Lots of people say to me that they’d like to change things at their school but they can’t afford better furniture or they can’t add this or that. But the best way to start change is to subtract.
As we walked and talked we tore down poster after poster, the rules for walking down a corridor — ”follow the silver line, no talking, don’t touch anything” — the rules for not making noise in the library, the rules for the cafeteria. We didn’t need new rules, we needed many fewer rules. Eventually we rebuilt and refurnished the entire school in an open space, multiage marvel, but a decade before that process began with subtraction.
I’ve watched teachers subtract their desks, increasing their student classroom space by as much as 10%. Principals subtract homework over holidays and vacations. Departments subtract specified reading lists. Librarians subtract circulation desks and security systems. Coaches subtract cuts. Schools subtract most playground rules, hall passes, honor rolls, attendance awards, 95% of suspensions.