By Jill Jackson
I remember when my local office supply store started stocking the big red “EASY” button on the counters near the register. I had visions of carrying it with me when I embarked on my weekly, travel-for-work exploits! Just the thought of stepping out of the line as my flight is delayed for the umpteenth time and finding a quiet corner at O’ Hare and smacking that “EASY” button seemed somehow soothing … if only it worked that way!
Oddly enough, I think that quite a few folks in education are trying to bring that “EASY” button into their offices or classrooms.
Here’s what the “EASY” button sounds like: “Gee, teaching didn’t used to be this hard; what happened to the good ole days?” or “Wow! I need to figure out an easier way to do this!” or “Isn’t there a way that I can make this faster?” or “If only the parents/prior teachers/board/administrators/community would do ____, then I wouldn’t have to spend so much time.”
Here’s the secret: THE EASY BUTTON HAS LOST ITS POWER! Well, it never really had any power, but let’s not get hung up on that.
The real deal is this: Teaching is hard. There, I said it! Teaching is hard, and it’s not for the faint of heart —or the faint of spirit, for that matter.
So we really need to level with ourselves and change the conversation from “How can I simplify this?” to “How can I make this more powerful for the students?”
By switching the conversation, we are placing the focus on the STUDENTS we serve. We organize around what is best and most efficient and effective for the kids—even when it’s tough on the adults … even when it stretches us and causes us to stay a little later, prep a little longer, ask a zillion more questions, or ask for help and risk admitting that we don’t have the answer. And who benefits? The kids AND the teachers.
Why is dumping the “Easy” button helpful to teachers? Because we gain confidence in what we’re capable of doing for our students. That’s the way confidence grows: by trying something you didn’t think you could do and actually doing it! And NOTHING tops a confident teacher!
So once we dump the “EASY” button, what will things look like on our campuses?
- We will discuss options for fixing teaching problems without the filter of “How much time will this take?”
- We will analyze our current practices and ask: What practices serve me well, but don’t necessarily pay off for my students?
- We spend the time in the lesson prep, knowing that excellent teachers make teaching look easy because they’ve planned for lessons so thoroughly.
- We will remind each other during team meetings that just because something is difficult or time-consuming doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.
I’ve been working with struggling schools for more than 10 years now, and what I have learned over time is that teaching is NOT magic, and it IS difficult. But more than so many other professions, it’s worth it because the return on the time/energy/expertise investment is off the charts!
Commit with me to working through the difficult, even when the “Easy” button seems like the thing to do. We won’t regret it.
Jill Jackson is owner and managing director of Jackson Consulting, a full-service literacy consulting and school improvement company serving the nation’s lowest-performing/high-poverty school districts. Check out Jill’s tell-it-like-it-is tools and tips at www.jackson-consulting.com, Tweet her at www.twitter.com/TheJillJackson, or post to her wall at www.facebook.com/jacksonconsulting.