In response, today’s school leaders have no choice but to view post-COVID as an opportunity for schools to redouble their efforts to support students. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a pyramid-shaped model that represents human motivation from a student’s most basic needs (the base of the pyramid) to their greatest potential (the pyramid’s peak), offers a useful framework (Wahome, 2022) (see Figure 1).
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Physiological Needs. First and foremost, post-COVID schools must work harder than ever to ensure that all students have the resources and support they need. Community resources, private donations, and grants can be sought to supplement school funding for things like laptops, software, and hot spots. Non-perishable food drives, fresh produce markets, and the availability of personal hygiene products for students who need them can be organized by parent clubs or community groups. Social and public health services such as counseling, parent education, dental exams, and flu shots can be provided on-site (Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2022).
Safety, Protection, and Security. Ensuring students’ physical and emotional safety runs a close second. Post-COVID schools must do all they can to protect students from harm and hostility, both in-person and in cyberspace. School security systems, school resource officers, background checks, and other safety measures must take top priority. School facilities must be free of toxins and hazards, student behavior policies must hold students to high standards, and school staff members and volunteers should receive annual training as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect as well as sex-based discrimination and harassment.
Belongingness and Love. Today’s schools also must go out of their way to facilitate students’ feelings of belongingness. School colors, mascots, and participation in extracurricular activities provide a starting point, but more than ever before, post-COVID students need opportunities to communicate, collaborate, and problem solve with their peers. Additionally, advisor-advisee programs built into the school day can foster close relationships between advisors and small groups of students (AMLE, 2022). Parent and community volunteers can be recruited to assist with homework and tutoring. Partnerships with local churches and other civic groups can provide students with positive role models, mentors, and social-emotional support.
Esteem. Only after students’ physiological, safety, and belonging needs are met should schools begin thinking about teaching and learning. Post-COVID is a grand opportunity to re-think the traditional academic structure of schools. Today’s students would benefit from smaller class sizes, two teachers per classroom, and extended instructional time for reading, math, and writing instruction. Today’s students no longer need to memorize information; they need to understand concepts. Students no longer need to learn isolated facts; they need to practice the skills needed to apply them. Re-thinking what, why, and how students are taught is what teachers and school leaders do best; and in today’s post-COVID world, doing things differently is essential.
Self-Actualization. Once students reach the peak of the Maslow’s Hierarchy pyramid, they are finally in a position to blossom and thrive. But only with a solid foundation of support and resources beneath them can students achieve their full potential. To help students get there, today’s school leaders must work to develop a post-COVID vision for teaching and learning that not only supports students academically but also addresses students’ non-academic and social-emotional needs. Once that happens, my friend’s conversation with her high school daughter might sound something like this: “It’s not fair!” “What’s not fair?” “Everyone is working so hard! They started doing it following COVID, and now it’s a habit!”
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