All Students Have Needs
When I look around the room in my classes, I notice many differences. Every student comes from a different situation, some more difficult than others. Regardless of a student’s background, every student has needs. According to psychological theory, everyone has basic needs that must be fulfilled before one can concentrate on fulfilling more complex needs. Abraham H. Maslow describes a Hierarchy of Needs, which can be diagramed with a pyramid. The most basic needs are at the bottom of the pyramid and the most complex needs are at the top. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs consists of (from the bottom of the pyramid to the top): physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs (Myers 426). Maslow pointed out that in order for people to move up the Hierarchy of Needs they need to make sure that their current needs are satisfied (Gawel 3).
Maslow’s needs hierarchy proposes that people must satisfy their “deficiency” needs, such as physiological and safety needs, before they can move toward growth and achievement. Students, therefore, aren’t likely to be motivated to learn unless lower-level needs are met. …students can’t learn … when they are hungry or cold (physiological needs), when they feel threatened (safety needs), when they feel no one cares (love and belonging needs), or when they see themselves as failures (esteem needs). Once over this hurdle, however, Maslow believes that growth is a more or less forward development (Dodd 28).
Unfortunately, especially in the inner city, it is unrealistic to expect all middle school students to come to school ready to learn. This is because so many of them are stuck in a low level of Maslow’s hierarchy. The job of a teacher is not simply to teach students. According to Maslow:
… educators should … see that the person’s basic needs are satisfied. This includes safety, belongingness, and esteem needs…. We [educators] should teach people that controls are good, and complete abandon is bad. It takes control to improve the quality of life in all areas (Simons et al. 2).
Many students come to school without their physiological needs met. These needs are the ones necessary for a person to stay alive. They include the following: food, water, clothing, sleep, and shelter. “Undoubtedly these physiological needs are the most prepotent of all needs” (Kenyon 4). If these needs are not met, they then become the strongest motivational factors in a student’s life (Jones 18). Unfortunately, many students attending school do not have enough food to eat, good clothing to wear, or a place to sleep at night. Thus, they come to school not feeling well (Gwynne 1). For these students, the perfect future might be one where they have plenty of food and water, some clothes, and a place to sleep (Kenyon 4). Many of the students in my class come to school hungry and extremely tired. Carol Ann Perks, a teacher at Comstock...