There was a temptation to produce just one sentence and the graphic below and end this post. That might have been funny, but Simple is not that easy. Simple is difficult. Simple requires discipline. Simple is not as simple as one word.
In Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win, authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin make the point that Simple is a Law of Combat that saves lives. In combat, communication must be quick, packed with information, and clear. Simplicity is vital.
In Extreme Ownership‘s business example for Simple, two managers had devised a system of incentives for workers. Willink’s account of counseling these leaders begins with their explanation of the top two levels of data analysis in the system. There was much more to the system than this, however. The system was ineffective, and its complexity made it incomprehensible to the workers. Replacing it with a simpler system and putting more energy into communication about the system solved the problem.
We must make simplicity a priority in teaching. We might waste Day One of a school year on a list of rules and procedures and how we might grade students’ work. We could work through a syllabus and a heading for assignments and many other things. None of that matters on Day One, however. Prioritize and Execute: our first priority is to build relationships with students. Keep it Simple. On Day One, we initiate relationships, and, as the old saw reminds us, we only have one chance to make a first impression.
If students want to know our goals on Day One, we should have a simple and accurate statement of them ready to go. “Our goals are to become more self-disciplined and to increase our skill at learning.” That’s all there is to say about academic things on Day One. Get back to relationships. There will be plenty of time to explain goals, but there will not be another Day One, and Day One is for relationships.
Our broad goal in education is to unleash disciplined lifelong learners to work for peace and abundance in a chaotic world. But to help our students fulfill this vision, we need focus. We need determination. We need to be efficient and productive with time and energy in our classes and with the years our students spend with us in school.
We need to keep it Simple.