Abraham Maslow Comes to Life in the Classroom!

Maslow Comes to Life for Educators and Students in the New Year!

In the mid 1950’s, Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist created a theory of basic, psychological and self-fulfillment needs that motivate individuals to move consciously or subconsciously through levels or tiers based on our inner and outer satisfaction of those met or unmet needs! As a parent and educator, this theory is eternally relevant for students and adults, especially in our schools and classrooms. After studying this theory over the past couple of years, my students have decided that every classroom should devote a wall size diagram of the pyramid, as students and teachers alike place pin-ups and post-its on the varying tiers based on their own feelings, behaviors and needs.
I decided to take this one step further this semester, and list questions, strategies and activities that are aligned to each of the motivational needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy. I am sure the list is endless and we will continue to add to the following, but unless we take the theory and breathe real life reality of students and teachers mutational needs into this theory, it is nothing more than a 1950’s model of needs and motivational drives that we memorize!

Tier One/ Meeting Physiological Needs in the Classroom

1. Water Bottles and Water Breaks
2. Focused attention practices with breathing, imagery and sound. These practices last about 90 seconds to two minutes as students close their eyes or focus on an object of attention, practicing quieting their minds from the free flowing thoughts that bombard our thinking every day.
3. Room Arrangement, color, room temperature, plants,
4. Mixed snack bar-designated times decided by the class to grab some energy bites and continue working
5. Instrumental Music ( low volume background)
6. Movement and Rest Breaks- every 15 to 20 minutes
Brain Compatible Learning includes a physical environment that is inviting, warm and friendly! Colors, (Blues and greens) are soothing as are environments that include plants which give off oxygen. ( http://www.designshare.com/Research/BrainBasedLearn98.htm)

Questions to ask myself
1. What do I need?
2. Am I tired?
3. Am I hungry?
4. How much water have I had over the past 24 hours? Is it enough (The basic equation for determining this is by dividing your body weight in half. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, you would need 100 ounces of water per day if you’re not doing anything strenuous. If you’re working out, hiking, at a high altitude or outdoors a great deal, you’re going to need to add to those 100 ounces.
5. What resources (people, activities or experiences) could assist me in reaching my small and larger physiological and psychological goals?
6. What can my class do to assist me?

Tier Two/ Stability, Safety and Security, Freedom from Fear

1. Sometimes it is enough to have a personal affirmation that creates feelings of safety and security. “Right now in this moment I am safe. I am breathing, I am aware, awake and I can think and feel!”
2. Worry Drop Box- as you enter the room, drop a concern in the box – research shares that writing out our concerns and worries frees up the working memory and relieves us of added angst and anxiety!
3. Pin-ups- Class is assigned various students each day of the week to provide a compliment or affirmation. We all need to feel a sense of validation and we lose sight of our strengths and talents because the brain is wired with a negative bias… we tend to focus on faults and mistakes more than positive experiences and behaviors.
4. Journal Writing –a list of supports and resources that we can implement and modify all year long
5. Class Guidelines are developed together, class blog, outside speakers that promote service and safety… police officers, counselors, former students who have risen above difficult situations

Tier Three/ Belonging and Love Needs

1. Classroom service project
2. Partnered work
3. Create special and celebratory days all year long -birthdays, VIP days, Strength day ,Progress days, Colorful days
4. Classroom responsibilities that take two or three persons working together.
(Assign a listener, a recorder of feelings and thoughts, a small group of students who work together to be decision-makers, a student who is assigned to “care” for the teacher .. the office staff, and other students, a poetry reader , a designer of classroom decorations and a gatekeeper who checks for disputes and conflicts)
5. Community circle for 3-10 minutes beginning and ending class …where empathy is defined, discussed and brought to life… movie clips, personal narratives and a shared story to jump start the day
6. Classroom theme each semester… or year accompanied with a class flag song, flower, and animal totem.
Questions to ask myself
1. How do I handle negative situations? When these situations occur, what do I typically say to myself?
2. What would be a statement that would encourage me?
3. What are three negative emotions I feel most often?
4. What are three positive emotions I feel often or sometimes?
5. How could creative visualization help me?

Tier Four/ Achievement, Mastery Recognition, Respect, Self-Esteem/

For students to feel capable and successful we have to create an environment that lends itself to this type of mastery…
1. Expert Day
2. Career Day- bring in college students and community members to share in the successes and many professions following high school.
3. Create and Design-quizzes, assignments and instruction for other grades and students.
Small goals I am mastering
1. Work completion
2. Dialogued about frustrations
3. Stayed focused on assignments
4. Showed respect and compassion for others
5. Regrouped and continued on with work after a frustrating time
6. Helped another teacher or student
7. Contributed some ideas and suggestions to a conversation
8. Used positive language in describing a need or desire
9. Self-reflected how my daily work and interactions affect my BIG GOAL!!
10. Shared big goals with parents, administrators, and community members
11. Created a personal statement, visual, and or tool for encouragement when working on BIG GOALS.
Questions to ask myself
1. What would be a statement that would encourage me?
2. Who are my heroes? What are the character traits I admire in these people that make them my heroes?
3. How will I personally know I am on the right track? What will tell me I strayed off the track of my goals?
4. What are two or three challenges or obstacles that prevent me from reaching small or big goals?
5. What are my strengths?
6. What are my challenges?
7. How will I plan to focus on these strengths knowing that my thoughts and feelings drive all my behaviors and words with others?

Tier Five/ Self-Actualization Self-fulfillment Needs

This is level of self -evaluation as it relates to connecting to service and others. We begin to explore and model, designing, evaluating and analyzing information outside of our own basic needs. To become a creative thinker, we have to begin discovering the problem… not just coming up with a solution. In this tier, students are not only thinking creatively and critically about content; they are becoming self-assessors and self- reflectors, serving others. Students begin desiring ways to “be “in the world and with one another in compassionate relationships. They are able to see and understand how their actions, thoughts and feelings affect their own lives but also the lives of others. These students begin to ask questions integrating the mind and heart.
1. What is my purpose in life?
2. What are the challenges in reaching my purpose?
3. How can I serve the world?
4. Why is their conflict and war? What can I do? What can we do?
Students in this tier begin to listen deeply to their intuitive muscle… no matter the pressures from peers, systems or others. At this level of self-actualization, there is a constant yearning and yet satisfactions with “life’s questions” that sometimes do not have concrete singular answers.

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