Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Maslow's Hierarchy of Teacher Responsibilities

I've been thinking lately about what my responsibility is as an educator. First and foremost it my job to present information and then measure student understanding. This is important for what I see as the three main purposes of public education: creating knowledgeable citizens, future job training, and signaling (intelligence and effort). However, in the last couple decades K-12 schools have been forced to wear more than just a teacher's hat (or should I say sweater vest with an apple on it). If you're familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, then you know humans can't learn if their more basic needs have not been met. A student can't problem solve if they are hungry, unsafe, or desperately removed from relationships. This implies that an effective school will close the gap when these needs are unfulfilled. So it seems my job just got a lot more complicated.

Lucky for me public schools spend tons of cash on non-instructional staff members. Whether it's lunch ladies giving free and reduced meals, school resourse officers, or guidance couselers, they all work hard so I can focus on classroom instruction. So as long as families and communities fail to provide all that students need, this new teacher will spend my constrained work hours focusing on the top two parts (esteem and learning) of Maslow's pyramid, but be sure to keep an eye out for those who aren't there and introduce them to the right person.


  1. Although it's only my third year teaching, I've seen an increase in teacher responsibilities to meet those non-instructional needs. For instance, for 30 minutes to an hour a week I am required to be a "deputy guidance counselor" to seniors trying to graduate. I also lose my lunch once a week for 30 minutes to patrol the halls. Not to mention having to deal with students that need extra accomodations that are now in my room without special needs teachers due to no child left behind. And if this happens, who knows how much extra time we will have to devote away from teaching to non-instructional needs. Complaining? Maybe. Honestly, I just don't think we're doing enough for these students.

  2. Thanks for the first hand input AF. My school is actually pretty good about not making us do to much of that, but budgets are always tight and giving teachers extra responsibility is a good way to save money.

  3. I guess I say all of that yesterday and then today our principal won principal of the year for the entire nation.
    Maybe she's the best because she's convinced her staff to put in the extra hours with no pay through "requirements" that she made up that look good on paper. Either way, we look good as a high school even though I think we've just become good at making up educational gibberish.


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