Providing Purpose and Hope for Students to Enhance Well-Being

Area(s) of Focus: well being, curriculum
Level(s): Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12

Engagement comes from understanding the purpose behind what you are doing, and being able to clearly articulate why it is personally meaningful for you. This is what we want for our students, and it comes when we provide them with purpose and hope.

Providing Purpose and Hope for Students

We need to create learning environments which give students PURPOSE and HOPE, but in order for students to be able to discover the purpose and the hope, we need to lead them to it.  A significant part of this is helping students see how their work directly prepares them for their immediate and long-term futures.

In the not too distant future, students will be entering a competitive world. They will one day be competing for spots in universities, for jobs, for promotions, etc. When students enter into these environments, their success will be determined largely by the skills that they possess that will allow them to add value to whatever they are trying to accomplish. As teachers, we can support students to build these skills within the classroom as they learn the Ontario Curriculum. When we do so, we provide personalized purpose for the work that they are accomplishing, and we provide hope for their futures. The hope comes from recognizing that the skills they are developing will support the things they pursue in their futures.

Our work is outlined in the attached documents. We use the following outline to explain what purpose and hope is, why it is important, what it looks like in the classroom, and the factors which affect the implementation of a purpose- and hope-based program.

Success – Defining success in an equitable and inclusive manner so that it can be accomplished by all students.

Skills – Identifying the skills that can support classroom learning, while at the same time provide hope for their futures.

Attitude – Recognizing that all growth begins with a supportive attitude.

Comfort zone – Understanding the importance of getting out of one’s areas of comfort, for it is when we get out of our comfort zones that we experience growth.

Growth mindset – Examining that it is difficult to get out of your comfort zone without a growth mindset. 

Priorities – Ensuring that our programming provides constant and consistent messages which promote purpose and hope in our classrooms.

We often say in the world of education that we want to develop “lifelong learners.” This is a wonderful goal, but we believe we can offer so much more. We believe we can develop lifelong learners who are prepared to enter a competitive world armed with skills that will help them accomplish their full potential. The lifelong learners we are currently developing in schools are often academic-based. Academic learning is necessary and important for students must know how to learn in these ways, but they also need to know how to develop skills which will allow them to take their knowledge and intentionally use it to add value to the pursuits they are engaged in. We are doing our students a disservice if we only develop academic learners. Purpose and hope develops learners which are more well-rounded and prepared to continually grow and accomplish their personal best in all circumstances.

If we want our students to be truly engaged in the classroom, then we must allow them to experience education in a way that is meaningful to them. Our students must understand the purpose behind what they are doing, and be able to clearly articulate how that purpose is relevant to their lives. We have the opportunity, and responsibility, to provide this for each and every student. When we provide purpose and hope, we create classrooms where students walk through the door with excitement for the opportunities today will provide. When we teach in light of each student’s future, they learn in light of their future – and are prepared to step into their futures with anticipation and hope

One day, the students who sit in our classrooms will be sitting in front of someone who will ask them, “Why should I choose you?”  This may come in the form of a job interview, a tryout, an audition, a business deal or any number of other similar circumstances. As educators, it should be our goal to provide them with an education that prepares them to answer that question. By teaching in light of each student’s future, we prepare them to respond with, I’m glad you asked, because from a young age I’ve been preparing myself to answer that very question.


Team Members

  • Jonathan Carr

    York Region District School Board

  • Gerry DeGirolamo

    York Region District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

The following professional learning goals were achieved through engagement in this project:

  • Understanding of skills necessary for students to actively engage in curricular learning
  • Deeper understanding of how learning goals support student learning
  • Recognition that students do not value learning goals as highly as they should. This stems from a shallow understanding of their value.
  • Recognition that the majority of educators do not feel equipped to teach and support the development of skills that will support students in their futures
  • Deeper understanding of how to help students recognize the relationship between curriculum learning and learning skills through allowing students to experience how lessons allow them to practise developing useful skills at the same time as they learn curricular content
  • Identifying that skills that support learning are much more than those found on a provincial report card (responsibility, organization, independent work, collaboration, initiative and self-regulation)
  • Creation of a framework to teach students how to develop positive attitudes in a habitual way
  • Understanding of how comfort zone and growth mindset relate to learning and growth within the classroom
  • Understanding that growth mindset is about culture, not just ways to encourage thinking
  • Enhanced understanding of equity and inclusivity. Providing purpose and hope allows students to see themselves within the classroom instruction in tangible ways.

