I got REJECTED by Learning Forward! (Part 2)

I got REJECTED by Learning Forward! (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a two part article about my rejection (ha!). If you want to read the first part, check this out!

Email I just got regarding an article I submitted…

Hi Jill, 

Thank you for submitting your article to The Learning Professional – we appreciate your interest in publishing with Learning Forward.

I am sorry to say we won’t be able to publish your article in an upcoming issue of our magazine. Reviewers read your article, “The most expensive instructional coaching mistake,” and appreciated reading your article. However, we’re afraid we don’t have a place for your article at this time.     

Thanks for sharing your story and best wishes in your work on behalf of kids.


Here’s Part 2 of the article that got DENIED!  

So, I have tried to get really practical in working around the coaching slip and here are 3 coaching questions I ask before, during and after a coaching cycle. They have really helped me button down the next step and get it into regular teaching rotation:

Question 1: Is the coaching correction/feedback linked to something that matters to the teacher?

One of the toughest parts of coaching for me is finding the exact starting point for each teacher. We know we can’t just do a one-size-fits-all approach and start everything in the same spot. I constantly ask myself is how is the teacher’s attitude toward coaching? Is the teacher open to it? I she hesitant? Depending on how the teacher is feeling about coaching, I might start slowly by going together to observe a master teacher for 10-15 minutes or we might be ready to just jump in to observation or side-by-side coaching.

Once I determine the approach for coaching a teacher, I have to get down to business and start figuring out what the content for that coaching cycle should be. I think about whether the teacher is struggling with foundational teaching skills like classroom management or engagement or simple lesson planning. If so, then starting off with a focus on high-level questioning techniques during teaching isn’t going to hit the spot.

When we coach with a carefully crafted mix of approach and content focus, we create a right-fit coaching cycle that allows for whatever support the teacher truly needs at that moment to be the thing they’re left with in the debriefing. This increases the odds that they’ll follow through on our coaching notes because it solved a real problem and hit the spot completely.

I often tell the coaches that I have the opportunity to coach that they need to “go for the immediate win” with a teacher. What does this mean and why does it matter? Well, the immediate win is something small but powerful.

For example, I recently helped a coach support one of her teachers in just working on how to start a lesson with authority (all eyes on the teacher, the teacher waits until everyone has quieted down, etc.). They worked on this for a few weeks together until the teacher felt like she really had a much stronger sense of authority in the classroom…and it was obvious in the students, too. This was something so tiny in theory, but a powerful improvement in her teaching that affected every single moment of her teaching day. This was such a simple coaching win, but grew the teacher’s confidence by miles in just a few weeks. After the teacher sees that the coach is offering next steps that really transform teaching, she is much more excited about coaching again.

The immediate, small win on something that matters to the teacher initially builds a great foundation for future coaching. And the teacher has already seen how impactful carrying through on the coach’s suggestions is, so the follow-through is a priority.

Question 2: Did I break the steps of the skill down to the –nth degree?

If I am seeing that a teacher isn’t implementing the coaching work long-term I need to determine if I was too broad in my feedback. When I was first coaching I remember saying to a teacher, “Let’s work really hard on increasing your student engagement.” Um…not helpful at all. And I bet the teacher was thinking, “If I knew how to do that, I wouldn’t need a genius like you!” To say that I had given the broadest coaching advice was an understatement! (And broad support isn’t helpful…and it certainly doesn’t stick.)

So, I have learned to walk through this little checklist in my head when I am debriefing a teacher:
• Does this thing I am asking the teacher to do give almost immediate results? (This will ensure that they want to keep doing it over and over again.)
• Is this thing that I am asking the teacher to do easily understandable given the teacher’s current professional development on the topic? (This will ensure that they can get started right away.)
• Did I have the teacher put this action in his or her own words? (This will ensure that you do any clean-up or refocusing on the spot and avoid wasting the teacher’s time.)

