Pluses and Minuses

“Back to school” is a crazy time for people of all ages. For parents, it’s time to get everyone back in the swing of things, on schedule, and ready for action.  For kids, it is the ultimate reality check when their carefree existence comes to a screeching halt. For teachers, it’s all of the above, plus about six million other things.

As an ESL teacher who works in two buildings, sometimes I feel as if my list of six million things is doubled.  As usual, my first days this year were spent in a state of organized chaos, trying to set up a schedule that works for kids and my fellow ESL staffers. So, in addition to experiencing nearly the same jolting reality check that kids do, the beginning of the year often has me wondering just which end is up.  On day two, I slid into the break room for a quick 10 minute lunch.  One of the school’s aides was there as well.  Good timing, as I knew he was a master of scheduling- he worked in our school as a five-hour aide, then went to his other job as a full- time police officer.  Forgetting about my own schedule for a minute, I asked him about his, since my concerns seemed rather silly in comparison. He told me that while last year he’d work first shift at school, and third shift at the police department, he was going to be at the station second shift this year.   “Which is nice because I can just work straight through then,” he cheerfully noted.

I thought about both scenarios- working ALL NIGHT long, then coming to school to work with middle schoolers, or working with kids all day, and then not going home until midnight. Both scenarios freaked me out. I asked him which (if either!) schedule he preferred. In a totally upbeat tone, he told me, “Well, you know, I’m not sure. They both have their pluses and minuses.”

Wow, here was a guy looking at really long days full of all sorts of challenges, who accepted the good and bad of both. This made me feel like a royal jerk for all of the little inconveniences that I liked to focus on in the “whiner section” of my brain.  It also  brought me back to a half marathon I ran on one of this summer’s hottest days, where someone I ran next to had his own jokester way of plus-ing and minus-ing the run.   “At least it’s not 110 degrees.”   “At least I don’t have heat stroke yet.”   “At least we’re not running with two broken ankles.”   He continued to list more silly extremes that put our current heat-induced distress in perspective.

The thing is, pretty much every run and every situation in our lives- professional, personal, or otherwise- contains both pluses and minuses.  But instead of focusing on the minuses, maybe its better just to look at them as being part of this completely imperfect thing called life, and focus on what my sister calls “the plus column.”  Yes, the minuses will always be there, but if we look more closely at those things in the plus column, then perhaps soon the pluses will outweigh the minuses, and our whole outlook will be a bit more cheery.

For example, as I write this, just two days into the new school year… I could tell myself I’m two days closer to the last day of school. Right?  Mile two of a marathon can be “24 left, oh no!” or “two down!”  It’s all in how you look at it.

So, keep moving forward friends, and remember this little ditty that can be applied to your runs, or just about anything…

The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.  ~Dennis S. Brown

Copyright 2011

by Abbey Algiers

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