Chapter 2 from the book,
The Superior Educator by Stephen T. McClard - Complete Article List
ancients, wanting to demonstrate illustrious virtue throughout the
kingdom, first governed well their own states. Wanting to govern well
their own states, they first regulated their families. Wanting to
regulate their families, they first cultivated their character. Wanting
to cultivate their character, they first set right their hearts.
Wanting to set right their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in
their thoughts. Wanting to be sincere in their thoughts, they first
increased their knowledge. Increase of knowledge was found in the
examination of things. Things being examined, knowledge became
complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere.
Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then made right. Their
hearts being made right, their character was cultivated. Their
character being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their
families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their
states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made peaceful and
happy.” Confucius 500 B.C.
years of teaching have taught me one very clear lesson: experience and
emotion drives all behavior, good or bad. Because of this, I can only
control a certain percentage of circumstances based on my own
experiences. These circumstances are further restricted by my abilities
and emotional control as a leader. If I can somehow enhance my
experiences and exert greater ability and emotional control, I can, in
turn, control more of my environment
motivating force behind any behavior, good or bad, is found both
outside my sphere of influence as a teacher and caused by my influence
as a teacher. Therefore, a child’s behavior is motivated by unique
experiences and the influence of outside forces acting on
self-interests. A child’s ability to cope with these outside forces may
be hampered by abuse, psychological disorders, developmental defects,
psychological trauma, physical challenges, or neglected needs. My
influence may assist in minimizing the effects of these handicaps, but
in the end, I am only one piece of the puzzle.
my best efforts, being connected to a child for one hour a day will not
replace the needs that are left behind at home. Good old-fashioned
family values are the key ingredient to stimulate a child for success.
When these needs are not met, our educational process will leave
children behind. This is why the No Child Left Behind Act misses the
you ask yourself the question of why children are left behind in
American education, you are really seeking an answer to why needs are
left behind. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who studied
how needs and development are interdependent in every person. In his
1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Maslow explores a
hierarchical list of needs that are present in every human.
to Maslow, every person has basic needs that must be met for that
person to progress to higher needs and ultimately arrive at the top of
his “Hierarchy of Needs.” The fundamental principle of Maslow’s
hierarchy is that some needs take precedence over others and,
therefore, must be met first. Maslow’s theory brings us face to face
with the ultimate cause of misbehavior in the classroom.
of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs like a ladder. Each need is a rung on
the ladder with each successive step being dependent on the step below
for progress up the ladder. These needs are broken up into five basic
steps. Step one, the most basic needs, are biological and
psychological such as air, food, water, sleep, homeostasis, and
excretion. The next rung on the ladder is the need for safety, which
includes security, structure, resources, morality, health, and
property. These two steps in the hierarchy are the basic needs that
must be met by society and the family and cannot be efficiently met by
children have these two basic needs met, they can now progress to the
third stage in Maslow’s hierarchy, which is love and belonging.
Important social networks like friends, family, teachers, coworkers,
classmates, coaches, and intimate relationships is the third step. It
is important to restate the fact that meeting the first two needs is
necessary for the third need to be met fully. As a child progresses
through early development, these three areas of need play a critical
role in preparing the mind for learning and must be constantly
maintained and stimulated.
this point in Maslow’s hierarchy, a child can reach the fourth step,
which is esteem. Self-esteem can come from a variety of sources and
includes feelings such as confidence, achievement, respect for others,
and respect by others. It is only at this rung of the ladder that a
child begins to go beyond his surroundings to seek knowledge. He
becomes a “success seeker” instead of a “failure avoider.” Well-met
needs are the foundation for this to take place.
knowledge is the chief desire of all educators and can be the one
missing factor in a child’s development. Understanding this fact gives
you a clearer picture when developing your teaching and leadership
style. Transcendence is the last step in the hierarchy and is the
point at which we seek a better world for others and ourselves. If it
is possible to move a student in the direction of seeking knowledge,
transcendence will ultimately follow later in life. It may take years
for this to happen, but your influence as an educator will be critical
in the movement toward this goal.
