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!

Bourbon Street and the Classroom…Is There A Connection?!?

So here it is, it’s been proven again and again and yet again.  There’s no denying it.  We have to embrace it: Education and New Orleans have a lot in common.

There, I said it.  Don’t believe me?

Check out what we’ve learned about New Orleans this past week and how it reminds us of what’s important in education…

The food is spicy.
So are the kids…they aren’t boring, they need us to meet their energy with even more energy.

When you’re planning for a lesson, do you have the mindset that the kids should be well-behaved or do you have the mindset that you can use their excitement and engagement to “spice up” your lessons?  Energy and engagement within a lesson is the teacher’s job.  When I visit a classroom where the kids are bored out of their minds and the teacher is going through the motions, even I want to get the heck out of there…and I’m paid to be there!

So…what do you do about low engagement?  Ask yourself: are there parts of the lesson that I can anticipate will drag?  Well then, plan to speed up the pace or get the kids up and moving or make a connection to something that excites them.  Variety is the spice of New Orleans…and it’s your job to bring the spice to your classroom.

The culture is alive and kicking.
When we were walking down Bourbon street in and out of alleys and side-streets, we heard so many different languages!  It was so cool!  Some were so different (Creole!) that I had to listen really carefully to be able to understand.  Others were more familiar but different to my Los Angeles ears.  Our classrooms are just like this – they are full of different experiences, different dialects, different backgrounds and different perspectives.

We have to plan our lessons to incorporate the background knowledge that our kids bring to the lessons.  As I prep, I think:

  • What leaps do the materials require my kids to learn?  What “holes” do I have to fill in order for them to access the content?
  • What simple background info do I need to give my kids so that they can get the rest as they dive into the content?
  • What pre-teaching of vocabulary words do I need to do quickly?  Which words should I teach?  Which should I just tell so that they can get quickly into the content?

The party lasts all night long.
So we can’t exactly party on school grounds like they do on Bourbon Street, BUT we can keep the learning going well beyond the school day or past the end of the lesson.  How do we do this?

  • Focus on the quality of responses that you require students to give.  For example, instead of asking kids to respond with the “correct” answer…make sure they have the “complete” answer – this will help them to use the academic language more frequently.
  • Challenge students to use the target vocabulary in multiple settings across content areas so that it becomes part of their speech, not just something they memorize to “pass the test” – have them keep a tally of how many times they’ve used the words – this makes way for long term storage of the vocabulary.

Here’s my mantra for this week:  Great teaching happens on purpose…as does poor teaching.

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?