So, instead of giving broad advice like “let’s work on improving student engagement,” I provide very specific coaching next steps like this: I know that you’re really frustrated by the fact that half of your class is paying attention and half of your class seems to be checked out, so let’s get really practical about how we can train your entire class to engage in your lessons in a really upbeat way. I’d like to start by looking at making sure that understand what an engaged student looks like. How about I model a little 10 minute introduction I give at the beginning of every school year that outlines what I expect of a fully engaged student. I’ll teach them how I want them to act when I give directions, when I am having them take notes, when I am having them turn and talk during a lesson and, finally, how they should engage when they are working independently. While I demonstrate that, let’s have you take notes and then we’ll review the notes and determine which of the expectations you want to start with and we’ll get that one in place right away so that you see how it works wonders!

I try to remind myself that simple compliance or a nod of the head isn’t a confirmation that the teachers understand what I am talking about. I need to be talking openly with the teacher around the next steps in order for it to stick long term.

Question 3: Do I need to create a simple remind with the teacher so that the most important coaching next steps don’t get lost in the shuffle?

Throughout all of my years of coaching, I realize that sometimes the simplest solutions to big problems (like a lack of coaching that sticks) are super simple and practical. In the case of a lack of follow-through in the coaching work, sometimes I need to build-in a very tangible reminder system. (And I use the term “system” very loosely, as these are hardly sophisticated…but they work!)

So…what does a simple reminder system for your coaching next steps look like?
• It could look like a series of sticky notes that are placed in the upcoming weeks in the lesson plan book
• It could look like an Outlook calendar reminder that pops up on the day the teacher typically lesson plans
• It could even be something programmed into the teacher’s phone as a reminder to include the technique you shared as a next step during your coaching
• It could be an email reminder that you program into your email system to auto-send to the teacher each Monday for 4 weeks
• It could be a simple lesson planning checklist that you add the most important coaching information to so that the teacher can check his lesson plans to see that nothing has been dropped inadvertently

When I began to take responsibility for making my coaching stick longer than the debriefing, I saw that I was able to double down on my coaching impact. Instead of waiting for the already-overloaded teacher to follow-through flawlessly, I realized that I could increase the odds for implementation after a coaching cycle by purposely focusing on things that mattered and then giving them very specific ways to remember those things that mattered.

When we help our teachers prioritize the simple things that transform their teaching through our coaching relationships, we help secure and reinforce all of the professional development and coaching work we have done. Coaching feels like an absolute necessity to teachers when we are using their time well and they are seeing our coaching work as an essential part of their professional development. Once teachers see and feel the effects of our coaching on their long-term teaching, they are so open and ready for more. That is the sweet spot for any instructional coach.

What do you think?


If you like what you read so far, then I’m pretty sure you’ll like this and this, too!

I got REJECTED by Learning Forward! (Part 1)

I got REJECTED by Learning Forward! (Part 1)

Email I just got regarding an article I submitted…

Hi Jill, 

Thank you for submitting your article to The Learning Professional – we appreciate your interest in publishing with Learning Forward.

I am sorry to say we won’t be able to publish your article in an upcoming issue of our magazine. Reviewers read your article, “The most expensive instructional coaching mistake,” and appreciated reading your article. However, we’re afraid we don’t have a place for your article at this time.     

Thanks for sharing your story and best wishes in your work on behalf of kids.


Here’s Part 1 of the article that got DENIED!   (I chopped it into two parts since it’s a bit long!)

