What to Do When Student and Teacher Needs Clash


Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a frame, teacher and instructional coach David Ginsburg went from furious to curious, regarding his students’ misbehavior. Maslow’s hierarchy builds from foundational “deficiency needs”—like food, shelter, safety, belonging, recognition, and approval—to “growth needs”—aesthetic and intellectual achievement—that allow a whole person to reach their full potential.

Ginsburg recommends that teachers stop using their needs as a reference point for what students need or why students may act a certain way. Find out what’s happening in students lives and where they are in Maslow’s hierarchy, he says. This doesn’t mean teachers have to find a way to meet every student’s need, but that with real (as opposed to perceived) students’ needs in mind, teachers and students will be able to come up with routines and interventions that meet students where they are.

In previous posts, Ginsburg provides needs-based strategies for addressing the main motives for student misbehavior: attention, power, and avoidance of failure.

How do you better understand students’ needs, and how does this influence your teaching?