In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of us feel obligated to use our time wisely. In the United States, we have a history of the Puritan work ethic, focused on working hard and spending little. Some of us still diligently practice this work ethic, believing that in order to have a successful life, we must work hard all of the time. For some of us, we have become workaholics which can be just as damaging as any addiction. Those of us who find our purpose in our work are having a difficult time during this pandemic, especially if we have been forced to change our work habits.
I have found myself struggling recently to keep my mind focused on the variety of things that I try to do each day to give myself purpose. I have done all the things that I “should” such as creating a schedule for my day, doing something fun each day, and taking care of my physical self through eating healthy and getting some sort of daily exercise. I try to make sure to reach out to someone outside of my immediate family daily through social media, a phone call, or a text message. Unfortunately, my desire to be productive is oftentimes hijacked by a lack of concentration. I get easily sidetracked with things that typically do not interest me. Even now, I am having difficulty writing when usually my writing comes fairly naturally with very little writer’s block. Writing for me has always been the way that I process my thoughts, but it seems that my thoughts are scattered and unclear.
In my education courses, we studied two important theories that affect the way that students learn: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Bloom’s Taxonomy. When we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we see that there are different levels of needs that we all experience as human beings. These needs are categorized based on the following pyramid.
If we are deficient in any of the lower levels of the pyramid such as food, shelter, or the sense of belonging, then it is near impossible for us to move up in the pyramid. This means that we have difficulty being creative or developing a skill if we are hungry, scared, or lonely. Most courses in secondary education are focused on self actualization, as educators prepare students to move into the adult world. However, we all know that not all children and teens have enough food, shelter, or healthy relationships available in order for them to advance in their sense of being or their self development.
Typically, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is connected with Stephen Krashen’s hypothesis of the affective filter as it applies to second language learning. This hypothesis suggests that people will be unable to learn a new language if certain criteria are not met. Students often face difficulties learning a new language if they are experiencing “Low motivation, low self-esteem, anxiety, introversion and inhibition” (Shutz). However, I would assert that the affective filter also affects all students in learning new material if they do not have their basic needs met at the bottom half of Maslow’s pyramid. This suggests that students are unable to learn effectively if they are hungry, scared, or lonely. These basic needs determine whether or not someone is able to achieve a sense of self-actualization at the top of Maslow’s pyramid.
Oftentimes in secondary education, teachers are encouraged to teach at the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom’s Taxonomy consists of learning goals for students based on a hierarchy of critical thinking. These six learning goals are presented below:
When students are learning new material, they are often using lower level critical thinking skills such as remembering and understanding material. However, as students gain more information about new material, they are expected to move to higher levels on Bloom’s Taxonomy, with the hope that students will be able to create, evaluate, and analyze. As a high school English teacher, I am expected to create higher level learning goals for my students because these are the expectations of the state standards of education for my course. The problem with this expectation is that if students are hungry, scared, or lonely, they will have difficulty achieving these learning goals. Their affective filter is too high to allow new material to connect in their minds.
So what do Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Stephen Krashen’s hypothesis of the affective filter, and Bloom’s Taxonomy have to do with us as we are living through the COVID-19 pandemic? Well…everything. Many of us are trying to be productive. We want to create something new – maybe start a new blog, maybe write a novel, maybe learn how to play the guitar. We want to make our days count, especially since we have so much time available. However, like me, some of you are having trouble concentrating. It may have even taken you several times to be able to read this entire blog (sorry for the educational theory).
In education, effective teachers understand that Maslow’s must come before Bloom’s. We understand that if students are hungry, they won’t be able to concentrate. So, we provide breakfast for them when they have a high stakes test to take. If students are scared, we try to give them reassurance and comfort by making our classrooms a safe place to exist. If students are lonely, we try to provide them with meaningful connections through group activities.
Some of us have lost our jobs. Some of us don’t know how we are going to pay rent. For some of us the $1200 stimulus check was a joke because our rent alone is over $1500, depending on where we live in the country. Some of us are scared that we will contract COVID-19 or our loved ones will get sick. Or we will have to die alone in a hospital. Or we will have to watch our loved ones die through our tablets. Some of us are lonely. We miss the physical connection with our friends and family members. We just want to be with other people, and Facetime or Zoom is just not enough.
This is going to sound counterintuitive to our Puritan work ethic in the United States. Let’s stop trying to be productive. Stop trying so hard to do something that you think is worthwhile. Stop trying to put Bloom’s before Maslow’s. Take care of yourself and your loved ones before you try some new project or accomplishment.
Remember: You have to Maslow before you can Bloom.
Armstrong, Patricia. “Bloom’s Taxonomy.” Vanderbilt University: Center for Teaching. Vanderbilt University, 2020, https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/.
Burton, Neel. “Our Hierarchy of Needs.” Psychology Today, 4 May 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201205/our-hierarchy-needs.
Shutz, Ricardo E. “Stephen Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition.” October 2019, https://www.sk.com.br/sk-krash-english.html.