How Can ‘Hope’ Help Vulnerable Students Succeed?
Poverty has a firm grip on children in the United States—nearly half of the nation’s public school students are living in adverse conditions. The causes of poverty are as varied as they are complex, influencing a child’s potential to succeed academically and their chances of overcoming health, social and economic barriers.
But adverse circumstances don’t have to eclipse the lives of economically disadvantaged children. Many can and do make it and thrive. In her book, Fostering Resilience and Well-Being in Children and Families in Poverty: Why Hope Still Matters, Valerie Maholmes, Ph.D. examines how optimism and determination can play an important role in creating more positive academic outcomes.
Schools in low-income communities need to be well-resourced and every student should have access to great teachers and an enriching curriculum. These critical factors can help hope and resilience flourish, explains Maholmes, a former researcher at the Yale Child Study Center and current chief of the Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Maholmes recently spoke with NEA Today about her research and how educators can create a learning environment in which hope thrives.
Why explore the power of hope, especially in the lives of those who are sometimes perceived as hopeless?
Valerie Maholmes: In the midst of the economic downturn I started thinking about how inspired so many people were by President Obama’s message of hope. Those thoughts stuck with me. Then I began to talk with family and friends who have overcome adversities and found that hope was a common thread. That’s when I started to do the research, looking at the theory of hope and positive psychology literature to understand what hope means for children and families in poverty.