One advantage to online teaching is the occasional moment to consider things outside of “school”, and possibly the time to act on them. This could be a small home chore, project, article, news blast, social media check in, moment of silence, or many other things. Today was a chance to dig into Dr. Pearlman’sMaslow Before Bloom“. This fantastic (and easy) read is digestible, thoughtful, reflective, and empowering.

“If a student is hungry, tired, or scared — give them food, a nap, or a hug. This does not require board approval or a bond issue. It seems so simple. It is simple. It is also very effective.” (p 8)

Throughout my career, I have participated in a number of conversations about students that are focused on the WHAT a student is doing and ignores or dismisses the WHY a student is doing it. You can contextualize it in a behavioral setting, academic setting, or…

… any combination of the two. In his series of 15 Case Studies, Pearlman tells stories of his own career as a Teacher, Administrator, and Graduate Student. These stories resonate with many memories of students I have worked with over the years, or students I was in conversations about. From family trauma, enabling behaviors, or underestimated potential, these stories represent a cross section of the school aged child today. Very few students (or educators) are free from traumatic experiences, and many spend great amounts of energy working to make sense of them. These influences and how schools respond are a pivotal intersection that must give humanity the right of way.

“If the only reason we continue to do something is because that is the way we have always done it – that is not a good enough reason.” (p. 17)

The quote speaks to me on many levels (don’t get me started on “traditions”… that’s a different post). Prioritizing compliance over learning and excusing academic challenges with behavioral inconsistencies are counter intuitive to the realty of student needs. Society today doesn’t look like it did when we were growing up (or even like it did 9 months ago), so “school” shouldn’t either.

It is our responsibility to find the root cause of the situation and to respond to that need. Be open minded, be empathetic, and be patient. Pearlman’s description of a “Maslow Before Bloom” friendly staff member includes characteristics like being empathetic, flexible, resilient, a relationship builder, creative, and more. If this brief list doesn’t ring familiar for you, time for reflection. If this brief list feels like a biography, it’s still time for reflection. Really, when is it not?!

As leaders in a school, regardless of our title (Teacher, Department Chair, Principal… or offsite with Director, Superintendent, etc), we have a primary role in serving the students as humans first, then as learners. The same holds true for ourselves as school personnel… be a human, be a student, then be a leader. Our role modeling can be a beacon for students to make sense of the trauma(s) they are working through (or just living with).

Are you a #MaslowBeforeBloom educator? If yes, how can you do more for students? If not, why not?


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