Newton’s first law of motion and replace the word objects with
children. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Objects in motion tend
to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless
acted upon by an unbalanced force (another moving object). Newton also
said that the tendency of an object is to resist changes in its
velocity and that objects at equilibrium will not accelerate. Moving
children involves pushing them in the correct direction and upsetting
their equilibrium. You may be the only unbalanced force in a child’s
life that can create the proper educational inertia. Realize this power
and use it wisely.
Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see
every problem as a nail.” Educational institutions should not be the
only tool of choice for the “nail” of student achievement. Once we
realize this, we can focus on the true problems a child faces in the
suddenly becomes clear why education is leaving students behind.
Children who are “left behind” in America are experiencing a breakdown
in the first four basic needs. The answer, according to politicians, is
to incorporate as many social programs into education as possible and
to hold teachers and school districts accountable for failing to raise
who are already bogged down in preparing students for standardized
tests to meet state demands, find it impossible to juggle between being
a teacher, counselor, social worker, and miracle worker. On top of the
juggling act, teachers receive half of the salary that any other highly
educated professional would make in the business world. This situation
is not making education an attractive alternative for the “best and
brightest” undergraduates who want to be successful in life and receive
respect in their profession.
will continue to be the scapegoat for the problem of social decay until
lawmakers realize that education is not the source of the problem.
Poorly performing schools are merely a symptom of a larger social
problem. This problem will only be addressed when we are mature enough
as a nation to set and enforce boundaries with decency in the media and
tackle larger social problems that plague our society. We must work
tirelessly to strengthen families and aid single-parent households in
providing for children.
to violence, drugs, alcohol, vulgar language, and destructive behavior
in the media and on the internet must be eliminated from the view of
children. If not, we will continue seeing kids meet their own needs
with self-destructive behavior, causing the cycle to perpetuate. If we
continue modeling poor behavior in every corner of society, there will
be no end to the problems we will create for children and schools.
considering history, we see that our nation has the most advanced and
effective educational traditions in the world. Most major advances in
science have come from American classrooms. Telecommunications,
computers, radio, television, the light bulb, and so many other
inventions have come from our ability as a nation to transfer knowledge
and inspire ideas. Unfortunately, most people tend to see our
educational system as nothing more than the problem for children being
“left behind” in our society.
media, you will hear such things as, “Education is nothing more than
government-funded child abuse.” Arrogant, uneducated comments such as
these are typical of what the public is led to believe about education
today. This type of deceit is dished out to the public by such
personalities who seem to be merely looking for political gain or
ratings on their radio programs.
teachers, we are bombarded daily by assaults to our professionalism in
the classroom. We are told that we will be held accountable for our
teaching abilities and that 100% of all school children must succeed.
This impossible demand is placed on teachers, but the burden truly
belongs with the family. This is not hard for the average person to
understand, yet politicians and the popular media do not get the point,
or worse, do not want the point brought out for fear of losing votes
and advertising revenue.
is little surprise that teachers leave the classroom at a rate of one
in three each year. States will be lucky if they are able to replace
the nearly one million teachers that will retire in the next five
years. The “best and the brightest” will continue running away from
careers in education if confidence in the field is not improved and
salaries continue to stagnate. Politicians need to wake up to the truth
and take the focus away from educators and educational practices when
dealing with the issue of failing schools. They must get on with the
business of cleaning up themselves first and then focusing attention
toward society instead of the classroom.
are no easy answers to the troubles that teachers and society face.
Social decay in the United States is not going away any time soon. Until
we admit to ourselves that improving family and protecting values is
the ultimate answer, education in America will continue to fail for a
certain number of students who, for whatever reason, have not had their
basic needs met in a meaningful way by the family unit.
have always been shifts with the curve of success in this world, and
there will always be vicissitudes with any society. In the end, we have
to look within ourselves to seek the greater good. When we seek to
improve society by walking away from self-serving behavior, we step one
rung higher on the ladder to improving the lives of everyone around us.
Without realizing and affirming Maslow’s genius, we are just beating
nails with the same old hammer.
remember one thing from what I write here, remember this: If no need is
“left behind,” no child will ever be “left behind.” This educational
plan costs nothing and enriches the lives of everyone who participates.