The Intervention Ziggurat vs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
The more you know, the more you realize you have to learn. This was never more clear to me than on June 21, when I attended my second #SpedCampOH. An edcamp is a professional development opportunity where the agenda is set by the participants when they arrive. One session I attended was dealing with “difficult” students with IEPs, which spanned the gamut of emotionally disturbed students to autistic students. Although it has been a few years since I have taught a student on an IEP, I decided to join this session anyway.
I heard some amazingly helpful suggestions for any student and teacher relationship, regardless of label. Participants brought up the concepts of Restorative Justice to rebuild relationships among students and staff. They suggested administrators allow students and teachers private moments of conversation to rebuild trust after students return to the classroom. They suggested maintaining and sharing places for students to decompress after a confrontation, in classrooms that are not their own. They suggested the importance of observational data, to determine what triggers off-task behavior, and working with students to problem solve issues before they started. But the most interesting I heard that was totally new to me was The Intervention Ziggurat.
Much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Ziggurat is pyramid shaped and deals with the idea that a student cannot focus on learning new information until they have their basic needs met. Just as Maslow acknowledged the physiological needs of a student must first be met, that a hungry student cannot learn, so does the Ziggurat discuss biological needs. However, unlike Maslow, the Ziggurat acknowledges that some students need their sensory needs met, too. Harsh lights, uncomfortable textures, loud noises, all of these stressors can make learning difficult for some students.
In retrospect, this makes total sense. I know that when I switched off the fluorescent overhead lights and switched on my lamps, with their natural light bulbs, the classroom dynamic completely changed. It helps that I painted over the salmon colored cement block, changing one cement block wall to a dark, midnight purple and the other to a bright, clean white. It helped that I provided floor cushions and pillows, rolling chairs and tables, in addition to my traditional desks. And should it be that I have students with sensory issues next year, hopefully I will have provided a room for them to learn.
If not, I will know to pay attention and determine what is triggering their behavior so I can help them be successful. I’m glad I attended #SpedCampOH so that I could learn how much I still have to learn about students.