An empty stomach, parched tongue, troubled home, insecure environment, extreme cold or heat. Do they have any impact on learner’s performance and their ability to achieve? YES they do.
And Yes! We have heard cases of highly successful individuals with “extremely deprived childhood” surmounting the odds to achieve monumental success. These stories are often true and they are an inspiration to us all. But there are much more cases of under-performance due to lack…these are the untold stories.
According to Maslow’s 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation “; He opines that current concerns drives a learner’s behavior”. When learners are concerned about certain needs, their behaviour is centered on meeting those needs and these concerns take precedence over learning and achievement.
Meet David* (not real name), I taught David a few years ago. He was at least five years older then, the oldest student in my class at the time, and his performance was dire. But David was a diamond in the rough…a diamond buried by the dirt of hunger, fear, an unstable home and abuse; these I discovered during my time as his teacher.
His attention in class was dependent on the few days he had breakfast before coming to school, the night he slept without the ruckus of fighting guardians ( he was an orphan). And those days were very few and far in between.
I contacted management and they did pitch in ways they could, which was barely enough considering the fact that the said student also owed tuition.
Sadly though, the end of that session signaled the end of his stay in school and maybe his education; that was the last I saw of him. It was really disappointing to say the least, as he had a lot of potential. Potentials that may forever remain untapped.
While we as educators look forward to the perfect environment where balanced pupils come from peaceful home into our classrooms eager to learn, and the government does its part in child welfare. The best we can do is order our classroom activities to meet learners basic needs albeit halfway, so as to focus on content learning and achievement.
- Physiological needs( Food, water, sleep, warmth): Provision of good drinkable water in school, water bottle breaks, snack bars( if we can), choose class colours and chart designs that express warmth, an airy classroom, access to counselling within the school and permission to take a short nap at school for pupils in desperate need of sleep.
*A drowsy child cannot learn much and distracts others from learning.
- Safety within our classrooms and school environment: We can attach a worry drop box just outside our classrooms, so pupils can write down their greatest concern for the day and drop into the box, before entering the classroom. Research has shown that written concern frees up our working memory and helps us focus. We should also monitor our class conditions to create an atmosphere devoid of bullying, where learners are able to speak up, ask and answer questions without the fear of being called names or ridiculed.
- A feeling of love and belonging: All pupils are to be included in classroom activities based on their abilities and strength; so that no child feels left out. Celebrations like birthdays should be clearly indicated on class charts and celebrated without funfair, seating position should be arranged to foster cooperation.
- Self Esteem: Career day activities where professionals or pupils in college can be invited to talk to the pupils on the possibilities of academic success; Expert day activities where students get to display personal expertise should be organized.
Most importantly teachers should reinforce positive behaviour by giving consistent, verbal feedbacks. These are really powerful in behaviour modification.
- Self-Actualization: This level of need is related to service. Schools can organize excursion, visits to motherless babies home or schools for special needs, where learners see the importance of service. This makes the pupils self-reflective and able to understand how their service affects all lives.
Cooperation between school management and teachers on the goals can ensure that learners focus on learning thus bringing out the best in them. While doing this, we should also take into consideration the fact that achievement and success means different things to different people.
Ebby Uzo-nwosu, is a school teacher.