We Must Maslow Before We Bloom

Sometimes, the hardest thing for us to see is right in front of us. So I’ll start with a blinding flash of the obvious… In both our personal and professional lives, relationships are everything!

The desire to connect with others is written into our DNA. Neuroscience confirms that effective relationships are based on trust. And our brains are hard-wired by millions of years of evolution with a need to trust and be trusted. Nowhere is this more important to remember than in the classroom. Honestly, these have been hard lessons for me to learn.

For 35 years I’ve been a tireless advocate for teachers using technology in the classroom. But if the COVID crisis has proved anything, it is that teaching with technology can only get you so far. The truth is computers can never do any of the most important things teachers do for students. And the more we move learning online, the more our relationships will be essential to both the learning and the emotional well-being of our students.

At the same time, as I listen to educators around the country and world, here’s what I’m hearing: Teachers feel more overwhelmed, more fearful and frustrated than I’ve seen in the past 50 years. Teachers say they’re working harder than ever trying to immediately “adjust” to on line teaching while still exploring a jungle of new platforms, apps, and sometimes flawed technology.

I know elementary teachers who are still feeling the pain of not being able to say “goodbye” to their students last March. I know high school teachers who’ve taught in the same classroom for years, who now have no idea what “school” will look like when students return, or even if they will return.

For our teachers, school leaders must put relationships first. Before we expect teachers to meet the needs of their students, school leaders must be willing to do the same for teachers. We must actively listen, acknowledge, empathize, and most importantly: Trust in trust. Now, more than at any time in my career, we must put Maslow before Bloom, and focus on Relationships before Rigor.

In my book, The Chemistry of Culture, I wrote that… “If your culture is broken, you can’t fix anything else.” Trust is the foundation for relationships and relationships are the foundation of culture. How is your culture? And how do you know?  For more information contact me at: warford.jim@gmail.com

About Jim Warford

Jim Warford is the author of, The Chemistry of Culture: Strategies You Can Use to Create a Culture of Learning. For 15 years Jim Warford was Senior Advisor and Keynote Speaker for the International Center for Leadership in Education. Jim is an author, speaker, Leadership and Instructional Coach. He was named in March 2003 as Florida’s first Chancellor of K12 Public Schools. He stepped down in September, 2005 to become Executive Director of the Florida Association of School Administrators, representing over 10,000 Florida school leaders. As a Senior Advisor for the International Center for Leadership in Education, he works with states, districts and schools to provide coaching and executive training and support to school leaders and their staffs. As Florida’s Chancellor, he led the creation and state-wide implementation of Florida’s Continuous Improvement Model, FCIM, which resulted in that state’s dramatic gains in student achievement and an 80% reduction in the number low-performing schools. FCIM remains Florida’s required intervention for all low-performing schools. As Superintendent of the Marion County, Florida Public Schools, he first implemented the Continuous Improvement Model district-wide. As a result, school grades went from three “F”, eight “D” and only one “A” school in 1999 to twenty “A”, 16 “B” and no “F” schools in 2003. Under his leadership the high school dropout rate was cut in half. He taught applied technology courses at the high school level for 17 years and created a Computer Graphics/Video Production program that won many national and state awards. He was named Vanguard High School Teacher of the Year three separate times.
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