I just spent 10 days in the hospital with complicated appendicitis, which is why I haven’t posted in a while. This experience helped me realize how important it is to have our basic needs met and how much of a role they play in motivation.
As soon as I got into the hospital, I stopped caring about anything but my most basic needs – getting rid of pain, getting food, sleeping. Nothing else mattered much to me, although I did call my office to cancel my classes. It was many days before I started thinking about my job, my relationships, or the hundreds of little tasks that make up our regular lives.
Children are the same way. If their basic needs are not met, they will not be motivated to learn. Who cares about verbs when you are hungry? Who wants to do math games when you are lonely or scared? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be an important reminder for us to consider why children are not engaged in learning?
Here are the four basic needs that Maslow identified. How well are these needs met in your classroom?
- Physiological Needs: Are the children sleepy, or hungry? Have they been sitting too long and need to move around? Is the room too warm, or cold? Are the children able to go to the bathroom when they need to? Are they sick with a cold or asthma?
- Safety Needs: Do the children feel safe in your room? Are they afraid of other children? Are they worried about being criticized? Is their home life safe? Is the neighborhood a safe environment?
- Love and Belongingness Needs: Do the children show caring behavior toward each other? Do they get enough one-on-one attention from you – especially those children who might not get enough attention at home? Do you carry out community-building activities? Do the children get enough time to socialize with each other?
- Self-Esteem Needs: Are the children academically successful or are they struggling? Is the work too easy or too hard? Do they have a sense of competence and confidence in their abilities? Do some children see themselves as stupid or bad?
Teaching young children is such a hard job because we have to make sure these basic needs are met for the children and for ourselves, while also preparing children academically. In some schools this is harder than others and we need more social support systems and school-wide programs to help. But in any classroom, you can help meet some of these basic needs throughout the day by being aware of them.
Please share in the comments how you have been able to meet the basic needs of your students!