man-looking-fearfulwoman-looking-hopefulTimes of change and heightened emotions go hand-in-hand like a snowstorm and dangerous driving conditions L or a snowstorm and an opportunity to make a snowman J.  If a change occurs which you support, it’s “the best thing that has happen since sliced bread!” But if a change occurs which you’re opposed to it’s “the ruin of us all!” Because we care about the work we do and the impact we make, change is emotional, resulting in hope or fear. Oftentimes, we have both feelings about the occurring change.

As leaders, we need to be aware that these complex emotions are present among our staff (and students) whether spoken or unspoken. And we need to find a way to address and normalize the feelings everyone is having prior to moving forward with the change. Everyone needs that their voice or opinion is represented and valued.  Here’s a strategy to do just that:

HOPES & FEARS strategy steps:

  1. Introduce the subject/topic & explain this activity and directions.
  2. Give time for staff to privately reflect on the topic and ask them to write brief statements of their fears and hopes about the topic.
  3. Ask staff to pair and share their greatest fear and greatest hope.
  4. Ask each pair to find another pair (pairs squared) and to identify themes in their fears and hopes.
  5. Let each group of four share out.
  6. As you listen make comments that normalize fears and identify common hopes.
  7. If relevant, discuss the next steps.


Here’s an example of how a script for this protocol:

  1. During this staff meeting, we will be talking about student safety and our next steps as a school community to ensure all students are emotionally and physically safe during their school day. We will use the Hopes & Fears strategy to identify our priority considerations prior to moving forward.
  2. We will begin with several minutes in which you can reflect upon your thoughts, feelings and experiences related to improving student safety in our school. Please write down on an index card a list of your main fears or concerns and your main hopes related to improving our school community. After a few minutes, I will ask for your attention and explain the next step.
  3. Please find a partner sitting near you with whom you will share your greatest fear and your greatest hope about our student safety initiative. Please keep your explanations brief as both you and your partner will have only 5 minutes in which to share before I ask for your attention again to explain our next step.
  4. Now let’s start to make some meaningful connections. With your partner, find another set of partners and sit as a group of four. Take 10 minutes for each of you to share one fear and then identify themes from the four as a group. Then, do the same thing with your hopes. Within the 10 minutes, write a 1-2 sentence generalization of your Hopes and a 1-2 sentence generalization of your Fears. Before we start, what questions do you have for me?
  5. Now, we will take 10 minutes and hear from each team about the main themes they identified in their hopes and fears. I will record the information on this flipchart, so we can keep track of everyone’s thoughts.
  6. Thank you all for your thoughtful and honest feedback! From looking at our lists of themes, I can see that many of us are worried about whether this new initiative will mean more responsibility and paperwork for us as well as require financial resources. I also see many hopes about how improved safety for our students will create a more positive atmosphere in our community, how it will make hallway duty easier, and how the positive impact it could have on the emotional and physical safety of our students.
  7. We will retain these lists, for review and modification, as we continue to work together to implement positive changes in our school community. Over the course of the next 3 weeks, we will be discussing, proposing, and modifying our safety plan prior to moving towards adoption at our next staff meeting.


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