Thursday, October 29, 2020
According to a quote in a recent article, psychology professor Anthony Scioli says that we "...can think of hope as a PPE - a Personal Protective Emotion." E. Bernstein, Finding Hope When Everything Feels Hopeless, WJS, p. A12 (Oct. 28, 2020). I'm no psychologist but I think there's more to hope than just the personal. I think hope might be a necessary bridge for building better law school communities, empowering better learning, and creating better relationships. But there's more to hope than meets the eye.
Unlike optimism, "...which is the belief that the future will work out no matter what you do," hope is something that we have to work on and wrestle with. Id. According to columnist Elizabeth Bernstein, hope "...has two crucial components. Agency, or the motivation, to achieve the desired goal. And a strategy, or pathway, to do that." Id. In other words, hope is optimism enacted to help secure what isn't yet certain about our future. Again, hope requires (1) agency and (2) planning. Let's look a bit closer at the "hope components."
As Elizabeth Bernstein summarizes, agency has to do with motivation, which has the root word motion in it. It involves not just the will but the ability to move forward towards one's goals, to act on one's plans, to accomplish something each and every day that leads to growth, not just for us but for others too. That suggests our law school communities should be closely scrutinizing whether we are extending agency to our students, equipping them and empowering them to learn and to grow. In short, agency requires more than just external or internal motivation. It requires us to work to make sure that our students have the resources, the counsel, and the instruction to act on their own behalves in achieving their learning goals.
According to Elizabeth Bernstein, planning has to do with developing a strategy to achieve future goals. Id. Notice, then, that planning is strategic. It's meant to lead us forward, like a map that leads us step-by-step to a destination by previewing the route for our travels. That suggests that law school communities might be focused too much on the substance of the law while neglecting to guide our students in how to learn the law, how to work with the law, and how to experience the law, to the detriment of a sizable pool of our law school communities. Indeed, I often wonder about the lack of sizable assessments and training in learning across the law school curriculum and throughout the entirety of the law school experience. It's as though we are asking students to perform a play (on final exams) without ever giving them the opportunity to learn their lines, to experience stage fright, and to develop expertise as learners.
I close with this thought from Ms. Bernstein's article: "Every word we speak or write matters." (quoting Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust). Id.
Those words touched me because they reminded me that what we say as educational leaders to others (and to ourselves in self-talk) either leads to growth and life in our students or to struggles and hopelessness. I like to think of the academic support community as more than a community of optimism but a community that brings hope, realistic hope, helping the dreams of our students become the realities of their futures. I don't think that's being too hopeful at all! (Scott Johns).