Activities and Resources

  • Reading of various texts outside of traditional “educational” contexts. Purpose was to develop a deeper sense of skills that are needed within a competitive world. Developing this knowledge allowed us to develop framework for bringing such skills back to the classroom.
  • Professional dialogue with peers around topics being discussed
  • Delivery of purpose- and hope-based messages/strategies to students in order to develop deeper understanding of how students perceive such messages
  • Analyzing student responses related to purpose- and hope-based messages
  • Significant amount of time was spent examining issues, developing ideas, structuring arguments to support purpose- and hope-based programming, developing supporting documents/resources, and writing the final report

Unexpected Challenges

We don’t feel like there were any activities which were not helpful in meeting our goals, but as with all worthwhile pursuits, there were challenges.

The greatest challenge is actually an ongoing one – and that is seeking to identify specific challenges which will hinder the delivery of purpose and hope initiatives. We recognize that this will be on ongoing area of reflection and learning because we are providing a framework to support individualized student needs. Since individuals vary in their experiences, there will be constant learning around challenges that get in the way of student engagement. We know that purpose and hope is meaningful for every student, but understand that the variety of challenges experienced will be as diverse as the students we serve. These are challenges we welcome as we seek to support each and every student in a way that is meaningful to them.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

Too many students come to school and have a limited understanding of the purposes behind their presence in the classroom. They provide general reasons such as “I am here to learn” or “I’m here so that I can get a good job someday,” but rarely do these reasons ignite passion. Passion is created when students understand purpose and combine it with hope. As educators, we must cultivate both.

At first, this may seem like an impossible task. After all, purpose and hope must be individualized, and the factors which contribute are as varied as the number of students in each classroom. But there are three reasons why this task is not as lofty as it may first appear:

  1. All students desire purpose.
  2. All students desire hope.
  3. All students desire growth.

At a deep level, even children who appear to have no drive, determination or motivation desire these things. We are talking about providing students with that which they already desire. Once we provide it, we will have motivated students, a school culture where students have a deeper understanding of why they are in classrooms, and students who possess hope for what is to come in their futures.  

The benefits of such a culture do not end with purpose and hope, for a culture centred on purpose and hope welcomes all that promotes learning, growth and overall well-being. A culture centred on purpose and hope is one which promotes understanding and acceptance of differences, failures and other factors which threaten one’s sense of well-being. It also promotes collaboration, servitude, humility and other factors which enhance one’s sense of well-being. Purpose and hope provides so much more than just purpose and hope.

Effects of providing students with purpose and hope:

  • Intrinsically motivated students
  • A school culture where students have a deeper understanding of why they are in classrooms
  • Students who possess hope for what is to come in their futures
  • A deeper sense of well-being

We have created a strategy designed to be simplistic and easy to apply in any number of situations, environments and circumstances. Growth always involves change, but change does not always need to be complicated. This strategy can be applied wherever you currently are as an educator.


  • We have applied to present at the Quest Conference 2018 – hosted by the York Region District School Board (November 2018)
  • Share through various Twitter posts to engage in conversations in the educational community
  • Share with York Region District School Board wellness consultant
  • Shared with staff through “Weekly Wellness Thought” email series
  • Share with staff in our school building and provide support and further instruction as desired. Also encourage dialogue around areas where colleagues feel they can use their expertise and experiences to further enhance the work we have done in this area. We are always looking for areas to improve.
  • Use our work in this area to engage in conversations around equity and inclusivity. We believe this work can be used to support this area of well-being for our students.

Project Evaluation

We certainly feel like our project was a success, for we have developed concepts and frameworks which serve to enhance student achievement and well-being. We have created processes for increasing student engagement, and done so in a way which supports their individual strengths, interests and futures.

At the same time, we don’t feel like our work is complete. We recognize that more time is needed to apply our strategies, and listen to educator and student feedback regarding how we can further enhance these methods. This is work we look forward to continuing.

Resources Used

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. New York, NY, Scribner, 2016.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York, NY, Ballantine Books, 2016.

Hallmark. Life Wisdom from Coach Wooden. Ventura, CA, Hallmark Books, 2008.

Kimmel, Tim. Grace-Based Parenting. Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson, 2004.

Maxwell, John C. How Successful People Grow. New York, NY, Center Street, 2014.

Maxwell, John C. How Successful People Win. New York, NY, Center Street, 2015.

Maxwell, John C. No Limits. New York, NY, Center Street, 2017.

Ontario Ministry of Education. The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Health & Physical Education. 2015.

Wooden, John R. Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success. Perfection Learning, Logan, IA, 2003.