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Actualizing Learning

Actualizing Learning

Edfiniti BlogBeing a K-12 teacher is filled with many unbelievable joys and wonderful challenges. On a daily basis, we are in charge of the development of the young minds of today and tomorrow. Effective teaching is so much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. In 1943, a paper titled “A Theory of Human Motivation” by psychologist Abraham Maslow was published. This paper laid out a pyramid of needs that all humans seek.

This past month there was an article written by an educator named James Ford who was the 2015 North Carolina State Teacher of the Year. In this article he stated three things that truly stand out:

1. Our first job as teachers is to make sure that we learn our students, that we connect with them on a real level, showing respect for their culture and affirming their worthiness to receive the best education possible.

2. In the classroom, Maslow ALWAYS comes before bloom. If a student is hungry or doesn’t feel safe in school, this will negatively impact their learning. It’s hard for young people who don’t feel loved or confident in their abilities to truly do their best.

3. In a time where poverty is rampant, bigotry is widespread and xenophobia has reached a fever pitch, our students may not come hard-wired to perform well. As teachers, it would behoove us to consider the fact that these basic needs don’t disappear at the school building’s threshold.

Abraham Maslow asserted that there is a hierarchy of needs that must be met in order to move on to the next level of need. There are six of them: Physiological Needs, Safety Needs, Love and Belonging, Esteem, Self-Actualization, and Self-Transcendence.

As educators, we spend much of our time trying to help students “actualize” their learning potentials and building on their prior knowledge. This is wonderful! However, if previous building blocks are not in place, it is difficult for our students to focus on this and not the basic needs that are not being met. As Mr. Ford suggests, as teachers we must learn about and from our students and meet them where they are.

As we continue to refine our classrooms, schools, and systems to meet the ever-changing student population we serve one context seems to be gaining more and more attention; student behavioral outcomes and the challenges we face in supporting these outcomes systematically. The Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) has existed long enough to create a multifaceted, multidimensional network of identifying a need and providing support, from an academic standpoint. The behavior side of the system has been on the back burner, simmering. Although it has not been completely ignored, empirical research has just recently, over the past 10 years, began to dissect the manner with which a system may be implemented and determine the level of effectiveness, that is to say what outcomes are produced, when School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) have been implemented.

Across the country, a number of states have risen to the task of creating and implementing these systems, monitoring and analyzing along the way.

Ford, J. E. (2017, January 31). Student-Teacher Relationships Are Everything – Teacher-Leader Voices – Education Week Teacher. Retrieved from

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