URGENT: The Dr.’s Prescription for your “It would be nice if”- Syndrome

We’re suffering.  From something that’s totally treatable.  But we have to act fast.

What ails us?

It’s the “It would be nice if”- syndrome.

Here’s what it sounds like:

  • It would be nice if I had more prep time
  • It would be nice if the grade level before us would actually teach the kids what they need to know for my grade level
  • It would be nice if the kids would actually do their homework
  • It would be nice if I could have more aide time
  • It would be nice if we didn’t have to have all those walk-throughs during my teaching

Here’s the problem with the “It would be nice if”- syndrome:

  • It’s built around talking – not action!  And successful schools are all about the doing, not just the chatting.
  • It’s focusing on a dream world!  I hate to break it to you, but we work with kids.  Kids do not exist in a dream world…they pull us right into reality.  Everyday.
  • It takes the focus on what matters most: the quality of the interaction between the teacher and the students!
  • It kills our momentum!  We lose ground when we waste our time talking about things that might not happen – plus we give away our instructional power when we base our students’ success on external sources.

So….you might be wondering what the heck you DO about the “It would be nice if”- syndrome!  Well, Dr. Jackson, (I’m not really a doctor, but I play one in this blog) has just the prescription for YOU!

Prescription One: Realize right now that the return on your teaching begins with the PREP.  If you have a highly prepped lesson, you have less behavioral interruptions, more engagement and have more time during the lesson to listen to your students and see what their learning.

Prescription Two: When you are in teacher meetings/team meetings, focus the work on TASKS, not just discussions.  If you find that your team is all talk/no action, throw in one of these statements: “Ok guys…let’s talk about what we’re going to DO after this conversation” or “Alrighty – let’s focus on what we have control of so that we can get started right away!”.  Focusing on an action immediately pulls you out of the all talk/no action problem.  Sometimes we’re just in a bad habit of doing way more talking than we do acting and we just need someone to help us get pulled out of it!  Let that person be YOU!

Prescription Three: Analyze your time spent at work.  How much time is spent talking about the heart of instruction?  How much time is spent actually crafting lessons and not just prepping materials?  How much reflective conversation do you have with your coaches or your colleagues about your teaching?  These types of questions drive your time and conversations directly back to that interaction between teacher and student – – -and that’s what really matters!

If you suffer from the “It would be nice if”- syndrome, then it’s your responsibility to take steps to recover!  Here’s the cool thing: It’s actually pretty simple to recover.  You start by doing. 

Yep, that’s it!

Win Your Time Back! Five Simple Steps Make Every Classroom More Efficient

I love a good list – I put silly things on the list just so I can cross them off.  For example, instead of putting “laundry” on the list, I’ll put “Do 3 loads of laundry” and then a separate bullet will be “Fold laundry”.  I get to cross off TWO things that way!

While I might be a little neurotic about my lists, I do know that when I’m out and about working with educators, the one thing that they always talk about and don’t have enough of is TIME.  So, I’m intrigued with this idea of working more efficiently – – and how we can actually create time by doing so.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with teachers who have their system DOWN PAT.  The kids have the system down pat.  And they don’t run around during their break like a chicken with their heads cut off and have a mental breakdown when the copy machine breaks down.  Why?  Because they are in control.

In control-ness means efficiency.  Or is efficiency in control-ness?

If you’re like so many time-strapped educators, I encourage you to stop the “I don’t have enough time” talk and figure out WHERE you can CREATE TIME!  Here are 5 spots to get started:

Step 1: Take 1 minute at the top of each day to get organized

Have a list on the board of everything that the kids need to have out on their desks in one minute.  One teacher I know draws a diagram of what she wants the desks to look like (composition book on the upper left corner, colored pencils on the bottom right, homework in the middle, science book under the homework) and then scans desks before she even starts teaching to make sure they have everything.  The one minute you spend getting organized means you save yourself the frustration and time in the long run!

Step 2: Use a timer
Figure out exactly where you’re losing time – is it transitions?  Is it morning/beginning of period routine?  Is it handing out papers?  Is it during partner work?  Then, challenge the students to beat their time.  Say to your students: “Folks, we’re losing 5 minutes an hour during transitions because we’re taking our precious time and talking with our friends too much.  Let’s see if we can make this transition under 30 seconds.  Go!”. Anything’s better if it’s a challenge!

