When Teachers Can’t climb, Then What?

As a teacher, I’m heavily familiar with these two images and the principles behind them. On the left you have the three main brain states: Survival, Emotional, and Executive. As a teacher, the goal is to help students understand their own minds and be able to recognize which state they are in. It’s okay to be in any. The goal is that you can find unison and balance between them, using your executive skills to make sense of and communicate the feelings from the other two.

The one on the right is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You can think of it as a ladder, stairs, or a mountain. It’s an upward climb. Not only do you need the first levels to gain enough footing to climb, but they need to exist as a strong and supported foundation. As a teacher, we have to be aware that if a student is not getting their base needs met, they can’t reach the top. It’s a context builder, or perspective shifter, that helps to ensure we’re helping the whole child.

Similarly, the brain states and a mutual understanding of them between teacher and student helps us to understand where students are at. If they’re exclusively in survival mode, the other two states will be difficult to access.

But there’s a slight problem with all of this.

The teacher, it might be inferred, needs to be in their executive state and near the top of Maslow’s to facilitate all of this.

Frankly, I don’t know many who fit that requirement, especially lately, and especially not me.

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