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The Hopes And Dreams Of My Students


Every year I have all the students in my classes create “Who I Am” posters and present them to the entire class at the beginning of the year. It includes sharing their strengths, worries, love, and their hopes and dreams — along with other information. I also do a model presentation.

Every year I’m struck by two things:

* that the students in my English Language Learner classes have very high “hopes and dreams” for themselves and their lives after high school.

* that most of my mainstream students say the same “hope and dream” — “I want to pass this class.”

It’s disconcerting to me that so many of them have “hopes and dreams” at such a low level — not about a potential career, and not even wanting to do more than “pass the class” (even though most are doing really exceptional class work).

Even though I ‘ve tried to have conversations with students about why they seem to have such low-expectations of themselves, I’ve never been successful in trying to get to the bottom of it.

Now, I’m thinking that even though I can’t seem to find-out the “why” of the issue,  there must be something I can do to systematically during the year try to help students develop and articulate a broader vision for themselves.

I’m still trying to figure out how to do it, and would welcome suggestions about what you think I can do, as well as your thoughts about the likely causes of the low-expectations.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. I have had similar experiences when I ask students to set goals at the beginning of the year. Most goals were “pass the 7th grade” or “don’t get ISS” or something along those lines.

    However, this year, I had my students view President Obama’s speech on education. Students who did not have a permission slip to watch the speech read a blog about the importance of setting goals. After both activities, students were asked to set a goal for themselves. I had much better results with this activity. Students spoke about going to college or technical school, specific careers of interest, and plans to help others. I really was impressed.

    I think maybe the difference has to do with the way the material was presented. Instead of “this is something you should do” goals were presented as a way to better the world. I think that can appear to students. I also think having concrete reasons presented about how goals can change your life is important.

  2. Larry,
    You said that there must be, “something I can do to systematically during the year try to help students develop and articulate a broader vision for themselves.” I have started to incorporate a power of positive thinking component in my teaching. It isn’t explicit to the students, but I have read enough that makes me believe that people feel that they have limitations, not because they actually exist, but because there is so much negative, limiting thought surrounding them, behave like beaten animals. They cover up and try to avoid the pain.

    I try to present them with other models of abundance and good feelings. I have no empirical evidence to show that it works, but their course evaluations are positive.


  3. Dear Larry

    Thanks for this peep into your life as a teacher. I have the feeling that the reason for the students’ negative attitudes has nothing to do with what you do or don’t do.
    It’s a sad symptom of what the system does to students. They become demotivated and uninterested, and have a general negative disposition because this is what they think their ‘role’ is in the process. Years of attending boring classes by boring teachers demoralises the most imaginative, enthusiastic and open kid.
    I wonder what the same students see themselves as at the end of the year, having spent hours in your classroom. I bet they would produce very different “Who I am” posters from the ones they did at the beginning of the course.
    And that’s what you can and should claim as your ‘doing’.
    Thanks for all you do for us teachers, especially English teachers out there. You’re a source of inspiration, motivation and information par excellence.

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