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!

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

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!

Ummm, you left your keys outside

Have you ever headed out to the car in a rush and can’t find your keys? You search all around and retrace your steps and you are about to call a friend to give you a ride when you take that one last look outside and you find that you left your keys dangling in the lock on the outside of the door?

Well I have.  And it’s usually when I’m trying to do 1 million things at once!

(Side note: Some of you are from rural areas and thinking, “What is she talking about? I don’t even lock my door at night!  If that’s you, just go with me here…I’m a California girl where we set the alarm when we’re home during the DAY!)

We work so hard to protect our homes from flood, from fire, from mold, from asbestos, from intruders, from earthquakes…but when we leave the keys dangling in the lock outdoors, we undo all of our security work and put ourselves at risk…all with one careless move!

I find that I have the “keys dangling in the lock on the outside of the door” talk with many educators that I work with, but instead of talking about intruders like I might at home, I find myself saying things like this:

  • “What do you mean you stopped doing your interventions two weeks early because of state testing?”
  • “Huh?  You allowed a presenter to come to your school and tell the teachers that SBRR is a thing of the past?”
  • “You’re kidding me, you haven’t followed through on monitoring the pacing plan and two teachers are two units apart?”    
  • “I must be hearing things…did you say that you haven’t had a leadership meeting in three months because things ‘got hectic’?”

Let me be clear here.  The people we work with are not dumb, they’re not ignorant, they’re not frivolous or silly in their pursuits, BUT they do tend to leave the keys to the kingdom dangling in the lock and allow intrusion into areas that they should be protecting like their own homes (see bullets above!).  Let me explain.

Most of our clients come to us because they have a problem to solve: low literacy and reading scores.  So, the nature of our clients literacy work is this: something isn’t working right and they need help figuring out how to fix it.  (We’re kind of like personal trainers…you want help to become more fit but then sometimes you fight the trainer because you don’t want to do the work.)  This is a common occurrence and we know how to deal with it and keep everyone on track!

What I find that successful schools have in common is this: they stay the course no matter what – they do not leave the keys dangling outside allowing someone or something to take control of them within their knowledge.

What I find that less-successful schools have in common is this: they are easily side-tracked and tend to veer off track if something sounds like a better idea.

So, if you are an educator who works in a less-successful school or classroom, you have to ask yourself – are we leaving the keys dangling in the lock and allowing any ol’ fool to come in here and tell us what to do or how we need to change our plan?  Are we falling for “flash” over substance when it comes to curricular materials or techniques?  Are we doing the “knee jerk” dance, flip flopping everywhere when something pops up as interesting?

If any of the above things sound familiar, then you’ve probably left the keys to the kingdom outside.

How do we become less knee-jerk-ish (new word, I quite like it!) and more stay-the-course-ish (new word, I like IT too!)?

Here are 4 simple steps to getting back on track by bringing the keys into a safe place:

STEP 1:  When you are working with a consultant or attending a training/conference, when there is new information presented, ask yourself,

  • “What is the research base?”  or
  • “If I were to implement this technique would it cause me to get off course with the task at hand?”  or
  • “Do I need to file this idea under ‘great idea, just not now’?”

STEP 2: When you are looking at the data and it’s not looking like you want it to and you’re tempted to dump everything and start over, ask yourself,

  • “Have I honestly worked all aspects of the current plan I have in place?” and
  • “Have I given the current plan enough time to have effect?” and
  • “Am I jumping to another idea because I’m frustrated, bored or tired?”

STEP 3:  Slow down. Oftentimes we allow outside intruders to enter our school when we’re so busy we don’t even know they’ve snuck in.  Aim to work more methodically and not fall prey to all of the fires that need to be put out – sometimes they go out on their own.

STEP 4:  Give yourself a timeline when you implement anything.  I find that when we say, “We are going to work with this plan for 2.5 months before we make any alterations, this tends to get rid of the falling-for-the-flash, knee-jerk, abandon-the-plan behaviors that derail success.  This is such a simple but powerful step AND a cool side effect?  When we know we have to buckle down, we tend to not even look at other ideas.  And that’s a good thing!

