Dr. Marcus Jackson has been involved as a leader in education for 20 years. He was raised by a single mother who had eight children, six boys and two girls. Dr. Jackson was the second youngest of those six boys and the concept of accountability was something he learned from a young age. He became an All-American basketball player in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and went on to play in college at Georgia Southwestern State University.
After college, Dr. Marcus Jackson began working as a community coordinator for the City of Atlanta for at-promise youth (he does not use the phrase at-risk). This experience of educating and mentoring in the community and working with Atlanta youth inspired him to get involved as an educator within the school system. He taught school for three years and became a Teacher of the Year. He went on to become an assistant principal and then principal for several different schools. Whenever a school needed to be turned around, Dr. Marcus Jackson was sent in. He was a very successful principal at the elementary, middle school, and high school level and also became a college professor at Clark Atlanta University.
Currently Dr. Marcus Jackson is the director of curriculum instruction in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and he is responsible for transforming 12 low performing schools, 10 elementary schools and two middle schools. He is also the CEO of Jackson Educational Consultants. He has written the books, Because My Teacher Said I Can and School and Life Living in the Middle. His latest book is 10 Daily Essentials for Principals, which is a bestseller on Amazon and the first in a series of five books discussing essential tips for principals, assistant principals, teachers, parents, and students.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
When I was working as a community coordinator for the City of Atlanta, every day after school over 200 youth ages 5 to 18 would come to the Community Center which was located in one of the most poverty-stricken areas of Atlanta. I found that I enjoyed being an educator within the community, but as a result I met many students that were not meeting their potential and found that in some cases, they had teachers that had little belief in the ability of the kids to do well. This inspired me to become an educator within the school system to see what a difference I could make and to challenge more students to succeed and live up to their true potential.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I spent a lot of time visiting schools. I am in the schools collaborating with the teachers and principals. We are working together to plan highly effective lessons for the students. I do a great deal of coaching and I observe classrooms to provide feedback to the teacher and principals. Of the 12 schools I am responsible for, I try to visit at least three schools each day, though with COVID-19, I have had to minimize the face-to face time. But we have done observation and virtual planning meetings with the principals using Zoom. I also have meetings with the superintendent, the chief academic officer, and all the directors from every level, elementary, middle, and high school level, as we fine tune our district plan to ensure all of our students reach their optimal level academically.
We still have students together in classrooms, but there are fewer kids in the room. On top of the challenges due to COVID-19, our students also missed the first nine weeks of school because of Hurricane Laura which had totally devastated St. Charles, Louisiana. Even right now, months afterward, some of the schools still have roof damage. Our students have the option to come to school or do school virtually. We have a virtual coordinator within our district and she provides feedback to me and to the principals on how the virtual students schools are doing. The school has systems in place to keep in contact and provide support to the parents of the virtual students.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a very unique system that I use. I am a constant thinker and a constant reader, but usually my ideas come to mind when I am interacting with the kids. I talk to the kids and they often inspire me or give me great ideas.
We might think of someone in an executive position sitting in an office and discussing best strategies and best practices, but I go directly to the students for ideas. When I was visiting a middle school, there was a student that noticed I was always leaving the building or coming back to the building and he asked me where I was going. My response to him was that most of the time I am going to a meeting. This 6th grader then asked me, ‘Do our teachers go to meetings as well?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to me, ‘Everybody goes to meetings and you all are meeting about us, but nobody meets with us to talk to us.’
I thought that was so profound, so I started meeting with students and asking how I could serve them better. They gave me very intriguing answers that we as adults would not have even thought of. Many times, my most innovative ideas come from talking to students and teachers and then bringing those ideas to the district level.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The trend that excites me now is the virtual trend. We have been forced to go virtual. But our kids for over a decade have been yearning for our education system to integrate technology at another level. Now we have been forced to do it. Most of our students are so tech savvy; however, the adults, the educators and parents are behind. We are playing catch-up to learn about a variety of different formats that meet the technological needs of our students. We have made the shift and are now becoming stronger, wiser, resilient, and more tech savvy than we were last year.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I learned as an athlete to always be early. I would always try to be the first one at practice and the last one to leave. Nobody is going to outwork me. I have an impeccable work ethic.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would probably get into the field of education earlier. That was not the route I had planned on. I wanted to coach and be the director of a community center. I had that opportunity to work in the community, but it inspired me and led me to get involved in education which has been truly rewarding for me.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I can dance. But people do laugh when they see me dance. It’s not what people expect from me because I often seem very serious, but I have some moves. I am a very good dancer. Of course, I must have thick skin to be in this position, but I am definitely a little more sensitive than people might think. I have learned over the years in leadership that it is okay to be vulnerable.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Reflecting, revising, and responding. I am always looking for ways to be the best version of myself. How can I improve me? I am my worst critic. I am very tough on myself and a lot of that comes from my background in athletics. I am constantly trying to do better. Right now, I am working on trying to type faster. It’s a simple improvement I want to make.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Reading. Leaders are readers. I am always reading blogs, articles, and books that are recommended to me from leadership groups that I am a part of. I compile the information that I learn and share it with the principals that I work with.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I was a very successful assistant principal. I had the answers, and everyone knew me as an innovative leader. But when I went to a new school and became principal, I thought I could transfer everything I had done before, but the new school had different challenges and some of my ideas were met with resistance. My mentor helped me to reflect, reassess, and revise some of the things I was doing so I could build a culture of collaboration at that school. I was able to unite the staff and trust them to get the job done and the school was able to advance to a higher level of achievement.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I started thinking about starting my education consulting company because so many people who heard me speak took note of my educational leadership abilities. It is so important to provide a service or product that is needed in your community.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I mentor a 9th grade student. His parents are having some challenges and he has subpar living conditions, but he is still excelling in school. I went to visit him and I did not like the condition of his shoes. I told him I was proud of him and I went and bought him a new pair of shoes. I enjoyed seeing his face light up like a Christmas tree. It was great.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I would say WordPress since I have a blog. I recently had a parent reach out to me on social media asking for ideas on encouraging her son. Responding to her question gave me a great idea for writing a blog post. I love being able to reach people through my blog.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend The Purpose Driven Life. It is a book that encourages you to think deeply in regard to your purpose in life. Unfortunately, many of us spend our entire life without discovering our “why” and our purpose, so this is a book I recommend for everyone.
What is your favorite quote?
I have often said, ‘Failure is a part of the growth process. Learn to expect it, learn to respect it, because you can’t grow without it.’
● Lead with love.
● You can’t do it alone.
● Help someone.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.