Backstory: My Seismic Shift

Understanding how complications outside of school impacted a student’s ability to learn influenced my seismic shift as an educator and school leader. It led me to recognize the broad scope of students’ true needs would never sufficiently be met in our current traditional educational institutions. 

The fact that students experienced challenges was not the issue. The issue was school staff being unequipped with time and strategies to effectively respond to the immediate circumstances. Absent time and resources to address root causes of students’ problems left us relying on using traditional default responses. Removing students from class and assigning them a failing grade for work not completed was common practice, and a detrimental form of double jeopardy. Most public schools have a zero tolerance for disruptive behaviors. Our school also strived to maintain a learning environment free of interruptions. The problem was the strategies we relied on showed no signs of reducing disruptions. 

My seismic shift occurred when I decided our students would be better served if we took a different approach. We needed a humane process that placed emphasis on ways to assist students navigate through a crisis. The practice of bypassing discovery of root causes and immediately imposing consequences never resulted in our ability to achieve a satisfactory and fair resolution. Creating the 9-R’s Conflict Resolution model allowed us to discontinue the unfair practice of rushing to judgment and determining an outcome prior to learning what actually occurred. Introducing a fair and humane process used to address a wide range of grievances, followed by the ability to arrive at reconciliation mutually agreed to by all parties involved, was a positive seismic shift in our entire school culture. 

The success of the 9-R’s Conflict Resolution model deepened my understanding about social and emotional well-being of students being an integral piece of the learning puzzle in our education system. 

The 9-R’s model represented one of many resources needed in schools to support the educational and maturational development of other areas essential to every students’ well-being. While writing America’s Educational Crossroads I wondered about schools equipped with resources capable of helping students successfully navigating their way through challenging circumstances. In addition to counseling students I imagined a compassionate counseling model that remained with students through steps leading an opportunity to reset and resume with their education to prevent them from failing. 

The Collaborative High School Campus Model, featured in the book and illustrated in a video ((, is how I imagined schools 21st century schools could be designed. But what makes this model unique is the comprehensive range of resources tailored to meet the educational and overall well-being of students’ needs in these modern schools.