Step 3: Pre-establish partners at the end of the day
There is always lost time and DRAMA around partners!  I don’t enter into that and I certainly don’t give the kids the opportunity to choose their partners because they’re going to switch them all of the time anyway.  So, at the end of the day I say, “Tomorrow guys and gals, we are going to switch partners.  I’m going to take 1 minute right now to tell you who your partner is so that you’re ready to roll tomorrow morning.  If you choose to be crabby about your partner, then you will stay with me during your recess/passing period because we don’t have time for that foolishness and we’re better than that!”  Then in the morning or next period, they are already SET!

Step 4: Have an exit strategy!
We do ourselves a disservice when we start the top of the day with the “this is everything I have to get through”  mentality.  No doubt there is a TON of “stuff” that we have to teach, but we have to prioritize the content so that we aren’t just getting through it while students watch.  Watching does not equal learning!                                                                                                                       

Here’s what I suggest: Go through your content for the next day and highlight in green what MUST be taught.  Highlight in yellow what SHOULD be taught and highlight in pink what can be dropped off if needed.  While we’ll be focused on teaching everything, we have to have an exit strategy if needed!

Step 5: Avoid giving directions until you have all eyes on you

The BEST classroom management skill that I can give anyone is “don’t give directions until you have all eyes on you!”.  Why?  Then you don’t have to go around and keep repeating yourself a zillion times to those students who didn’t listen in the beginning!  Try it!  It works like a CHARM!

Becoming more efficient is about taking CONTROL.  And I find that the most in-control educators are most satisfied…they don’t feel “done to” – they feel powerful!  And I hope the same for you!

If you’re interested in finding time-saving techniques and free tools – click on the “Free Resources” tab at www.jackson-consulting.com – – I’m waiting for you there!

Y’all…We Did It


We’ve got reason to celebrate!!!!!!!

If you know me, you know I don’t operate in a perfect world – in fact I actually prefer to get down and dirty with our clients and deal with what IS, not what ISN’T!

Sometimes it’s hard to have perspective on what makes schools successful…especially when the scores aren’t popping and bursting forth as fast as we’d all like them to.

But every once in awhile I get a surprise…and this one actually made me tear up a bit, I was absolutely thrilled and proud!

I was working with a client a week ago and while I was there, their scores on their state standardized test were released.  Some were good and some were not so great and some were, well, A SURPRISE!

My principal client got her scores and immediately saw a high number (higher than they’ve performed ever before) and thought, “Oh dang, these must be from another school…” – they were too high to be from HER school after all!

Then she looked closer. 

Nope.  They were from HER SCHOOL! 

(Warning, here’s the part where I teared up)

So during our break that day she gathered her staff and whispered to them at the lunch table: “Y’all…we did it.”  Yep, four simple words that summed it up: Y’all. We. Did. It.

What did they do?

  • They followed their teacher’s manuals everyday
  • They worked together to make some significant and small change to their management
  • They taught more content because they used their time more efficiently
  • They stayed the course on the grade level material even when it got tough
  • They didn’t freak out when observers came in
  • They incorporated advice and ideas from their principal, coach and supporters
  • They ditched practices that didn’t get results and replaced them with those that did
  • They were open
  • They put their heads down and worked hard

And here’s the awesome thing: while they were putting their heads down and getting it done, the students learned. Their confidence grew.  They were open.  And they did it.

Now let me say this: THEY ARE NOT PERFECT.  There is room to grow, decisions yet to be made, adjustments to the current system to drive the scores even higher.

The even awesomer (not a word I know, but SO fitting!) thing: In spite of the fact that they aren’t perfect, they STILL GOT IT DONE.

What are the encouragements in it all?

  1. You don’t have to be “perfect” to get results…so don’t wait on perfection
  2. Even the most stubborn students (and teachers!) can change the course
  3. You CAN teach old dogs new tricks (ha!)
  4. Anything is possible

“If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.”
Samuel Johnson


Have you lost your way?

One of the things that makes me laugh out loud is when folks say, “Oh I would love to be a teacher, all that vacation and fun with the kids sounds so wonderful!”  (Don’t you just want to gag and roll your eyes at the same time?  I do!)


