Building Community
Building Community

When educators design and create new schools, and live next gen learning themselves, they take the lead in growing next gen learning across the nation. Other educators don’t simply follow and adopt; next gen learning depends on personal and community agency—the will to own the change, fueled by the desire to learn from and with others. Networks and policy play important roles in enabling grassroots approaches to change.

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For teachers to thrive, they need to know that their basic needs—food, water, restrooms, sleep—will be met on a daily basis. It's not as easy to achieve as it should be.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a known theory of motivation. Maslow's theory states that our actions are motivated by specific physiological and psychological needs that progress from essential to complex. The base level of this pyramid is our physiological needs which are equated with human survival—food, water, shelter. According to Maslow, we must meet our physiological needs first.

As educators, we are aware of the invisible backpacks our students carry. However, what about our own invisible backpacks?

If I asked you right now, do you have your basic needs—food, water, shelter (warmth/rest)—would you say that your needs are met? I’d bet you would most likely say “yes.” Yes, you know where you call home. Yes, you know you have food in the kitchen. Yes, you live where you can run your tap water and drink it immediately. This allows your nervous system to evolve from survival to thriving, from physiological to self-actualization.

In the grand scheme of things, this makes sense. Right? Our nervous system should know it can exhale and calm down because our own needs are being met. However, I’d push back on Maslow and let him know that I think he’s missing a critical component.

You can know you have access to all the basic needs and still have an activated sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze, fawn, flop, fatigue, flood)—overwhelmed, struggling, burning the midnight oil so that even a “small” thing throws us into a tizzy.

Why? Because—and here’s my push to Maslow—you need to know not just in the grand scheme of life, but on a daily basis:

  • When you’re eating ALL your meals
  • When you’re able to use the restroom
  • When you’re able to and how long you get to sleep
  • When you can access potable and drinkable water

As classroom educators, we don’t always know when this will happen. Roll with me, and let me know how many of these may resonate:

  • Lunch is spent shepherding your class in/out of the cafeteria.
  • Lunch is spent making last-minute copies and revising lesson plans.
  • Lunch is spent running to the bathroom AND eating something very quickly.
  • Lunch is spent with remediation work or acceleration work.
  • You are holding in your bladder because your next “break” isn’t for another two hours and the thought of calling down to the office, yet again, makes your skin crawl.
  • You didn’t sleep too much last night because a student is having trouble at home and you’re not sure what more you can do.
  • You stayed late after school to help with extracurriculars so by the time you get home, you’re exhausted and starving.
  • You brought grading home with you and are on the couch eating leftovers while trying to maintain focus.
  • You’re coaching an athletic team, or maybe a debate team, after school; you haven’t had lunch, and you are unsure when you’ll get dinner.
  • You skipped breakfast because you weren’t that hungry anyway, and it’ll be a few hours until you make it to lunch.

I mean, I can keep going here, but I think you get my drift.

This is exhausting. This is depleting. This is not sustainable.

How can we meet the needs of students on a daily basis, if our needs as educators are in limbo or not being met at all?

Already we’re experiencing elevated physiology, with the added layer of not having the carved container for nourishment, sleep, and connection → it’s no wonder that even with our physiological needs met in the grand scheme of things, we are struggling as we move toward Maslow’s idea of self-actualization.

This isn’t linear, it’s foundational and evolving. We have to know WHEN food, water, and shelter are happening on a DAILY basis not just in the grand scheme of life.

When we have the set containers:

  • It allows us to turn on our parasympathetic nervous system—rest and digest.
  • It allows us to turn on our groundedness.
  • It allows us to turn on our focus to the task we’re engaging in.

Test it out tomorrow and see what it’s like when you begin to empty your invisible backpack.

  • Carve your container for breakfast. Eat before you leave the house.
  • Take your lunch. Throw headphones on, and read. Focus on what you’re eating.
  • Leave at your contracted time. Leave school work in the building.
  • Have a nourishing and enjoyable dinner.
  • Make a list of all your have-tos and must-dos.
  • Drink water throughout the day (at least three cups).
  • Use the restroom—call the office if you need coverage. Allow your body to be a body.

Students can feel our energy. They will absorb not only what we teach them but also what we show them through our presence. Show up nourished and fulfilled. Show up regulated and overflowing. Show them that it’s possible so that they can see it represented for themselves too.

Photo at top courtesy of NGLC.

Taylor Ann Gonzalez headshot

Taylor Ann Gonzalez (she/hers)

CEO & Founder, Body Alchemy Project

Taylor Ann Gonzalez is a human BEing, runner, trauma-sensitive yoga teacher, and lifelong educator. She believes that the body remembers AND can unlock the healing within us.