Less is More, and Other Lessons I Have a Really Hard Time Learning

Who strive – you don’t know how the others strive

To paint a little thing like that, you smeared

Carelessly passing with your robes afloat-

Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,

(I know his name, no matter) – so much less!

Well, less is more, Lucrezia.”

Robert Browning, “Andrea Del Sartolead” (1855)

Last month in what was my best/worst move ever, I poured out my soul in this very WordPress blog site. I told a sordid story about a PD-Day-gone-wrong (and also right) that simultaneously elicited many head nods from fellow admin (“yup- that’s happened to me”) and many shocks of horror from faculty friends (“WHAT?! Admin have FEELINGS?!”). I jest about the shock that admin have feelings part. I think it was more a surprise that admin so internalized anything as silly as the success of a PD day. Plus, anyone who has known me for two seconds to any degree of familiarity knows I have feelings. So many feelings. Like take it down a notch, Julie.

Seriously, though. There was an outpouring of love, advice, affirmation, etc. from all sorts of directions. Some came from people I expected; like, I knew we were buds. Other sources felt more like an unexpected encounter with a sprinkler system on an afternoon July walk in Mississippi. Surprising . . . but oh-so refreshing. I want everyone to know I am okay. I am not on the edge of my rope. I am grateful in so many ways for the job I am currently in. None of us feel these ways 24/7, but I feel grateful that I feel these ways the majority of my waking-working hours.

So in this October theme of Hamster Wheel, I am writing the day after 10/11/22 (our October PD Day). I feel compelled to remark on yesterday’s very differently-constructed set of events, in part thanks to the horrors evoked from Workshop Week. I feel compelled to say that the number of positive remarks we’ve had about the day have reminded me of the age-old adage that I’ve never quite been able to internalize, the one my mom will text me from time to time, the thing my husband said to me when I mentioned five years ago it was time to have a fourth kid, the thing my eldest child reminds me when I beg her to pass me another handful of candy corn and honey roasted peanuts:

Less is more.

Sidenote: I know all of these people that love me are right, and yet I feel the strong urge to debate that very cliche I just typed. Sometimes more candy corn is more. Sometimes more opportunities are more. Sometimes more work results in more for the stakeholders you are working for. So if I’m being honest I am not entirely cured of this mythology. I am in a sort of denial stage, dotted with moments of acceptance.

Anywho, this PD Day we committed to less: less structured hours spent together in activities and meetings. We did this because of feedback from so many of you about how all you need is TIME. We did this because the timing of these days is just somehow never good. There is always a looming report card deadline or meet the teacher day. But then, we also committed to more. More choice in the form of PLC’s that you joined. More choice in whether you wanted to grab some coffee and breakfast while working on grading or join a group at the fair. We committed to designing a greater diversity of groups of folks meeting for different purposes. I got to learn about the daily rhythm for an instructional assistant! (link here) Coaches spent time together exploring how and why athletes have changed, for better and for worse. The day wasn’t perfect. There were moments that were clunky. The acoustics in the gym are terrible. I know I felt rushed from thing to thing. But still. The general consensus was far less vitriol and far more gratitude. I’ll take it.

So the moral of the story is that somehow if we get off the old hamster wheel, somewhere in the middle of the less and the more, we can find the Goldilocks “just right.” Of course, that’s a super problematic story in like 15 different ways. But that’s for another blog.

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