Now I tend to think that teaching is hard, FUN work, but sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who thinks of it as fun.  I wonder if sometimes we’ve lost our way.  Or lost our oomph.

I worry about educators who are going through the motions, who, as they say, “teach the same year 33 times” – no innovation, no reflection, no adjustment…no joy or oomph.  I don’t think that because you’ve lost your way you can’t find your way back, but sometimes getting back on track and remembering our purpose takes some work.  The work is not just spent on what I’m FEELING, but what I’m PRODUCING.  In other words – my success as a teacher starts with my attitude but ends with my performance.

When I work to coach educators who have lost their way in their school or on their team or in their office, I oftentimes start with the FACTS so that we don’t get mired in the emotion of it all (though that is an important part and next step to re-committing to one’s purpose).

I wanted to share with you the questions (they’re pretty technical, but so is teaching) that I usually start with.  Once I’ve identified the baseline data with a client, oftentimes they realize that the problem they THOUGHT they had wasn’t really the problem or the problem that they thought they had wasn’t actually as severe as they originally thought. 

So, whether you think you’ve lost your way or whether you’re raring to go, you can use these guiding questions to help you reflect on the results of your passion or purpose!  Check ‘em out:

  1. What grade level has the most clearly defined and executed model?  How do you know that they are faithful to their model?
  2. What grade level has the farthest to grow in defining and executing a plan of action for Tiers I, II, III?  Why have they not progressed in the past in following a plan?
  3. What grade levels are on their way, but need support in further refining their model?
  4. Does your support staff know their role in providing instruction for students or support for the classroom teachers or specialists?
  5. How do you currently match materials with the needs of students?
  6. What is your success rate with “exiting” students from intervention?  Is it a life sentence once they are intervention candidates?
  7. What work needs to be done with the classroom teachers so that they can maximize their Tier I instruction, therefore reducing the number of students receiving additional instructional support?
  8. What materials are you having the most success with?  What aspects of the model are you having the most success with?  Are there stakeholders who are not currently participating in differentiating instruction, but could be tapped to provide small group instruction?
  9. What is your expectation, from a leadership perspective, about the growth of the students receiving Tier II and III instruction?  How do you know that they need to be exited?

Did one particular question stick with you? 

Come over to my facebook page (www.facebook.com/jacksonconsulting) and post the question on the wall and see what others think about it!

We must put an end to this…and I mean it!

We’re better than this.  We are more professional than this.  We are more skilled than this.

What is “this”?

It is a conversation that goes something like…

Oh my.  Just WAIT until you get my kids next year…good luck!”

“We have that really wild group of 4th graders coming through…wait until you get ’em next year.  Yowza!’

“These parents are a trip!  I’m glad I get to send them to you next year.”

THIS is the “this” that we must stop immediately.  Why?

Because here’s what we’re doing when we talk like that:

  • We are pre-establishing our expectations to “this won’t work”
  • We are admitting “I couldn’t make this work”
  • We are saying “There’s no hope for these kids”
  • We are setting the kids up to a “You won’t make it” future

I don’t know about you, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you are about as competitive or
driven as I am – I want to be great, I want my students to be great and part of how  judge my
performance is by my ability to work with ANY kind of students with ANY kind of parent.

I usually find that it’s the same people who “always have the low kids” or “always get the rude parents”…and I don’t believe it for one second!   I’ve seen teachers take the “same kids” and the “same parents” and they work WONDERS!  And the kids are happy!  And the parents are kind and engaged!  What was the difference?  The teacher.


So, I hope that you’ll join me in keeping “teaching” family business within the family.  What does this mean?

  • Spread the good stuff about teaching and keep the venting to 1-2 colleagues who can help you get out of a funk by some good problem-solving.
  • Check your attitude and see what your response is when you hear the Negative Nelly’s griping about next year’s students – do you engage?  Do you smile and move on?
  • When you get a new class of kids, do you check the cum files to see about their “past” or do you give them a fresh start?  Everyone deserves a fresh start.
  • Do you anticipate the troublesome kids and prepare a plan BEFORE they arrive so that you can AVOID troubles?

If I’m talkin’ your language…click the “like” button at the top of the post, or leave your two cents below!