He identifies five basic needs that, in actuality, all human beings strive to meet. As I review these needs, consider how you might take these needs into consideration in planning your classroom activities and interacting with your students:
- Belonging—All people have a need to belong. That’s why so many children are involved in gang behavior, or even inappropriate behavior with peer groups that may result in bullying others. They are striving to fulfill their craving to belong. If they don’t receive that sense of belonging at home or in school, they often resort to potentially negative ways to satisfy this need. Do your students feel needed? Is there a group to which they belong in class/school? How can you encourage them to feel like part of the class? Can they share their ideas and feelings? Can they participate in group activities?
- Security—Who doesn’t want to feel secure? If you worked in a neighborhood that lacked proper security for your car, could you go about your day without worry? Of course not. You’d have your car on your mind all day. Similarly, your students need to know that your classroom is a place where they can feel secure and safe. They need an environment free from ridicule and violence. Is your class a pleasant environment? Is it nicely decorated? Do you greet your students each day with a smile and pleasant countenance?
- Power—All of us need to feel empowered. A student who defies your authority, for example, may be communicating, perhaps unconsciously, a desire for attention. Students have a need to feel in charge. Never take a student’s verbal attack personally. Engage them in meaningful, productive activities in which they feel they are contributing to the classroom in positive ways. Selecting students as monitors is one way to empower them. Can you identify two other ways to empower your students?
- Freedom—Who likes to be told what to do all the time? All of us need a sense of control over our situation. In what ways can you encourage students to feel that they have some freedom? You could, perhaps, allow them input into what gets taught for a particular lesson or allow them to develop a special assembly or project. By promoting and supporting student freedom, you will satisfy one of their innate needs.
- Fun—School and fun?! Isn’t that an oxymoron? How can you make your classroom a place where they can enjoy themselves and have fun (yes, while they learn)?
More? Yes. Children also need ample attention and guidance from us. Each child has special needs that are unique. It is our responsibility to satisfy these needs for our students. Here is a sampling of activities that will address these needs (Please note that although many of the ideas below relate more obviously to young children think about how some of the ideas may relate to older children as well):
Active games—playing with family and friends
Stories, jingles, and rhymes
Imaginative play—”pretending to be”
Language—listening to and talking with others
Music—enjoying and being creative with songs and rhythms
Tools and materials—making things of their choice
Activities that address their senses are as follows:
Seeing—observing things at home, on the street, in stores, and other places
Hearing—listening and identifying sounds at home, in nature, and other places
Tasting—describing differences among foods
Smelling—identifying different odors
Touching—feeling many kinds of materials, objects, and so on
Our children have many needs that we must pay special attention to. If a child is to develop as a healthy human being, the child needs to have more than the basic needs. Some of these other needs are the need for love, friendship, joyfulness, flexibility, sense of humor, optimism, sensitivity, resiliency, honesty and trust, curiosity, playfulness, creativity, laughter, tears, compassion, imagination, song, dance, open-mindedness, the sense of wonder, explorativeness; the need to know; the need to work; the need to learn; the need to organize; the need to belong; and so on.
Each child is unique and each child has unique needs. We, as adults, must meet the needs of each individual child to the best of our ability. By creating an atmosphere of openness, and by listening, watching, and teaching, we must meet the needs to ensure the full growth and development of every child.
How do these ideas help you better understand your students?