Practicing the Pareto Principle

Today was the first day of school in my new school district and we visited eight schools. Six of the visits were before lunch. We didn’t stop for a lunch break until 12:30 or maybe even 1. I have to admit, I engaged in a little whining around midday. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the hardships my tummy was going to have to endure! My back was sore from a little mishap or tightness from a gym class from the last week. I got cranky. Crabby.

Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

At the end of the day, I was reflecting with my wife and realized that I was quite grateful for the team with whom I work — talented, passionate people driven on a mission to bring excellence and innovation to young people who deserve our best. And I had maybe been a little less than graceful on my journey with them. But they are true professionals and I know we’d be good — they would probably, if anything, make a joke out of my low energy. Matter of fact, I think they already did!

During the reflection with my wife — and another friend — after yoga class, I also realized that I had not looked at my day through the lens of the Pareto Principle. Last year, I was in the habit of reminding our team that we should strive to remember that 20% of the activities we engage in produce 80% of the results. Look it up. Fascinating and true in many fields. It’s a helpful rule to remember and reflect on during a work day in terms of aligning our actions with our desired outcomes.

Photo by Gian Prosdocimo on Unsplash

When I reflect on the day, I realized that I spent most of my time with the team from Innovation and Instructional Support. We carpooled to 8 sites together and had lunch together. However, a small percent of time was spent with teachers as we visited their classroom. I suddenly realized that the segment of my day that was likely to be the powerful 20% was the contact I had with classroom teachers. What had I done to make that special? I shook a few hands, learned a few names, smiled as big as I could to show my appreciation — those teachers were literally creating magical moments of awe and wonder on the first day. Sure, some of the day was rules and routines, but those are important steps to make students feel safe and like they know their environment and what’s expected. Some teachers had jumped into content and had students working in groups on problems and puzzles. Some teachers had students interviewing each other to build relationships.

I thought, what can I do to better use the 20% of time I have with those classroom teachers?

So, tomorrow, on round 2 of classroom visits, I’m going to drop each one a thank you note with my contact information, a link where they can view photos from all my school visits including their own classroom, and an open invitation to start a deeper relationship.

Here’s to tomorrow and the opportunity to practice the Pareto Principle.

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