A School’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Two summers ago, I read and commented on a post by Peter Gow of the Independent Curriculum Group titled Strategic Thinking and–School Thearapy? (Peter’s blog post). I have been reminded of this on several occasions in the last couple of months. I invite you to read his post by linking above, and I have included my comment here.

My response to Peter:
I particularly like your thoughts here as an educational leader with a background in marketing– it has always been difficult to “convince” educators that schools– and teachers– need to market themselves. It seems to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Yet, when you focus down to the one true essence of marketing– facilitating an exchange– it now makes crucial sense to educators. I believe we must continue having this conversation out loud and often!

I offer a term for you that goes beyond the deficit connotation of school therapy but hopefully gets to your point: school actualization. Connect to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for the individual and extend it to the school (both highly emotional and relational beings in their own right), and I think there is something there. Too often, educators (and schools as institutions) are focused on the lower level needs of safety, security, belonging, and esteem. Not enough energy is placed on the higher level needs of self-awareness, growth, movement, and fulfilling potential.

Some questions to ponder may be: 1) Are school environments designed to move individuals and school institutions up the ladder of needs? If not, how might we?
2) What internal forces encourage school actualization– especially in light of the fact that external forces demand it? I am sure there are others as well.

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