This week I began teaching my Advanced Learning students psychology.
One of the first topics we are learning about is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As a refresher, Maslow posited that human beings have patterns of needs that motivate us.
- On the bottom level of the pyramid, are our most basic physiological needs: water, food, air, homeostasis, shelter, etc. We spend the bulk of our time trying to satisfy these needs.
- The next level is safety: personal, emotional, financial security, and health/well-being. If a person does not feel safe in any of these environments, the need to seek safety becomes paramount.
The next four levels see a wide variety of dependency based on an individual.
- Social belonging is the third level. The needs here include family and friends. For some, the need to have a strong family unit or strong base of friends is necessary for mental well-being.
- The fourth level is self-esteem. While being pretty self-explanatory, the need to see your own worth is something many people struggle with.
- The fifth level is self-actualization or the need to realize one’s full potential. This potential can be exhibited as a parent, seeking personal goals, utilizing your talents, etc.
- The last level is transcendence – giving to something that is beyond yourself.
At the conclusion of this lesson a few days ago, I was escorting my students back into the main building to go to lunch. As we walked, one of the students had a lunch box with him.
I asked, “What did you bring for lunch?” He told me, “Not much, I’m one of those Maslow’s kids.” My brain actually made a hiccup — one of those moments that takes you aback so much that you have real fear that the look on your face isn’t one of compassion.
I said, “Oh!” as I tried to get the other kids away from us so we could continue this conversation without eavesdropping ears. He told me he didn’t have money for lunch, so he brings a few small snacks each day to eat. I told him that I had heard that the USDA was going to provide free meals to students through the rest of the year. I wasn’t sure when that was going to start, but it would help him be able to save his snacks for home.
This kid broke my heart. And he is absolutely right, he is a Maslow’s kid. He is worried about his most basic physiological needs.
For the last 13 years, I have been a tireless advocate for public education and ALL of the students we serve — no matter where they fall on Maslow’s Hierarchy. I have given way beyond myself to help my students and to support the institution. This has been my self-actualization and transcendence.
But now? Now I find myself in a place where my physiological, safety, belonging, self-esteem, self-actualization, and transcendence needs are definitely not being met.
Between the issues at summer school this year, the disrespect from some district administration the last few months, moving to the junk heap of a classroom building, in addition to the years of neglect from legislators, crude and vulgar comments from everyday people who would like to see public ed dismantled, and the ever pervasive COVID-19 issues, I am overwhelmed by the negative. I watch normally decent people work to deny fellow human beings and citizens where I clearly observe need.
I watch people root for the failure of public education — something that was once a beacon across the world. I feel powerless in this respect.
Working with kids — there was a bright spot. Knowing that a kid understands why he isn’t able to focus on other things to make himself into an even better human is why I teach. I am helping him claim his power to take his life and make it better for himself. I am helping him claim his power — by sharing mine — to take his life and use it as a tool to make life better for others. This is the calling of a teacher.
I am feeling incredibly isolated physically from my peers. I’m experiencing some pretty extreme safety issues in my proximal work environment. My primary drive, self actualization, is defunct as my talents can not, are not, and will not be utilized effectively in this habitat.
I don’t need accolades or awards. I need the opportunity to share my talents more effectively, and I don’t have that. I need the opportunity to feel safe when I come to work whether that be because students are masking and washing hands appropriately, there are working fire alarms in my building, or I’m not be asked to work two full time schedules with students during the day as well as create and upload content to teach the students who are at home – because mine are subjects that aren’t predetermined by the district’s COVID plan.
There are so many issues that are too far ignored. There are so many issues that are brand new and being handled in a manner that is just flat out bad for kids and the people who teach them.
I have employment, and I should be thankful and grateful for that, but at what cost to me?
It is for this reason that I am submitting my letter of resignation.
Tegan Malone, B.L.S., M.A.T.
Teacher beginning her 14th year
Nine time nominee for school Teacher of the Year
Teacher of the Year, Pleasant Hill Elementary 2013-2014
Finalist, District Teacher of the Year 2013-2014, Mid-Del Schools