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Basic Needs Kids Must Have Met at School

This may be the most controversial article I've written for ScaryMommy (~3 min read time), at least judging by people's comments. Or maybe the clickbait title sparked the hundreds of opinionated comments it generated about teachers, parents, schools, and me. Read the piece and let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, here's the backstory:

It was the beginning of this school year, and I had just finished writing the "Meet Basic Needs" chapter in my newest book, Whole Child, Whole Life: 10 Ways to Help Kids Live, Learn, and Thrive. I was swimming in research on children's most fundamental needs. I was getting ready for my kids to start school and using what I was learning to solidify a mental checklist of most-important-things to look for in my kids' new classrooms. Post-pandemic, this mattered even more than before. Our kids have been through a lot, and it's non-negotiable that a child feel seen, safe, and supported at school.

At the time, several friends whose kids had struggled during pandemic schooling were reaching out to ask me what to look (or look out) for. So I wrote this piece to share the 8 things that matter most. The basics. Scary Mommy readership had lots to say about whether these are a teacher's responsibility. As a mom, former teacher and school leader, I say, absolutely. The science is clear: Kids should have these 8 needs met anywhere they spend time and with any adult they are with. When that doesn't happen, change is necessary. Change could be increased awareness and sensitivity, a new approach, an added service or support, or in extreme cases a change in teacher assignment.

Here are the 8 basic needs kids need met by their teachers and in their classrooms:

  1. Essentials: Kids need teachers who recognize basic bodily needs, and allow those needs to be met (e.g., letting kids use the bathroom or eat a snack in class).

  2. Safety: Kids need to feel physically and psychologically safe. Teachers should show genuine interest in and concern for students and be quick to address safety concerns.

  3. Belonging: Kids need to feel welcome and known in class and at school. Teachers should invite kids to be themselves and celebrate them for who they are.

  4. Mattering: Kids need to know they matter, and that what they are doing matters too. Teachers should make kids feel valued and make learning relevant.

  5. Play: Kids need time to be kids (even the older ones). Teachers should create fun experiences and provide time for unstructured play. Learning happens through play.

  6. Downtime: Kids need opportunities to downshift, process, and reflect. Teachers should incorporate quiet time into the school day.

  7. Exploration: Kids thrive with novelty and discovery. It’s one of the best parts of learning. Teachers should do student-driven projects as well as experiential and hands-on learning and provide solo and group activities.

  8. Community: Kids need each other. Healthy relationships and social connections are key ingredients for optimal learning and development. Teachers should build a positive community among students and families.

Want to learn more about what kids need to thrive? Whole Child, Whole Life is now available for pre-order! To learn more and to get some free chapters, check out the book website. Or, click the button below and get yourself a copy! If you do, reach out because I have some seriously cool swag to send you.

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