In 1943, Abraham Maslow proposed his hierarchy of needs. He stated that in order for people to be healthy, certain needs must be satisfied and all other concerns would fall by the wayside until they are. In school, we want our students to be at the highest level of this hierarchy, which Maslow called "self-actualization." This is the point where creativity, problem solving and spontaneity occur. In order for students to get there, they must satisfy their needs for physiological existence, mental and physical safety, love and belonging, and esteem first, in that order. If one of these pieces is missing, it's impossible to build a strong foundation for the next.
This is one of the reasons why schools in low socio-economic areas traditionally do not do well. If students have to spend their time wondering about where their next meal is coming from, or if they are going to be shot at, they have tremendous difficulty moving up the ladder and perform the complex self-actualization tasks that we ask of them.
As educators, we have limited control over what we can do for them. We can provide an environment in our classrooms that is safe both physically and emotionally. We can help them with the esteem need by showing them success. Sometimes, even the safety of the environment is out of our control.
When I got to work this morning at 6:10, it was 82 degrees in my room. After some refection yesterday, I realized that the reason I was not getting the work I wanted from my students was that it was unbearable to be in my classroom. The heat and humidity were sapping energy faster than my enthusiasm could replenish it. So today, I took a different tack.
I yielded to Maslow and mother nature. Neither was particularly interested in having my students write a survey or answer questions. Today, I did my best to satisfy the need for safety. I don't want my students to dread coming to my class, ever. I was focusing mostly on the dread that came from a society that says math is hard and if you're no good at it, you are stupid. Today, I focused on the dread that comes from being shoved into an oven and roasted in your own juices. Since I was unable to take them elsewhere, I tried my best to recognize it and not stress out about the math that they weren't learning while they were passed out from heat stroke.
"PICK YOU HEAD UP!!"
"Mr. Aion, I believe Jauntay is dead."
"NO EXCUSE FOR NOT PAYING ATTENTION!!"
In geometry, I had planned to do more notes. I was going to do something mindless that needed to be done so that the kids could not burst into flame. Instead, they got me a bit off track and, while the conversation started around the half-marathon that I'm running on Saturday, we ended up playing Wuzzit Trouble as a class.
I HIGHLY recommend this game! The basic idea is that these unbearably cute "Wuzzits" have been captured by a mad scientist and put into cages with combination locks. To unlock the cage, you have gears with a given number of teeth that turn back and forth that are used to dial to the keys or bonuses. The trick comes in unlocking the cage in the least number of moves.
This is the kind of activity that I would normally have students do in small groups or individually, but I figured that this time, since I hadn't planned to do this at all, I could walk around with the iPad and have the class as a whole give me answers. The discussions that happened were very interesting. Students were arguing about which way we had to go because the keys were on odd numbers and the cogs were all even. They discussed strategy and, as a class, were not happy until they got all 3 stars on each level.
I had planned to play this game with my pre-algebra classes at some point, but the geometry kids really enjoyed it and asked for harder and harder problems. I wonder if I could print out the harder puzzles and have them complete them for extra credit.
With math 8, they are still lacking in some very basic skills, so we worked on word problems as a class after going over the project planning sheet for their Mathalicious project. I have the sneaky suspicion that they have no idea what they are going to do, even though we've spent two days going over it. I hate to think I picked a project that was too difficult because it meets the 6th grade standards, but...
If this weather doesn't break soon, I'll have to set my room on fire just to cool it down...