Finding HOPE Beyond Wounds

 In Administrator Resources, Climate, Leadership Development

Joe Hendershott, Ed.D. & Dardi Hendershott, Co-Founders, Hope 4 The Wounded, LLC

Back when we first started presenting at conferences in 2006, we heard lots of things about “at-risk” students, but it seemed we were missing the boat with a large population of children being lumped into that at-risk category.  We felt like some children are beyond at-risk, so we decided to utilize a different word:  Wounded.  Studies show that 47.9% of children in America have experienced at least one traumatic event, and unfortunately with the current challenges in our world, the expectation from some is that this number will be on the rise.  If someone is at-risk of something, it makes sense to put preventative measures in place to right the ship.  However, if a child has been wounded, preventative measures are no longer appropriate.  We need to understand the impact of a child’s wounds on their attitude, behavior, relationships, and learning in order to reach them, teach them, and avoid using consequences that could very well exacerbate their wounds.  In other words, our strategies need to become responsive in nature and be rooted in social-emotional understanding and connection.

To assist schools and communities, we developed The Hendershott Model, which is practitioner-developed and has flexible parameters so that it can be utilized in any setting.

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We could probably spend a whole professional development day discussing various doable strategies for each step in the model, but for today, let’s talk about HOPE.  HOPE sounds like a warm-fuzzy, neat and tidy ideal, doesn’t it?  Here’s the real deal:  It’s central to this model because it’s pivotal in a child’s education, but sometimes we must dig deep to help kids find it again.  Some kids come with a lot of layers that have to be chipped through, and some insist on repeating the same unbecoming behaviors and attitudes more than once creating an emotional obstacle course for you to find your way through.  This is where your inner Warrior comes in. Social-emotional practices sound nice and tidy, but in reality, education has become a battleground where we’re fighting against all the distractions and trauma this world has to offer. We need Warriors of HOPE in education. We need you.

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What does HOPE have to do with education?  If HOPE is a “belief or trust that something good is possible,” it would appear it has everything to do with it.  We must position kids to have HOPE in order for their education to be relevant.  Otherwise, why does behavior matter? Why do grades matter? Why does any of it matter? One of the biggest telltale signs that a person is wounded is hopelessness.  They’re living in survival mode, which doesn’t allow vision or growth toward purpose.  Instead, students feel stuck, which in turn makes you feel stuck, too.  (As a side note, we are passionate about a comprehensive approach to social-emotional learning practices, which includes attention to the wellness of educators!  Our book on the topic—Supporting the Wounded Educator: A Trauma-Sensitive Approach to Self-Care—was released in February.)

So how do we get to HOPE?  Here are three fundamental strategies to get started:

  • Looping back to the model, it begins with understanding the typologies and repercussions of wounds.  The first step to any type of transformation is to build from a foundation of understanding about where we’ve been and where we hope to go.
  • Transformation happens in safe spaces, so building relationships is key.  Within healthy relationships, we can discover students’ mind space and what false beliefs are impeding their ability to HOPE.
  • Relationships become the bridge to reaching students and positioning them to critically think.  This is where learning takes place and they can begin envisioning something beyond just surviving, which makes learning relevant.  

It’s been our pleasure to work with schools and communities around the world through this model rooted in Joe’s 30+ years as a teacher and administrator in traditional, alternative, correctional, and higher education school settings and is backed by research.  We always welcome the opportunity to delve into how this model is doable and different, customizing strategies based on the unique strengths and challenge points within your team.  Whatever you do, make your goal to keep bringing HOPE!

To find out more about training and resources, please visit

You can also listen to the IASP LeaderCast with Joe Hendershott by clicking here.

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