It’s a simple enough theory, much quoted and used; we all have needs, they can be categorised and tiered, and we experience greater drives to satisfy the basic needs before we can focus on the higher needs.

You could put them, in no particular order, as a Zoom Quiz question. Challenge the quizzers to put them into ascending order. Maslow defined five categories of need (in alphabetical order): esteem, love, physiological, safety and self-actualisation.

The theory has guided many a psychology student, and has featured in teacher training psychology courses since the 1960’s. (Maslow published his work in the middle of the Second World War). Further research has not disproved his ideas, but shown them as more of a rough guide. Much as there is more than one route from Attercliffe to Worrall, there is more than one route from the need for physiological security to full self-actualisation.

In the classroom we use the theory continually – a child cannot possible learn at their best if hungry, cold, tired, threatened, lonely, isolated or lacking self-respect. And so schools set out to be safe, secure, warm, friendly, full of play and friends, a place of celebration and acknowledgement, with breakfast clubs, free school meals, and lots of break times. It is, perhaps, one of the most obvious explanations for children who have been missing school for the five weeks of national lockdown not doing so well – why there may be an emerging learning gap, and why we have remotes of more children being unhappy during this lockdown. It is why there is such a push on schools to provide high quality remote learning and support to go with it.

We all might be guilty of dismissing complaints or needs of others as ‘First World problems’. We might think, ‘if that’s all you have to complain about’, to reduce the seriousness with which we take a point or concern. For example, I saw on a community Facebook page recently someone wanting a response to an ‘ISO’ request for organic beauty products. It is very easy to dismiss as frivolous and unrealistic, but maybe the seeker is simply working at that level. Good for them. They have those first four tiers of Maslow’s ticked off and are getting through self-actualisation quite strongly. (Organic beauty products, I would argue, are not essentials for physiological or safety reasons for most people.)

At the same time, I still find it hard to keep a straight face when children have issues with their packed lunch contents of pomegranate seeds, sushi rice rolls or vegan Greek Salad wrap.

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