So, here’s the question of the blog: Are your keys dangling outside just waiting for some ugly and awful intruder to infiltrate your school?


An iPad is the Holy Grail…and other lies I tell myself

So, it’s Sunday night and I have another one of my recurring thoughts: How is THIS week going to be different with my diet and exercise? 

Can you relate? 

I mean I haven’t been doing too badly…I’ve cut Diet Coke (except for the five I drank on Friday night, but it was Friday night and so it doesn’t count because Friday is different than other days in so many ways, but I digress…a lot) and I’ve tried to not eat after 7pm and I’ve walked twice in the past week (I know, breaking records all over the place for commitment). 

These little changes that do add up, but still NOT the golden ticket.

So late this afternoon while I’m packing for my trip tomorrow and sipping my Diet Coke…um, water…I have a brilliant thought.  And here it is:

I need an iPad. 

An iPad?  To do what?


If I had an iPad, I would download my mp3s that I listen to for my business coaching.

Then I would take said iPad to the gym that I joined in a fancy shmancy part of town (you know, the gym I joined because it’s in a safer part of town so that when I’m coming home late from the airport and I want to put in a workout at midnight after an 18 hour day I could be safe…yeah THAT gym – the one I’ve not visited in a month). 

I would hook up my iPad with said mp3s into the elliptical (my favorite thing, if anything in the gym could be characterized as “favorite”). 

I would listen to my coaching recordings and take notes on the little bitty post-it note app.  All whilst (I like saying that word as often as possible) I was working out and sweating up a storm.

Tell me this doesn’t sound like a GREAT idea!

Here’s the problem – it’s not about the iPad.  It’s not about the elliptical.  It’s not about the fancy gym in the good part of town.  It’s not about the 18 hour days.  It’s about me.  And my commitment.  Or lack thereof.

So all of my shenanigans have brought me to remember this one quote that I have on my office bulletin board: A YEAR FROM NOW WILL YOU WISH YOU HAD STARTED TODAY.

Oh my, I love that! And I hate it at the same time…it’s too true for me!

So, here I am on Sunday night now, getting ready for the week after a fun dinner with friends and some good TV catching-up to do (my not-so-guilt pleasure after lots of hard work).  And I don’t want tomorrow to be yet another start to the week where I say, “Tomorrow’s a new day.  You are going to work out 19 times this week,” and then do nothing and crab at myself in my head.

Because that’s what I do – I over-commit and then get down on myself when I don’t follow through.

When I’m trying to break a habit or start a new one, I try to stay positive by doing a few little things:

  1. Focus on what IS possible, not what is not possible
  2. Cast a wide net and give myself a big vision for the future, but figure out one small, do-able change I can make to get closer to my goal
  3. Talk nicely to myself
  4. Change my morning routine a bit to accommodate the change – get started off on the right foot
  5. Get away from the “I’m so bad I ate a cookie” or “I was so ‘good’ because I didn’t eat a cookie” mentality – after all, I think I’m a pretty good chick most of the time, so this isn’t about ‘bad’ and ‘good’ anyway  – a missed workout or one-too-many cookies doesn’t make me a bad person – or at least I hope it doesn’t because I’m in deep trouble…

You might be thinking…wait a minute – isn’t this a literacy blog?  Where does she start talking about books and stuff?

Well, I might skip the book talking (you can read my past and future blogs with lots of that stuff in it) in this article, but what I DO want you to think about is this: What do you need to do to improve the health of your literacy work? 

If you’re a leader…what small habits can you get rid of or add to your life to become a more effective instructional leader?

If you’re a coach…is there anything in your role that’s standing in the way of you being a more excellent coach?  If so, what step can you make to remove that block?

If you’re a teacher…is there an area that your data is showing that you need to make some improvement?  Do you need to ask for help or start a conversation with a colleague to help you build something into your instruction to deal with that data?

My goal this week is to get three, yes only three but I’m trying to be realistic, workouts in this week while I’m on the road.

Where will you start?