May 202013
 

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Do you ever wonder where that term “less is more” comes from?

Many people think that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the founders of the modern architectural movement was the first to use it. Actually it was the English poet Robert Browning, who wrote this in 1855. Regardless of the origination, what can be applied to architecture or poetry can and should be applied to our work as educators.

In this time of 20th Century education focus, where we are working hard to stay current in our practice, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Everywhere you turn a new strategy is being suggested or a new tech tool is popping up. You may be asking yourself…Where does it end? How do I keep it all together? How do I keep a balance? Where do I find the energy to keep going? How do I know that I’m providing the best support to my students? I’ve witnessed this stress take over the lives of my teachers at schools where I’ve been the principal. It’s not pretty.

So…how do we hold it all together? How do we ensure that we are bringing our best to the classroom, without losing it? We do it, by remembering that “less is more”.

I’m a strong believer in that phrase and offer three suggestions to support you:

1) Preparation and planning wisely
Easier said than done, right? Not really. If you make good use of your time it can be achieved. Are you an elementary teacher who is responsible for teaching many curricular concepts? OK. Take the time to review the lesson content for the week, month and even year. See where there are overlaps say in Math, Science and Social Studies. Instead of teaching all that content separately, incorporate it in one or 2 lessons. Add a great story from Social Studies content and use it to replace a Language Arts lesson. Take that Math concept and show how it’s used in the science realm. No need to pick apart every content area and teach it in isolation. Use your creativity and combine lesson content. It will flow so much better in your work day. Instead of thinking of instructional minutes, think of your time as learning minutes. Where can you get the best learning achieved for your students, in the time that you have with them? Prepare your lessons around themes of less is more and stick to it!

2) Collaborate with Colleagues
Why do so many educators teach or plan in isolation? It’s unnecessary and counter productive to how we want to see ourselves emerging as 20th Century educators. If you are not doing  #1 above in collaboration, you are selling yourself short. The power that a colleague or planning team can bring to your work is crucial. It can make the difference between spending long days vs. short hours of planning. It can bring vibrancy to the area that’s not your strength and support the same in a colleague. As a principal, I’ve witnessed first hand, grade level teams, planning out the whole year in less than 3 days, including all lesson plans prepared via a word or Google doc, because they did it in collaboration! I’ve also sadly witnessed the tremendous stress in teachers who didn’t have a collaborative team to plan with. Don’t let that happen to you or anyone else at your site. Open your door, your heart, your mind. Choose to collaborate and learn more, by doing less.

3) Pick one tech tool and use it well
There are amazing tools on the web. We call them “Web 2.0 tools”. As a 20th Century educator, you are eager to embrace as many of these tools as possible. Going to workshops, learning how to use them to support instruction, sharing them with your students, and forgetting why you thought, that was a good idea in the first place. STOP! In the rush to use a wiki, blog or social media site with your students, it’s easy to lose the focus for the lesson. What’s MORE important is to see the power of what one tool can do to make a difference in your work and learn how to use that tool well. Maybe it’s starting a blog and using that with students to teach writing. Or building a wiki to house all your algebra content that students and parents can have access to. Whatever the tool, choosing to use one and using it well, will be far more meaningful to your work, than grappling with 6 that your colleague said you MUST use. Remeber you want to learn to use tech to:Teach less, learn more.

As a former principal, I share these three suggestions (which may not be new to you) because it’s easy in our daily work as educators, to get caught up with all the content and lose the meaning. It’s also easy to get too invested in too many things which can bring us to a point of having our health or classroom relationships suffer. Remember it’s the quality not the quantity of your lesson that makes the difference.
Let your classroom time with students be an inspiration, because you chose to do more with less!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to TeachingWithSoul and connect with me on Twitter.

kd logoThis post originally appeared on Kids Discover,  which was founded in 1991 by a publishing professional and devoted parent with a great idea. And today, more  than 20 years later, still a family-owned media company with a mission and a passion—educating and entertaining kids. View original post here.

Photo credit: icanread

Lisa Dabbs

  4 Responses to “Learning That Less is More”

  1. Hi Lisa-
    You had me at “teachingwithsoul!” I was instantly drawn to your page by the title. It felt warm and comfortable and a place where I could come for some understanding and support. So, thank you for that.
    I am a current grad school student and Instructional Support Teacher at an Elementary School in Southeastern PA. I am beginning to navigate through the technology class required and finding myself embracing your philosophy of less is more. I am relieved to read that you see value in learning one tool and using it well. It is quite easy to get lost in this world as it is all new to me. If you had to pick just one on line resource that you cannot live without or that you see can benefit a newbie like me? I appreciate all of your insights and suggestions.

    • Hi Sue,

      I have been traveling for 2 weeks so I’m just now catching up on posts and email. I think when it comes to looking at one tool that could support your work I’d have to say Twitter. After years spent as a teacher and admin, my world opened in a way it hadn’t in the past, by using twitter as a PD tool and following hashtags. Here is a link to my Twitter pinterest board that you may find supportive: http://pinterest.com/teachingwthsoul/twitter-rocks/ Would love to hear your thoughts? Are you on Twitter? Thanks

  2. Hi Lisa,
    Great post! I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how busy I have been and how little that I’ve shared online. Unfortunately the lack of sharing comes at a price, I’m also reading less online and feeling unplugged from the wonderful innovation network that I’m usually connected to.
    I’ve linked a post to my name called ‘Pick One’ in which I talk about a presentation I did recently. I’m mentioning it because it relates to your 3rd point: “3) Pick one tech tool and use it well”
    My shift recently has been to ask people to shift their practice in a specific way and then figure out the tools that will help that. It’s essentially the same point, but on a different logical level.
    With the little time I’ve dedicated to being online recently, it’s great to have this post come my way! :)

    • Hi Dave,
      Makes me happy that my post touched a nerve. :) These days, I really think it’s important to learn how to “be more with less” and share that message with others. Not only in our careers but in our personal lives. IMHO we can be so much more effective, inspired and happy when we learn that less is more. It’s quite freeing! Thanks again, Dave for your kind comment.

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