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Teacher Hierachy of Needs

September 10, 2012

Teacher Musings:

This fall marks an important transition for my school.  We moved and now we are in a newer and larger building.  The teachers have their own rooms (at our old building we shared) and there is a nice gym, guidance office and other facilities that were missing in our previous building.  However, as often happens with large moves, there have been a few snafus.  When I went in on Thursday for professional development (PD) it became very clear that more had to be done before the opening of school the next week, primarily because there were no student desks or tables and other furniture was still in the process of being moved in.

Although it was a stressful time for everyone, all the teachers banded together to make the most of the PD day.  I, along with four other teachers, were facilitating small inquiry groups that day.  We were asking teachers to discuss a text and consider ways to make sure our group helped every member develop professionally over the year.  We had a great discussion and, as usual, I was super impressed by my colleagues.  Amidst all the chaos of the move, and the lack of furniture, on top of the usual back-to-school stresses, they were focused and thoughtful during our group meeting.

As I left that day I thought about how much I was going to miss that collegiality on this year, and I also thought about how I wasn’t going to miss the chaos of the school opening.  There is always this strange conflict for me as school years start, especially because I have been in charge of start-of-the-year PD several times.  When the school year starts the school leaders (be they administrators or teacher leaders) often need to have some kind of PD during these rare days when staff are working but no students are there yet.  Sometimes they are launching a new initiative.  Sometimes it is requisite data presentation.  Sometimes it is just some operational issues that need attention.
But as this PD is happening, teachers have some more immediate concerns:  Here are just a few of the questions I’m usually considering:

  •  When will I be able to make copies?
  • When will my printer be set-up?
  • What supplies will I need to buy myself, and which ones will I get at the 11th hour?
  • How do I adjust my lessons if I don’t have enough chairs?
  • How many students are in my classes?
  • When will I get my gradebook login?

I’ve even had years where I don’t know what I am teaching, or what room I’m in, as I watch someone makes a presentation about test data from last year.  My immediate concerns make it hard for me to focus on any other work that is happening in front of me at the end of August.

Everyone has some kind of basic needs that must be met before they can focus on more long-term matters.  When I’m teaching the basics (what I’m teaching, where I’m teaching and how many students I will have) matter.  If I know the answer to those questions I can focus on PD better.  If I don’t, my focus isn’t 100% there.  Whenever I’m leading any kind of PD I try to remember that, both for myself and for others.  Teachers have a hierarchy of needs and concerns, and to pretend otherwise is folly.  We may not be able to fix all the problems or answer all the questions, but just acknowledging the concerns is a huge step in the right direction.  Having colleagues that push through the chaos and make it work is something I am immensely grateful for!

Yummy Stuff

This was one of my favorite creations this summer!  While it is great for a summer picnic it can also be enjoyed in any season.

Black Bean and Corn Taco Salad

Salad Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of cooked black beans (or two cans)
  • 1 1/2 cups of frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 a red onion, diced finely
  • 2-3 TB fresh cilantro
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olive
  • 1 good sized head of lettuce, chopped and washed

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 2TB olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime (1 to 1 1/2 TB)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced


1.  Mix the black beans, corn, scallions, red onion and cilantro together.

2. Mix the dressing ingredients, and then mix the dressing in with the beans until all the bean mixture is coated in the dressing.  At this point you can refrigerate the salad for a day or so, if you wanted to make it ahead of serving time.

3. Carefully stir in the avocado and olives.  Make sure the avocado stays in chunks!  Alternatively, you could just “top” the salad with the avocado and olives.

4. Serve on top of the lettuce.  This is great with some tortilla chips on the side!

One Comment
  1. I’m blogging on picnic fare today. There’s a lot I don’t enjoy but I love black beans and corn.

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