I used to think the acornym KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) was silly and not applicable to my life as an educator. However, my second summer reading book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath has proved me wrong.
The book explains how to convey ideas and thoughts in a meaningful and memorable manner. One of the key principles suggested in the book is all about getting to the core of the idea or information you wish to convey. Keep it simple. Get rid of all the filler and unnecessary clutter and words. Rather than explain the reasons why something is the way it is, reduce the nugget of knowledge down to its simpliest form. The authors referenced a propsperous and successful local newspaper editor to make their point. The reason why he sells so many copies of his newspaper is because he discovered the key to getting people interested: Names, names, names. People want to see their name in print or see what happened to people in the community who they know. It’s not about money or great journalism; it’s about writing stories that name people in the community. It seems so common sense yet simple and elegant at the same time, much like effective teaching practices.
As I began reading this book earlier in the week, I was able to apply some of what I’ve been learning about creating simple ideas that stick. I attended a series of department chair meetings this week at my school. We discussed curriculum, technology use, and teacher evaluations, amongst many other important ideas. One of our tasks included revising and editing a document outlining the new Habits of Learning we want to drive home to students this upcoming year. In places, the document was very verbose, unnecessarily so. I suggested keeping it simple, referencing the book I’m reading. Get rid of the extra words that make the concepts cumbersome. Instead of stating, “Ownership of One’s Own Learning,” reduce it down to Ownership. The other words cloud the big idea, which is owning. We want our students to own their learning and be responsibile students. But we also don’t want to limit it to just academic learning. We want this idea to encompass their entire Cardigan experience. Keeping the title of the idea simple will help students better recall and comprehend our expectation.
While I was a bit hesitant to jump into this book because I worried that it didn’t apply to me or would not be beneficial to my teaching in any way, I now realize how wrong I was. I need to work on my prejudices and negative thoughts in order to grow as an educator. If I want my students to foster a growth mindset, I need to model like behavior. So, bring on the new ideas because my brain is like a vacuum.