In the text, The Leader in Me, Covey argues that students have several needs that must be met in order to be effective learners in the classroom.
These needs are listed as follows:
- Physical: safety, good health, food, exercise, shelter, and hygiene
- Socio-emotional: acceptance, kindness, friendship, the desire to love and be loved
- Mental: intellectual growth, creativity, and stimulating challenges
- Spiritual: contribution, meaning, and uniqueness
Covey states that many of these needs are not met in the home, so children come to school hungry for them, and in some cases practically starving. Therefore, although it might be nice for many teachers to just focus on the curriculum, it can be difficult when students are physically and emotionally hungry.
Covey argues that the spiritual need is the most important.
“But, perhaps the greatest need that teachers impact each and every day is the spiritual need. The word spiritual has its root in spirit, for which dictionaries provide many definitions, most of which are nonreligious in nature, such as “disposition of mind or outlook” or “a mental disposition characterized by firmness or assertiveness. Thesauruses likewise put forward many synonyms for spirit including disposition, courage, determination, vigor, will, moral fiber, heart, enthusiasm, innerself, fortitude, and strength. Combine the dictionary definitions with these synonyms, and that is what I am referring to here when speaking of young people’s spirits, or spiritual needs.” ~ Covey
In my opinion, this is called building perseverance in our students. There spirits become filled with the courage and will to continue and fight the good fight when we fill this spiritual need within them. I’ve heard it said many times, “You can knock me down but you can’t knock me out!” I love that saying and I say to myself when the need arises.
I totally agree with Covey on developing our students’ spirits. I believe that their spirits must be nurtured to achieve. This is not false praise, but teaching of determination and will. Although, this is probably one of the most difficult needs for teachers to demonstrate on a continual basis in the classroom.
Why is that? Well, because they must carry those spiritual traits themselves and bring them into the classroom every single day. That is not easy. That takes a very strong person, and someone who can continually put his or her personal problems aside to be there for the students. Although, this is difficult. I do not believe that it is impossible by any means.
Teachers should understand that teaching goes beyond the standards and the curriculum. We, as teachers seeking excellence, must dig deep, find our sources of inspiration and continue to feed our spirits so that we can be successful in the classroom. Sometimes, actually most times, we must find this inspiration on our own. No one is going to do it for us.
I feed my spirit for the classroom by reading texts about education. I pray about the success of my students, and how I can help them. I pray that my mind will stay alert to how my instruction can make the biggest impact in the classroom. I exercise to relieve stress. I count my blessings every day, literally. Things could always be much worse. Focusing on the good, helps to overcome the bad. As a result, I feel charged up and excited to see my students, so their needs can be met everyday. It’s not to say that I never stumble, but I always try to catch myself, and change my attitude as fast as I can.
So, Covey gives us all something to think about. How can we grow the spiritual needs of our students so that they become more determined to achieve academic success and reach for their dreams?
TED TALK: The Key to Student Success: Developing Grit