Making Hope Happen

My daughter Emma has been waiting all summer to find out who her third-grade teacher will be. After a year and a half of distance learning, she was ready to be with her friends and teachers in person. When the school sent an overview of the five teachers who would be teaching third grade, she read their bios carefully. There were some she knew from prior years, and her face lit up as she mentioned, “My friend had this teacher and she was so nice!” She took out a piece of paper and made a rank-ordered list of the teachers she hoped would be hers. The list included four names. “How about the fifth teacher?” I asked. Emma shook her head. “Oh no, I’m not going to even put her on the list,” she said. Her voice dropped to a whisper. “It might come true. I don’t want to be in her class. Anyone but her.”

A few days ago, it was our scheduled time to go to the school and meet the teachers. Once we arrived at the school, Emma tore open the yellow envelope that contained her teacher’s name and class schedule. There, in black and white, was the one single name she didn’t want to see. Emma looked crushed. Her eyes filled with tears.

We walked away from the other families. I bent down to give her a hug, thinking how she must feel no excitement or gratitude for absolutely anything contained in this bad news envelope.

Just then, the principal’s voice announced it was time for the third graders to line up and go inside to meet their teachers. We walked back toward other students. Emma stood next to the principal, who was directing the kids into different lines a few feet from where I stood. My heart ached for Emma, and the fixer in me desperately wanted to run to the school office and plead for a switch. 

“I think you’ll like being in her class,” the principal said to Emma, gently putting her arm around her. 

“Oh,” Emma replied, “I’m going to love being in her class.” 

The principal grinned. “How do you know? You haven’t even met her yet or seen the classroom.”

“Because,” Emma shrugged, “I decided I will.”

And I exhaled, watching hope in action.

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.