Title: The Most Expensive Instructional Coaching Mistake
Author: Jill Jackson
Theme: Demystifying coaching
Month: December 2019
Word Count: 2030
Contact Information:
Jill Jackson
Jackson Consulting, Inc.
(626) 827-4469
556 S. Fair Oaks Ave 364
Pasadena, CA 91105
Fax: (888) 586-4862

Speaker and Author:
·        Get a Backbone, Principal!
·        Get Some Guts, Coach!
·        How to Teach Students to Critically Think About Text
·        How to Coach Teachers to Teach Almost Anything
·        How to Teach Students to Write Informational Text
·        The Simplified Lesson Planning Formula

Learning Forward Standards:
·        Learning Communities: Engage in Continuous Improvement; Develop Collective Responsibility; Create Alignment and Accountability
·        Leadership: Develop Capacity For Learning And Leading; Advocate For Professional Learning; Create Support Systems And Structures
·        Learning Designs: Promote Active Engagement
·        Implementation: Sustain Implementation; Provide Constructive Feedback


The Most Expensive Instructional Coaching Mistake

Do you remember that Ron Popeil infomercial from long ago?  He demonstrated how you could put a chicken in this contraption that sat on your countertop and just “Set it and forget it?”  He instructed you to put the bird in his contraption, turn it on and walk away…and voila!  Dinner is served.

Well…ol’ Ron Popeil had it right about chicken, but the “Set it and forget it” motto doesn’t extend to every part of life…that’s for sure!  Take, for example, the world of instructional coaching and the practice of leading teachers to make small tweaks and adjustment to their teaching to improve its effect on students.

As coaches, we pre-conference, find our focus and determine where we’ll head with the coaching cycle.  We take notes and debrief the teacher about what we’ve seen, we reflect and ultimately our work results in the teacher taking action. In fact, the real action begins after the coaching cycle because the teacher carries the next step from the coaching cycle to the real-life classroom.

And it’s often at this point that we make the costliest coaching mistake: We leave the teacher on his/her own to implement the thing from the debriefing…essentially “setting it and forgetting it” at the most crucial follow-up point.

This leads to one of my top 3 most-asked coaching questions:  What do I do when a teacher has been coached in a skill and yet when I get back into the classroom, they’ve stopped using the skill or strategy?

As a coach, I can take this really personally…and even chalk it up to “resistance” when it actually isn’t.  One of the biggest lessons I learned in coaching came when I asked a teacher just why she didn’t keep on doing the things that she agreed to do in response to the data from our coaching cycle.

“I forgot.”

I mean it was really that simple?  It felt to me that it was almost passive aggressive or personal…like she dumped the literacy strategy we had worked on together or had made a conscious decision to stop using it.  I even questioned whether she had used it beyond our debriefing!  Was she just playing the coaching game to get me out of her hair?

As it turns out, she simply forgot to use the technique.  It truly was that simple.

Now, as a coach, I couldn’t imagine how she could forget to use it because it is really all I am focusing on with her.  But when I stepped into her shoes, I realized that I had a lot of competition in keeping her attention during coaching!  After all, she also had a math coach, was team lead for her grade level and was also balancing both a new science curriculum and math intervention program.  She was beyond busy and totally inundated with things she had to do…and had so little time to thoughtfully take it all in.

When I asked her if she forgot to use the technique from our coaching cycle because it didn’t work she told me that, in fact, it actually DID work!  She really liked it and found the strategy helpful.  But when she went to plan for the next week’s lessons, she was overcome by the sheer amount of content she had to incorporate and the technique we worked on just flew out of her mind.

The problem with this phenomena (and I see in nearly every school) is that is costs so much time and so must loss of momentum.  We spend the time on excellent coaching content and then when it doesn’t stick, we have to go back and re-do everything.  And no one has time for that.

And here’s the deal: it fatigues the teacher as well.  The teachers feels like she spent all this time in a coaching cycle just to end up doing the same thing over and over again, even though she has full control of what is implemented in her classroom…or not!

….PART 2 IN THE NEXT BLOG.  What do you think?


If you like what you read so far, then I’m pretty sure you’ll like this and this, too!

For The Instructional Coach Or Principal Who Feels Less Successful Than They Are

For The Instructional Coach Or Principal Who Feels Less Successful Than They Are

I recently facilitated a pretty tough conversation between a principal, coach and the staff.  Before they talked with the staff about how they were going to ‘right’ the coaching ship, we scripted what they were going to say and then practiced it a bunch of times.

