Parent Needs Surrounding Academics

Academics, For Parents, Homework / /

Share this post

Shani Dowell, Possip CEO and Founder, shares the importance of recognizing parent needs surrounding student academics! 

Before kids, I worked with a few community organizing groups earlier in my career. One group was doing parent surveys to discover parent needs. A large-scale survey What Matters Most to Parents in Your Kids’ School revealed that academics were near the bottom.

At first, I assumed the surveys were faulty and parents were mistaken.  Also, It was impossible for me, a former teacher and the spouse of a leader of schools, to believe that the very thing schools were designed to do was near the bottom of their list for most parents.

As I’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser), had kids, and gotten to know the feedback from thousands of parents, I understand a whole lot better.  In conclusion, parents are right.  Academics matter, and yet only to the extent to which other needs are also met on the path to academics.  Parents need to know that their child is safe, clothed, known, and not teased.  Only then do they care that their child knows how to subtract or can recognize a gerund.

Additionally, parents would rather hear about a teacher who loved their kid and was a mediocre teacher of long division – than a teacher who yelled at their kid (never mind that we do it :)) and was an excellent teacher of long division. Unfortunately, It’s not always the answer we want to hear…but it is the truth.

Kids – and parents – are as humans are. So, we have a hierarchy of needs. The need for an academically high-quality school experience is along the lines of self-actualization.  Academics matter – but there’s a hierarchy of worries and needs that parents and students have along the way.

Check out Possip’s School Version of the Hierarchy of Needs.  


A need a the bottom of the pyramid must be met on the path to higher needs!
Physiological needs:

Does my kid have transportation? Is it reliable? Are they fed? Clothed? Comfortable? Do general school operations take care of the basics?

Safety needs:

Is my kid safe in school and on the bus? Is anyone picking on him or her? Do teachers and staff treat my kid in a way where they are emotionally and physically safe?

Love and belonging needs:

Does my kid feel seen? Known? Do they have friends at school? Do teachers know my kid – beyond their name? Does my kid have a seat at the table? Do teachers and staff knowa student learning my kid such that they can tell me new things about my kid even I never knew?

Esteem needs:

Does my kid know their strengths? Can they tell me about a subject they love or are good at?  Can they share more than 1 thing for which they are proudly recognized?

Academics/Self-actualization needs:

Does my kid have the academic experiences that are going to lead them to learn and be able to do whatever they want to do? Is what they are learning – and how they are learning – going to set them up for success in life?