I remember when I began teaching trying desperately to cover the entire gamut. When given American Literature it was unfathomable to consider forgoing Edgar Allan Poe or Ernest Hemingway, often the choice. Quite often I’d end up jamming in too much reading to be able to do it. Mind you, I didn’t think 20 or 25 pages of reading was that bad, but strangely my students didn’t always prioritize The Sun Also Rises over the thousand other priorities in their lives: hockey, history, their girlfriends and boyfriends, after school clubs, physics… it’s dizzying just listing it all. High school kids have got to be the most skitzophrenic members of our society. It’s criminal torture what they go through. Here I was adding to it all for them– granted with what I felt was the best medicine, but in a majority of cases the medicine was more green NyQuil than Fred Flintstone.

Then I cooled off a bit in my old age. I reduced the number of books on the syllabus, felt fewer qualms about dropping what we weren’t going to be able to really dig into at the end of the year. Will they really be a lesser person for having missed postmodernism in high school? Probably only half even truly read that last book anyway. The results improved. Yes, the spring was not nearly as productive as the fall, like always, but there wasn’t a sense of empty panic in squeezing in reading and extra work. The focus was more on the crafting of final writing assignments and portfolios, on discussing topical issues, on living a teenage life….

‘Less is more,’ the adage goes. No platitude is more true for a 17 year-old.

Embracing the Power of Less

March 2019 | Volume 76 | Number 6 The Power of Instructional Leadership Pages 24-29 Mike Schmoker For most schools, far-fetched as it may seem, this scenario is well within reach.