• Joanne Jacobs

To do better, do less

Subtraction is powerful, writes Justin Reich on the ACSD blog. Administrators and teachers are "exhausted and overwhelmed" -- and being asked to take on more responsibilities. It's time to "clear out the marginal and focus on the most important things."


Reich has been "talking to teachers, school leaders, students, and design experts about subtraction in action."


An administrator writes emails to staff to clarify her thoughts, but then doesn't send them. If she needs to connect, she calls.


A principal eliminates the "no hats or hoodies" rule to save time and aggravation.


A district stops chopping staff into "different teams for English language learners, for social-emotional learning, for the content areas, for MTSS support, and for other supports for learners."


Pruning the curriculum and identifying what really needs to be taught can improve learning, writes Reich. In many places, teams of teachers are discussing priorities and getting rid of curriculum add-ons that aren't essential.


When every day of class has uncertainties about illness, attendance, quarantine, and school closures, a narrower curriculum means more opportunities to go deeper on fewer things, with reduced fears that students who miss a few days will lose out on an entire section of class," he writes.


Kem Smith, who teaches English at a St. Louis high school, has advice for exhausted teachers who are trying to do too much. It includes: "Remember what is in our circle of control."

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