It’s a Simple Equation

When I was at school, I always enjoyed Maths and Science. I liked finding the answers, hypothesising, experimenting and problem-solving. It was interesting stuff. My interest has continued throughout adulthood. Although I didn’t teach Maths/Science, I still enjoy the challenge it brings to every day of my life. To narrow it down, one of the things I like about these disciplines is using formulas to solve problems.

Recently, I’ve been following the work of Jack Cainfield. A School Teacher in his early days who has now become a world-recognised motivational speaker and success coach. What I like about Cainfield’s work is that it’s practical and straightforward. Amongst lots of great thinking and leadership theories, it’s his simple formula that I think is worth sharing with you today. And you may choose to share it with your students.

E + R = O (Events + Response = Outcome)

This simple equation is so relatable to every aspect of our life.

So, E stands for Events. Unfortunately, we don’t have lots of control and influence over the events in our school. Some events are significant and some events are minor. Kids will get into a fight, our Department or System will roll out a new initiative, a misunderstood email will be received, we’ll hold a different view to our colleagues on student wellbeing, or there will be another lockdown that will throw us into remote learning (let’s hope not, but I did say that some events are more significant than others).

The event will happen, but it’s crucial that we focus our time and energy on the second part of the equation. That’s what we can control or influence. It’s the R, or our Response. Every moment of every day, we get to make an R decision. We get a choice to how we respond to the event that just happened in our classroom, when we were on yard duty or in a staff meeting.

It’s how we respond that makes the difference. This is where we get to make a choice. Our choices can be wide and varied. Sometimes we’ll get them right and other times we’ll get it wrong. We can choose to walk past a student misbehaving and ignore it, blame our Principal for the new initiative, find fault in our colleagues teaching practice or complain that our timetable sucks. Alternatively, we could strive to rebuild a damaged relationship, show empathy towards our colleague or see this new idea as a possibility that will work.

Combining the event with our response leads us to the O. That’s the outcome. This is where I love the simplicity. Our response to the event can significantly influence the outcome. Like with any equation, it’s the sum of all parts. We can’t always control the event, but we can control our response and therefore, influence the outcome.

Every day, we will encounter 1000’s of different events in a school. A last-minute assembly being called when you had an assessment task planned, walking past a colleague in the hast to get to the staffroom for a cuppa, overhearing that student scream an explicit or seeing the graduate teacher limp out of the Principal’s office after hearing the news that they don’t have a position next year due to a tight budget and fewer enrolments. The event has happened, but it’s at this point have you have a choice that will influence the outcome and maybe influence the likelihood of a similar event occurring in the future.


Check out other articles Simon has written here.