Have you ever gone to McDonald’s and “super-sized” your meal? Of course you have, but why? Did you think about “super-sizing” before you walked into the restaurant? That was probably the last thing on your mind. But all it took was the girl at the counter asking just one simple question: “Would you like to ‘super-size’ your meal?” Why do they ask that question? It is no accident. They have been carefully trained to do so using a script, because scripting works!

“Will that be a medium or large drink?” I ordered medium drinks for years (because of scripting) until I finally asked if a “small” was an option. Apparently there is. “Would you like cheese on that hamburger?” Now that you mention it, cheese sounds pretty good! Do you think these small extra sales add up over the course of a year? Of course they do, and that is why scripting is such an important and integral part of any business, big or small.

It is also how all professionals run their offices so successfully. Call any office to reschedule an appointment, and they will use almost the same script whether it is for a doctor, lawyer or dentist. They do this because scripting works, and it puts forth a type of “professionalism” and confidence for the person seeking help. It is this type of scripting that is absent in education, but could help us in so many ways if we were to adopt this simple, but effective, business protocol.

I understand that using a script, or “scripting,” will not be easy for many of the “that’s not the way I do it,” teachers. It may not be an easy learning curve for some, but remember, that while change is good, it’s not always easy. When calling home, we have a message to bring – we have direction. But how do we get there? We need to know how to communicate our idea to others. We need to know what to say.

We could use the “I am so sorry to be calling you” opening. This immediately removes any authority from the teacher and making him or her wrong for calling home, because they are beginning with an apology. I am sorry. Parents do not want to hear you are sorry. They want to know you are the authority.

We could use the “I just want to begin by telling you that Jimmy is a great student and I really love having him in my class.” Anything negative you say after this will obviously be a lie, because you just said how great Jimmy is. Which is it, great, or is he difficult? You come across as disingenuous.

Or we could use a script – to be memorized – to guide us through what to say with each call we make, until we own it. For those who have never used a script before, the process may seem phony and rehearsed. They would be half right – it is rehearsed, but never phony. Some might say, “I just say something different every time I make a call.” Too bad, because the pros don’t. For those teachers who are just “winging it,” I submit there are two types of phone calls: positive and negative. Positive calls are easy, though some teachers get too carried away and chat as if speaking with their high school BFF. Remember, not all calls to that parent are going to be positive or require a friendly tone. Negative calls, on the other hand, will have a consistency to their message and you had better be ready to have those words roll off your tongue to avoid wavering from the bad news you must now deliver.

I vividly remember my brother’s wedding. I was the best man and asked his best friend for advice on how to deliver a toast. He told me, “Prepare nothing – that will just make you nervous, have a couple of drinks – that will relax you. Then just stand up and say what’s on your mind.” That was, without question, the worst advice I have ever received. I gave what was the worst best man toast ever. We still laugh about it more than 30 years later.

Fast forward to my days in practice when I enlisted a management company that promised results beyond my greatest expectations. There was just one catch: to achieve this greatness, I would have to memorize (not just learn) scripted dialogue that my patients would first hear on the phone, then again in my office, and finally when I would examine them and follow it up with a report of findings. All  scripted dialogue designed to effectively carry similar messages to many different patients. I rejected the idea outright at first, but I was caught between a rock and a hard place. I had already once failed miserably by not preparing any words of wisdom (the wedding toast). Now after burying myself under over $100,000 worth of debt, I could ill afford to make the same mistake twice, but I was adamantly opposed to learning scripted words that I just knew would sound stiff, insincere and dishonest. I just knew they would wreak of “fake and “phony” (even though I was young and had no idea what I was talking about). But my mind kept going back to the toast – the worst toast in the history of mankind.

I received all the materials and it was pages of script after script. It looked bad. I hated the idea of saying someone else’s words. I am, after all, a doctor! I’m a professional! (Sound familiar teachers?) I studied long and hard to learn my trade. I was the best in my class. But they never taught us what to say to the patients when they come to the office. Did they provide a “script” for you in all of those great education classes?

Long story short. Following graduation, I opened my office and failed. I failed miserably. It was only out of sheer desperation that I contracted with a practice management group who told me I would have to learn “my lines” if I was going to be a success. And they were right.

I swallowed my pride and learned my lines. I learned them so well that I was almost unaware of what was happening. At first the lines seemed choppy and exaggerated – almost fake. But each time I said their words, they became my words. In short time, my confidence grew and I began to own the words. They were not just words – they became my thoughts and my beliefs. It soon became very clear why I was paying this group several hundreds of dollars every month. They were right. They had seen other neophyte doctors before and knew what they needed.

Now I know many teachers will dig their heels in and stick to their guns, just like the new teacher of only two weeks whom I was trying to help when she interrupted me and said, “That’s not the way I do it.” Not the way you do it?? You’ve been a teacher for two weeks… you don’t have a way yet! If you choose not to take this opportunity to learn and grow, then so be it. But remember, scripting is like athletics. It is about practicing your words until you become an expert. Tiger Woods, though talented, would never be where he is today if not for repeating a swing taught to him over and over again. He uses a script.

And here are a few comments from the experts on scripts…

“Every script I’ve written and every series I’ve produced have expressed the things I most deeply believe.” ~ Michael Landon

And when I’m on set, I’m just thinking about the script and of working. I think I’ve stayed focused on the work so much that I haven’t really noticed my life start to change except for I’ve gotten busier.” ~ Jennifer Lawrence

“I only sound intelligent when there’s a good script writer around.” ~ Christian Bale

“It’s difficult when you have to turn down a tremendous amount of money because you don’t like what the script is saying and you don’t have any money.” ~ Tim Robbins

“Even if you fall flat on your face, you’re still moving forward.” ~ Victor Kiam (on scripting)

And my favorite….

“When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ‘It’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?’ I say, ‘your salary’.” ~ Alfred Hitchcock  (Teachers might want to remember this one, especially when considering if something simple as using a script when calling home might improve their skills and make them more valuable to their school and to their principal.)

Dr. Michael Cubbin,  Teacher Practice Management Consulting

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  1. Brigeen RadoicichHoughton says:

    Scripts are great as long as the questions will only require yes/no answers. “Would you like to super-size it?” However, as educators I hope we move beyond comprehension level thought with our students. Scripts and sentence starters are excellent starters, but as students become engaged and start asking deeper questions to gain a deeper understanding, those questions often times don’t match the script. So as the teacher do you shut down their “out of the box” thinking and as a result cause them to disengage with the topic? Or do you facilitate the discussion, asking individuals to look for answers and gather evidence to their conclusions?

  2. Brian Kerns says:

    This sounds so familiar!” I am a teacher”and” I am a professional”. I have had supervising, “mentoring” teachers tell me that no one can or should tell them what to do because they are a teacher. Yet, these same teachers require a different standard from the students they teach. In the years that I taught I saw few who would change or even entertain the notion that a script might be helpful. After all they are “professional”. Regrettably, that lesson was never taught at teacher’s college.

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