child’s heart lightens, tending like a bubble
Towards the currents of the grass and sky,
The pure potential of the clear blank spaces.”
from An Explanation of America: A Love of Death by Robert Pinsky
English language arts teacher
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers