In education, we refer to the phrase ‘Maslow before Bloom’ to emphasise the importance of prioritising human needs over educational objectives; recognising that in order to demonstrate the capacity to learn, we need first to feel secure.
Every teacher knows this and spends the first few weeks of each academic year cultivating a classroom environment and culture in which our children can feel they belong and where they feel safe to take risks as learners. And in our remote lessons, you will hear us checking in with our children; asking them how they are feeling; listening to what they are finding challenging; and praising them for their efforts before we even begin to deliver our curriculum content. Indeed for our younger children, this must be our number one priority in our teacher/pupil contact time and cannot be underestimated for its capacity to enable them to feel secure as learners and to feel able to tackle their work with confidence and enthusiasm.
What is Maslow before Bloom?
It is, put simply, the art of placing our emotional needs first; ahead of our cognitive skills and abilities; focussing on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs before even considering Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) was a psychologist and philosopher known for his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ that frames five tiers of human needs. These tiers include Physiological, Safety, Belonging, Esteem, and finally Self-actualisation.
Benjamin Bloom was another 20th century American psychologist (1913-1999) known for his Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, tiers of verbs that organise levels of cognitive skills for learning.
What is the connection between ‘Maslow before Bloom’ and Lockdown?
Schools have closed their doors to many of our children; keeping them safe at home and forcing us to continue their education away from their familiar classrooms. With families and students now experiencing school-at-home, it is not only teachers that are seeing how important it is for students to ‘Maslow’ before being expected to ‘Bloom.’ With children and adults experiencing stress at unprecedented levels right now, it is essential that we return again and again to our basic needs before we can feel equipped to learn
This all sounds great but how do we do it?
Mindfulness, relaxation and play all form essential elements of our children’s lives. Indeed they are also more important than ever for us as adults. And whilst this might serve to simplify a ‘Maslow before Bloom’ approach it is a great place to start. Pacing ourselves, starting our day well, taking regular breaks and incorporating activities that bring us pleasure are all essential not self indulgent. And should we find ourselves concerned with academics; sucked in by the media’s ill-informed insistence that our children are ‘falling behind’ and will need to ‘catch up’ we must remind ourselves again and again that putting Maslow before Bloom is a well-researched way to support better learning.
So, let’s be patient; with ourselves and with our children. Let’s accept that working from home brings its own challenges and that we might need to structure and punctuate our days differently. Let’s be open to the fact that we will have good days where we are especially productive and less successful days when we can only expect the bare minimum of ourselves and when we need to prioritise self care. And don’t forget to play because right now the most important thing we can do is live well and equip ourselves to cope with lockdown while we wait for easier days ahead.
Our Five Key Messages
- We know it’s hard to motivate your own children at home and we know this is likely to get harder as the term progresses. Hold on, take the good days with the bad and look forward to a work free half term holiday when you can celebrate all that has been achieved and enjoy a rest from it all.
- Pat yourselves on the back. Your children’s teachers are grateful for anything you do to help your children. We know you will have days when it seems too hard. We have those days too. Keep talking to us. We want to help.
- Do not be fooled by the media’s lazy narrative that children are falling behind. Your children are learning so much about themselves right now. We all are. And they do not unlearn. Our teachers are experts at taking children from where they are to where they need to go next. Learning is a journey and this is just a detour. They will be fine. They are doing so well right now! And so are you.
- We are a community and this has shown us the magic that can happen when we work together, as we have been forced to do in new ways. Our children are watching. They see how hard we are working and they see the kindness and respect we show each other even in times of great challenge. They are learning something very big from this too.
- The most important thing to everyone is that our children are happy. We want to put their wellbeing first. We want them to be healthy; to be able to manage their own mental wellbeing, with our support; and to be able to find their balance. This is not easy. We can show them how tricky we find it to keep our balance and share with them the healthy habits we try to develop as a model. If we can work together to help them to feel happy, secure and able to talk about how they feel, everything else will follow.
Maslow before Bloom