Here was the basic outline of what the principal and coach shared with the staff:

“Staff, I want to take a few minutes to talk about our coaching plan.  First off, I want to acknowledge that I have done a pretty weak job in the past at setting up the coaching role. 

Our greatest asset on campus is our team of teachers and in order for us to increase how well and how effectively we teach, we need to continue to hone our craft.  This is where Bonnie comes in.  Bonnie was hired as our coach three years ago.  At first, I don’t think any of us had a clue what to do with her!  I know Bonnie would agree! 

When I first rolled out to you the idea that we were going to have a coach, I realized that some of you were less-than-excited and instead of explaining what the coaching would look like, I assumed (incorrectly) that when Bonnie showed up, everyone would be on board.

So, in her first few weeks she visited classes and got to know your kids and you a bit better.  Soon after, we pulled her from her coaching roll often to cover for teachers when we couldn’t find subs – I remember even asking her to cover the phones when we were short on office staff. 

Obviously, this is not what the role of the coach is designed for.  The longer time went on, the more Bonnie would try to get into your classrooms, but it was difficult for her because it appeared that you were not open to coaching.  Let me be very clear: I am not surprised that you appeared disinterested or resistant to the coaching.  After all, I gave you absolutely no context for what was expected of you…and Bonnie. 

I want to apologize for handling coaching poorly…and for letting it go on so long.  I also must apologize to Bonnie, as I was not supportive of her in the way that I need to be in order to get the results from coaching that we are expecting.

So, I ask you to allow me to hit the ‘reset’ button on our coaching process.   Our scores have shown that we are doing a lot of things really well for our kids instructionally.  Recent data has shown that our struggling students in Reading and Math are continuing to struggle – we are having difficulty moving that group of students.  I see this as a very important focus area for our coaching from this point out.

Over the next two staff meetings, I have asked Bonnie to share with you the role of the coach, the flow of the coaching, the timeline for coaching and what she sees as a logical place to start with each of you.  Please know that I have asked and do expect Bonnie to be working with each of you regularly. 

Some teachers might meet with Bonnie more often and some less often, but everyone on our campus will receive coaching from Bonnie.  How you are coached will be up to Bonnie and you – she has a structure for how to do this.

I appreciate your taking all of this information into consideration and allowing us to start fresh with our coaching work.  We know that the most powerful form of professional development is coaching – and we want to be using our coach in ways that have the greatest impact. 

While coaching might not be easy and it might require additional time from you, it is a major tool that we will use to continue to improve our service to our kids.”

What do you think?  Is there a principal on your team who needs a do-over?

If you liked this, I bet you’d want to check this out!

Instructional Coaches And Principals Who Want to Quit Work Some Day

Instructional Coaches And Principals Who Want to Quit Work Some Day

Have you had someone from your instructional coaching team tell you that they weren’t quite sure if this is the right fit for them?

I find that those kinds of conversations usually come out of a frustration with crabby teachers…people who make coaching a real trial for whatever reason.  It’s disheartening for a coach who is enthusiastic and excited about making a big splash on student achievement by working with the teachers.

Here’s a recent question I had from a frustrated coach…I wonder if this is something you might want to share with your coaching team as they think about the new school year?

Coach: I have been coaching in a building that held a lot of resistant staff. I think I have been focusing too much on them and not enough on those that are open to coaching. I have to report to my district leaders every month about who, and how often, I have 1:1 coaching sessions.

I think I’m so worried about the district seeing that I may never have those 1:1’s with some teachers. I feel like if I’m not coaching everyone I will be seen as a failure to my leaders. So, I invest a lot of energy trying to make those opportunities happen instead of spending more of my time with those few that want coaching.

