We’re back in school. Did we lean into care or compliance?

Most schools here in the U.S. now have been back for a month or two. And I’m hearing from educators that things are … ‘better.’ Which has me wondering, “How are we defining better?”

As we all know, the end of the 2020 school year and the entire 2020-21 school year were an incredible challenge. Schools shut down. People died. Everything was disrupted, and everyone was scared and anxious. Then, over the summer of 2021, we were much too optimistic about an allegedly ‘normal’ return to school. And it wasn’t. In many (most?) schools, the 2021-22 school year was somehow even tougher than the previous one as we experienced extremely high levels of student refusal and absenteeism, educator stress and burnout, and so on.

In a conversation with Catlin Tucker, I wondered how much better last school year could have been if we had leaned more into relationships and care. There was so much policy rhetoric around students’ ‘learning loss.’ Accordingly, many schools jumped much too fast into their traditional instructional processes without really addressing the trauma that children (and educators) still were carrying with them at the beginning of the school year. And it didn’t work.

I hypothesized in that discussion that if we had started the first few weeks with a significant focus on relationships and care and getting students and families the supports that they needed (say, 80% of our time and energy) and a lesser emphasis on the academic stuff (say, 20%), we could have laid the groundwork for a much smoother school year as we created a stable foundation that allowed us to transition back to ‘normal’ expectations. But many schools didn’t do that, at least not sufficiently to remedy the problem. It was as if we knew that our young people still were traumatized but didn’t want to address it genuinely, at the levels that our children deserved. Sure, we recognized and paid lip service to the issue, and maybe even halfheartedly implemented some new socio-emotional learning (SEL) program, but we didn’t really meet kids’ needs. The proof was obvious as we mostly tried to return to regular learning-teaching practices and then wondered why kids’ behavior, attendance, and academic performance were so terrible and why teachers were incredibly stressed and leaving the profession.

The past few years have shown that the rigidity of our school systems is also a brittle fragility, particularly during a time of dire need for young people and their families. The saddest part of last school year may have been that we could have hit the reset button at any time. We could have taken a pause from school as we know it, invested more deeply into kids rather than content, and built, together, to where we needed to be. But we chose not to. We just kept on with the things that weren’t working, and children and educators paid the price.

All of which brings us to this school year, which supposedly is ‘better.’ And I’m wondering why. Did we finally transform how we interact with our children? Did we finally center their emotional and trauma needs and establish foundational structures of relationship and care that allow us to learn together in functional community? Or, as I suspect from the many educator discussion areas that I’m in, at the beginning of this year did we just lean more heavily into ‘expectations’ and ‘consequences’ that ignore underlying root causes and instead emphasize control and compliance? In other words, if one end of a continuum might be framed as ‘Kids are struggling so they need care’ and the other end might be framed as ‘Kids are struggling so they need control,’ which end of the continuum did our schools lean into? Did we create new, effective systems of care or did we just socialize and force our young people into submission (as we always seem to do)?

Control versus care

How about your school? What did it lean into this year?

Books I read in September 2022

The Blacktongue ThiefBooks I finished reading (or rereading) in September 2022…

Highly possible that The Blacktongue Thief will be the best fiction book that I read this year… Hope you’re reading something fun too!

Books I read in August 2022

Ministry for the FutureBooks I finished reading (or rereading) in August 2022…

Hope you’re reading something fun too!

Books I read in July 2022

Liberate!Books I finished reading (or rereading) in July 2022…

Hope you’re reading something fun too!

2022 Fantasy baseball mid-season update

At the All-Star Game break, here are the standings in both of my educator fantasy baseball leagues…


  1. Buckeye Ballers, Toby Fischer
  2. CAM Cougars, Dominic Giegerich
  3. Technauts, Joe Bires
  4. Twinkies, Scott McLeod
  5. Bayou Buffalos, Vinnie Vrotny
  6. TheBrewz, Jeremy Brueck
  7. Good Trouble, Jon Becker (last year’s champ)
  8. Greyhounds, John Spencer
  9. Maineiacs, Harold Shaw
  10. Optimistic Mets Fan, Reshan Richards
  11. Dutch’s Detroiters, Rick Heitmeyer
  12. Let’s Play Two, Bob Dillon

