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!

The New Normal

I was talking with a group of teachers recently and we were discussing (bemoaning?) how much teaching has changed and how much more pressure there is now than in the past.

One of the teachers in the group was a three-year veteran and her response to the conversation was “What’s changed? It seems the same to me!”

Well, this got me thinking…

Teaching has changed – there is more transparency, more accountability, more press coverage, more curriculum and more testing.

Parents are more savvy about their children’s education, students are more savvy about their own education and there are many experts publicly telling the insiders in education how to get the job done. So where does this leave us?

It leaves us with the “new teaching normal”.

The new normal includes more observations in our classrooms, public discussion of our success in the classroom, parents asking probing questions about the nitty gritty of our teaching, experts weighing in on our performance and how to improve it.

We progress monitor, diagnose, differentiate, collaborate, write and rewrite lessons, figure out how to engage our students from moment to moment….and the list goes on.

We are living proof of what the teaching profession will be now and in the future: this is it! We can look back at the “good ol’ days”, but that is only causing us to bemoan the present and pine for the past…and that doesn’t get us anywhere!

Here’s the good news about the new normal:

  • We know more about our students and their performance
  • We know more about their instructional history
  • We know more about interventions that work
  • We know more about research
  • We know more about what happens in the classroom next door

All of these things equal KNOWINGNESS!  We know without a shadow of a doubt what works.  And that’s POWER. 

Can I get an amen??!?!?!?!!?

I am proud to be a part of an evolving profession – we can no longer just do “business as usual” when we have so much information to support past practices and new opportunities. A major professional responsibility is to evolve with the profession, not against it.

So, let’s keep the “good ol’ days” the “good ol’ days”. Let’s focus on what an exciting opportunity we have to be daily practitioners of the evolving teaching profession. It’s exciting!

Weigh in on this: What’s the biggest leap for you to “the new normal”?  www.facebook.com/jacksonconsulting

Joy or Pain…Your Call

Teaching is a combination of the science and the art of the preparation and delivery.

When I’ve asked kids what makes a “super teacher” in their eyes, they typically identify teachers who really LIKE them.

They don’t call it rapport, but that’s exactly what it is.

This is what I see in their classrooms:

  • They add bits and pieces of joy regularly.  Like they’re really liberal with their use of it.  The pencil sharpening is “fun” because it’s done with purpose.
  • Teach with enthusiasm.  Like they’re REALLY happy to teach things like, ugh, GRAMMAR and, eek, SPELLING.
  • Connect with students.  Like they really like their kids.  They actually talk with them – not in a “listen so that this story can be over quickly dismissive kind of way”.

I know that you have so much to do in a day – the pressures are high – the administration is riding you that the scores are never high enough.

But in spite of all of that, I have a question that I really want you to take time to think about.  Like really, really think about: if someone were sitting in the balcony of your classroom and watching your performance, what would they see? 

Joy is contagious and a great motivator for the teacher and students!  Oh, and it has reaches far beyond just being “happy” at school…it is a BIG part of increasing those scores.

I’ve given you a list of the types of things that I see and hear in joyful classrooms.  Adopt some of these as your own…

  • “Tristan, let’s have your group share with us now…”
  • “Stephen, remember when you told us about XYZ last week? This is like that…”
  • “Good job guys! Excellent work.”
  • “Yes! We got it right!”
  • “I knew you could do it…”
  • “Let’s watch Tabitha as she shows us…”
  • “You are excellent!”
  • ”I know you’re working hard…”
  • “You’re tired, but you can do this!”
  • “Let’s not let this work get the best of us…”
  • “Thank you so much for your hard work…”
  • “I am so excited to see you…”
  • “Let’s try it this way and see if we get better results…”
  • “Turn to your partner and tell them ‘you’re great!’”

I know there are many of our readers who have perfected the art of a joyful classroom.  Visit our Facebook page right now and share your “joy tricks”.  I want to learn from YOU!

If Not the Data Then What?

I have decided to send you a piece that I wrote on April 6, 2011 instead of writing something new.  That’s how strongly I feel about this topic.

As I was reviewing a bunch of copy that I’d written in preparation for an upcoming book (yes, it’s in the works!), I came across what could possibly be the most FRUSTRATED and OUTRAGED writing I’ve ever done. 

My brief article was written in response to a series of investigations about the Los Angeles Unified School District. 

I’m known for telling it like it is, and I am doing just that – again.  Here’s why…
…we cannot forget our responsibility
…we cannot forget the kids we serve
…we cannot forget why we chose education – or why it chose us
…we cannot forget our sense of mission by getting involved in things unrelated to our work
…we cannot forget that we can’t learn to get things right on the backs of our students


Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles Times’ reports on the lack of effectiveness in teaching as a hot button topic this week and I’m glad.

I have poured over the original articles, the Union’s rebuttals and possible strike orders, Arne Duncan’s comments…but I have learned the most by reading the comments following the articles – many responses say that the tests are “unfair” and “biased” and “too narrow” and one of the most incendiary comments in my book was the Union’s statement: public disclosure of the results “dangerous” and “irresponsible.”

“Irresponsible” to be held responsible?

“Dangerous” to make public the results of what our kids are spending their time doing 180 days per school year? I’m outraged.

Question: If it’s not about the data then what is it about? If we don’t use state standardized tests to measure student performance and teacher performance and report out who has made the cut and who hasn’t, then what is the measuring stick and who is going to determine what metric the measuring stick will be this year?

After visiting hundreds of kids and working with thousands of educators, I have come to understand that teachers who are teaching their tails off don’t sweat the state test – they know their kids are going to meet benchmark.

Teachers who are teaching their tails off don’t sweat the state test – they knew early in the year who needed extra support and they gave it.

Teachers who are teaching their tails off don’t sweat the state test they see the test as the MINIMUM requirement for their students.

Teachers who are teaching their tails off don’t sweat the state test – THEY ARE TOO BUSY TEACHING.