My response: I think you’re right on.  It’s important for us to think about the long-term big picture, but we have to deal with things in the here and now.  (I try to remember this is in my own life, too!)  Yes – focus on the teachers that you can make movement with.  You’ll become more and more confident in coaching while you’re helping people who really want it. 

As you build confidence (even if you’re already confident, we can always learn more tricks of the coaching trade!), you’ll be even better at dealing with those who are more unwilling.  I often tell coaches to “Go for the joy!” – go for the win, build some excitement and then tackle the tough stuff!

What do you think?  Is there a member of your instructional coaching team that needs your encouragement on this?

If this resonates with you, check out what we’re doing next! 

6 Questions You Have to Answer Before Scheduling PD

6 Questions You Have to Answer Before Scheduling PD

You know how you learn something that is so important that you wish that you could go back to the past so that you can do them right?

Well, I feel that way about planning professional development.  My approach has always been that ‘more is more’ and that in order for a teacher to learn to do whatever it is that I am trying to teach them, they have to know EVERYTHING and EVERY NUANCE of that thing.

What I’ve come to realize (and it’s taken me, ummm…oh, just 20 years to realize it!) is that I need to give teachers the least amount of information that I can get away with so that they can quickly carry things back to the classroom and get started.

I know it sounds weird and I’m not going to say “less is more” because I don’t mean that.  It’s not just about doing less, it’s about working on the RIGHT STUFF.  We are plagued not by inaction these days in our schools, but by too much action.  And we have to think about this as we coach.

Here are the six questions I now ask myself when I am teaching anything to any educator.  These questions help me trim the fat and give them just what they’ll need and not much more:

  1. What will trip people up? (Spend extra time on this)
  2. What are the [five] parts of the thing I’m teaching that they absolutely have to learn? (And dump the other content)
  3. What is the order that the things in #2 above should logically be taught and learned in? (So that it flows and can be easily remembered)
  4. What is the best way to learn each of the steps? Should we read about it? Model it? Practice in the training room? Watch a video? (Not every piece of content is the best fit for a stand-and-deliver training)
  5. What is the least amount of training that we can provide or get away with? (Again…cut, cut, cut!)
  6. What skills have teachers already developed that we can hook this new thing to so it doesn’t feel brand new? (Helps folks feel like it’s always something new…but an advancement in something they’re already doing)

What do you think?  How might this info help your instructional coaching team?

Quick Heads Up!

(And I get that this is quite ironic that I’m inviting you to more training after the above writing,

but you can confidently file this under “the right thing” training…see you in September!

How to Effortlessly Coach Teachers without Being Eaten Alive

How to Effortlessly Coach Teachers without Being Eaten Alive

So, let’s help our instructional leaders and coaches get over their fear of how to talk to teachers about their instruction.

I mean, our teachers are pretty reasonable and mostly on-board with the coaching work, but sometimes principals and instructional coaches tip-toe around the first conversation that jumpstarts the coaching relationship.

Here are four really simple lead-ins your team can use right now to approach any teacher.

  • “You know, as I was reviewing our school data I noticed that your department was struggling with helping the kids master the vocabulary portion of the weekly assessment.  Talk to me about that.  Did you notice that?  Why do you think that is, where can we start to work on that?”
  • “Tell me, what are the things you said you picked up from our math training on Thursday?  How can I support you in getting started on that?”
  • “I was working with the seventh grade English teachers on getting students to respond in writing to an open-ended prompt – would that be something we could work on in your English class?”
  • “Hey, I wanted to follow up with you on our last team meeting.  How is your pre-teaching of the vocabulary to the English Language Learners going?  Are you seeing improvement in their comprehension of the text?”

Notice, we aren’t being weird or springing a weird convo on a teacher like a stranger jumping out of a bush (ha!)…we’re tying it to something we’re already doing, which keeps things feeling really natural…a key to getting teachers into the idea of coaching.

What do you think?  How might this info help your instructional coaching team?

If you liked this blog post, you might like this!