The great theatre director, Peter Brook, wrote that:
I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.
This is the art of theatre pared down to its bones. At a time when theatre was getting lost in artifice, technical extravaganza, and commercialism it came as a welcome antidote. The book to which this is the beginning was called the Empty Space.
If we were to do the same with formal education we could, maybe, rewrite it in this way:
I can take any empty space and call it a bare classroom. A woman talks in this empty space whilst someone else is listening to her, and this is all that is needed for an act of schooling to be engaged.
Strip away everything. No computers and clocks; no pens, blue, black, red or green. No books. No chair or table. Just two people.
From this central relationship all else follows. If anything else is to be introduced into the space then it must be because at that moment it enhances rather than detracts from this relationship, maybe a great book, a blank sheet of paper and one pen…
But when finished with, de-clutter, and return to the bare classroom… the empty space, for it is in this space that you will both begin to understand how to teach and how to learn.