Leading a Jewish high school gives me the opportunity to deeply touch the minds and souls of those students as I strive to instill hope in them. Beyond ensuring an exemplary education and fulfilling our mission to raise up the next generation of Jewish leaders, we have taken this challenge upon ourselves as one of our expected learning results. Hope is a difficult concept in the setting of a school. However, we do not approach hope from the ephemeral or poetic approach of Emily Dickinson who wrote,
“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers --
That perches in the soul --
And sings the tune without the words --
And never stops -- at all --”
Instead, we take an intentional approach to instilling hope in our students. As researcher and speaker, Brene Brown said,
“Hope is not an emotion, it is a way of thinking, a cognitive process...Hope is a combination of setting goals, having tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in their own abilities.”
Or, as a shorthand, hope results when there are goals, pathways, and agency. And most importantly,
“Hope is a function of struggle. When we struggle and learn from the struggle, we create hope.”
Throughout their four years of high school, we have intentionally designed an educational and co-curricular program that creates the dynamics necessary for students to experience, learn, and appreciate hope. From providing students agency to control their academic journey, to teachers who help their students experience and conquer the struggles every person faces, to the myriad of co-curricular offerings that push students to be the best versions of themselves, hope becomes the intentional process Dr. Brown envisioned.
We as a Jewish people know this better than most. Our people had hope of a Jewish Homeland and wrote HaTikva, The Hope, which became the national anthem of the State of Israel.
As long as in the heart within
And onward, towards the ends of the east, an eye still gazes toward Zion;
Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope that is two thousand years old,
To be a free nation in our land,
In a world that is lacking hope, one of our goals at de Toledo High School is to create a framework that will allow our students to experience and develop that light. As a people, we have come out of the darkest of times, and even in the midst of these moments when it would be easy to lose hope, we did not. One example, in the days after the liberation of Bergen Belsen concentration camp, the BBC recorded Friday night services. Spontaneously, the newly liberated Jews broke out in Hatikva. If these survivors could have hope, how can we not strive to model and develop hope for our students?
As we enter the days leading up to the Yamim Noraim, or Days of Awe, the days leading up to the High Holy Days, may we use this time to spark hope for ourselves and those around us.
Shanah Tovah U’Metukah, to a Happy and Sweet New Year!
to listen to our Head of School, Mr. Mark Shpall, explain how de Toledo High School instills hope in our students.