Rounding for Home 22

  1. Nesi’s Quicks, Chris Nesi
  2. Impossible Dreamers, Patrick Larkin
  3. Sandlot Success, AJ Bianco
  4. Windfield Wants Noise, Jason Buccheri
  5. All 4 Shifts, Guy Ryan
  6. Juuuust a Bit Outside, Scott McLeod
  7. The Moonlight Grahams, Donnie Piercey
  8. Paternity / IL All-Stars (formerly You Down With CBT?), Dave Quinn
  9. Eephus Pitch, Aaron Hogan
  10. Who Needs Pants?, Dean Shareski
  11. Papi’s Green Monsters, Cale Birk 
  12. Chad’s Crazy Crew, Chad Lehman

The top 6 teams in each league make the playoffs… Should be an exciting next few weeks!

What are you hiring for?

I completed a reference check for one of my former students today. They were applying for a teaching job. These are the check boxes that I had to complete:

Hiring criteria

Clearly this school district is NOT hiring for innovation…

What are you hiring for? What messages are you sending your applicants?

4 Shifts Protocol sessions at InnEdCO 2022

InnEdCO 2022This year there are not one… not two… but THREE 4 Shifts Protocol sessions at the annual InnEdCO conference!

I do a basic introductory workshop on Monday. Gina and Robbi have created a fabulous workshop and I can’t wait to see their session in action on Tuesday. Then I will try and extend all of this work even further during my Wednesday workshop. Descriptions are below…


Monday, June 13

Redesigning for deeper learning and student engagement [2-hour workshop]
Scott McLeod

Many schools have created future-ready vision statements and college- and career-ready profiles of a graduate. But most schools still are struggling to transition their day-to-day classroom instruction to include more critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and other ‘future-ready’ student competencies in ways that are substantive, meaningful, and aligned to those vision statements and graduate profiles.

This workshop focuses on how to redesign classroom instruction for future-ready learning. We will use the free 4 Shifts Protocol to redesign lessons, units, and other instructional activities together for deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion. The protocol contains concrete, specific ‘look fors’ and ‘think abouts’ that allow educators, coaches, and instructional leaders to shift students’ instructional work in deeper, more robust directions. The protocol is a useful complement to SAMR, TPACK, Triple E, and other frameworks that schools may be using, and also is an excellent capacity-building bridge to more complex inquiry and PBL projects.

This active, hands-on workshop is intended for teachers, instructional / technology coaches, and school leaders who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and dive into this important instructional redesign work!


Tuesday, June 14

A permanent pivot: [Re]design your lessons [2-hour workshop]
Gina Francalancia-Cancienne & Robbi Makely

This session incorporates Dr. Scott McLeod’s 4 Shifts Protocol and is designed to introduce teachers to practical skills to (re)design lessons focusing on deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion. Teachers will learn to recognize the four shifts, evaluate ways to personalize the four shifts, (re)design a lesson, and use the four shifts to permanently pivot to incorporating the shifts into future.

This session is targeted for teachers PK-12, special education, literacy programs, gifted and talented classrooms, instructional coaches, and administrators.


Wednesday, June 15

Using blended learning structures to facilitate deeper learning [2-hour workshop]
Scott McLeod

New technologies give us new possibilities. In this workshop we will identify several different blended learning structures and how they might be used to facilitate students’ deeper learning, greater student agency, and more authentic, real world work. Station rotations, genius hours, flipped classrooms, flex models, and other blended learning strategies can create powerful pathways for our children. Bring a computer and come prepared to roll up your sleeves and engage in some active (re)design discussions!

This active, hands-on workshop is intended for teachers, instructional / technology coaches, and school leaders who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and dive into this important instructional redesign work!


Hope you’ll join us for one or all of these sessions!

Books I read in May 2022

Street DataBooks I finished reading (or rereading) in May 2022…

I really enjoyed Street Data. It’s an introduction to qualitative / action research in education with a strong equity lens. I highly recommend it!

Hope you’re reading something fun too!