Creating Conditions for SEL and Rigor: Activities to Address Your Students’ Needs and Goals
All students have needs and goals. And when it comes to creating conditions for rigorous instruction in our schools, we need to acknowledge that every human being is operating from the perspective of their own personal needs and goals.
As educators, we need to teach social and emotional awareness skills to students and one of the first things we can do is implement activities that enhance the social and emotional context for learning. To get there, we have to use a framework to evaluate what needs are being met.
While there are many different evaluation systems one can use, we’ve chosen to use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We will break down each need and goal and look at activities that schools and teachers can implement to address individual student needs at a school and classroom level.
Am I comfortable here? – physiological needs
If students are not physically comfortable, that gets in the way of learning.
- Periodically assess the needs of students relative to hunger, sleep, mental health, physical health and homelessness.
- Employ appropriate available resources and services as needed. There are a lot of services available to teachers, the bad news is we often don’t know about them.
Am I safe here? – safety needs
Schools need to address students’ physical safety and psychological safety. While students might be physically safe, they might not feel like they are. Furthermore, students are constantly debating whether they feel psychologically safe with their peers and teachers.
- Reach out to parents to provide them with strategies and awareness that enhance students’ perceptions of physical and psychological safety at home. Giving parents tips for coaching their child through homework can help students feeling more psychologically safe at school.
- Make sure the school has comprehensive safety procedures in place and that these procedures are well-known and practiced. For examples, conduct on-going fire drills so that students do not have to remember what they did a few months ago. Reinforce these procedures so students feel confident if they need to act in an emergency.
Do I belong here? – belonging needs
If students don’t feel like they belong, students will continue to be distracted from learning.
- Examine the extent to which the school and classrooms provide an inviting atmosphere. A simple strategy is to just ask students, “What do I do that make you feel welcome here? What do I do that makes you feel unwelcome?”
- Assess the need for interventions for specific students and whether bullying is occurring.
- Utilize strategies that contribute to a respectful learning environment.
- Utilize strategies that produce an environment of affection and cooperation.
Do I have a sense of status here? – esteem needs
Are students confident about their abilities in school? What about outside of school?
- Emphasize and celebrate students’ academic growth as opposed to status only. Have performance scales in place to measure individual growth of students.
- Acknowledge and celebrate students’ accomplishments outside of school. Recognize their accomplishments in sports and art.
- Allow students to set personal goals and celebrate their accomplishments. Give your students an opportunity to share personal experiences with their peers or with the class.
Can I work on personally relevant goals here? – self-actualization goals
Maslow says this is something humans are just born with. Are students discovering who they are as individuals?
- Each year have students engage in personal projects along with associated meta-cognitive skills.
- Periodically have students examine and develop their images of their possible selves (can be part of the personal projects). Where will they be in 10 years? 20 years? Encourage students to keep enhancing their image regardless of what limitations they think they might have.
Am I inspired here? – Connecting to something greater than self
This level was added later in Maslow’s life and described the moment when people connect to something greater than themselves. Successful teachers work through all these levels, striving to have each student reach this transcendental step.
- Provide opportunities for students to engage in altruistic projects
- At least once per month expose students to inspirational stories or speakers
- At least once every two weeks present students with inspirational quotations and discuss how they perceive these relating to their own lives
- At least once every two weeks teachers provide anecdotes about inspiration experiences they have had and invite student participation