“A complex system, contrary to what people believe, does not require complicated systems and regulations and intricate policies. The simpler, the better. Complications lead to multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects.”Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, p. 11
One of my most helpful weaknesses is that I have a simple mind. I'm not able to hold complicated systems or regulations or policies in my head. Common sense is about all I have.
When I started blogging the Common Core in 2012, I was drawn to its top-level structures — the introduction, the anchor standards, the research appendix — and repelled by its grade-specific laundry lists.
When I began reading the professional development literature, I was drawn to The Godfather of Simplification, Mr. Mike Schmoker. The “Here's a Thousand Strategies” professional development books and sessions made my head spin. They still do.
When I started thinking deeply about the teacher-writer life, I was drawn to the folks who've simply been doing it from the classroom for years — people like Jim Burke. Theirs was a simple and deep model.
Every time I start veering away from simplicity, I can feel it in my chest. It's like one of those little plastic jaw toys, winding up, winding up, winding up. Eventually, the tightness is enough to send me into crazy mode, chattering on obnoxiously, seeking to do way more than is needed or wise.
And then, my energy expended, I return to rest and simplicity.
Was all the chattering necessary? No. As we mature, we should be less like a wind-up, chattering toy and more like a professional.
This is one of the biggest challenges that schools face when creating school improvement plans or PBIS protocols or curricula. How do we keep things as simple as they can possibly be?
Barb Bilgre says
I agree that simpler is better, but how does that look in a complex system such as a school? This is particularly tough in a school where multiple curricula are taught.
Dave Stuart Jr. says
Barb, this is a great question, and one that I’m actively pursuing. These 6 Things (http://www.davestuartjr.com/t6t) is my answer as of right now!
Patrice Steller says
The longer I teach (I am now in my 24th year), the more I realize the value of simplicity as well. In my English classroom, I wonder if my head is spinning with plans and keeping my work in order, how do my students feel? Just as effective speakers have strong ethos, teacher confidence is projected to students through mastery of content and calm delivery of instruction. This does not mean that I cannot convey my passion and energy, but I handle interruptions and changes to my plans in a businesslike, professional manner. My question is this: in the world of increasing stimulation and instant gratification, how do we invest students’ attention in their work through consistent activities that motivate them to gain satisfaction through taking a deep dive into the work? I have fallen into the trap of using catchy activities that seem fun, but I question their value because they do not result in long-term learning. I was inspired by Mike Schmoker’s work FOCUS: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning, 2nd edition. When I read it last summer, I realized that my focus should be razor sharp when designing lessons. Dave Stuart’s book These Six Things also helped me place my craft in the proper perspective. As I reflect on my teaching practice, each year I try to do more with less. I welcome any thoughts on how to do this more effectively!
Dave Stuart Jr. says
My take Patrice, is to stay tuned to this blog and other voices you’ve mentioned (e.g., Schmoker).