If Only...

As I write this I am in seat 54D on the flight home. We are about to cross the International Date Line and get our lost day back;* we have traveled about 2600 miles since take-off and only have 5700 miles (about 9 hours) remaining. :-)

It's easy to complain that we have to be on a plane for 14 hours, in somewhat cramped conditions, (The person in 53D is reclined, so the monitor on my laptop is only about 70% open and to type I have to press my elbows against my seat back so my fingers don't overshoot the keys), with food that we may not make at home. There are some inconveniences, to be sure. There are only a dozen bathrooms on board for about 500 passengers, there are only 2 meal choices, and though I asked for Pepsi with a lemon they only had Coke and a lime.

It's easy to say “... if only...”, but let's break that down a bit:


  •  If only the flight were shorter... I went half way around the world, and back, in 3 days!.
  • If only I could open my laptop farther... I am 32,000 feet in the air, working on a computer, which I put in a satchel and carry around on my back.
  • If only there were more bathrooms... not so different from any sport or concert arena down on terra firma (and far more private)
  • If only there were more meal choices... our choices are both hot, nutritious, and served while we are traveling 645 miles per hour
  • They only have Coke... well... that's true :-)

I'm sure every industry/occupation/market has their own if only statements and, like stereotypes, there are elements of truth to them... It would be nice to not be on a plane for 14 hours. I don’t like to wait to go to the bathroom. I would have liked more choices for dinner. But instead of looking at things from our comfort zone and falling back on if only statements, what if we put on different lenses and look at the marvels?



  • If only my students were as interested in my content as they are in Facebooking, Tweeting, or Texting….
    • I marvel at the level of sophistication my students show in using contemporary tools and how much they know. How can I harness that interest and connect it to Algebra?
  • If only kids would sit still for a few minutes and focus on what I’m trying to teach them…
    • I marvel at the amount of energy these kids have and wonder, what would it take to get them so enthused about Science?
  • If only they would go home after school and do their homework instead of just hanging around the coffee shop talking with their friends.
    • I marvel at how important relationships are to my students’ relationships. How can I bring collaboration into my Literature class?

Next time you are discouraged with what’s happening in your classroom, your school building, or community, allow yourself the if only, but don’t stop there. Put on the different lens and see if you can find the marvel.

Now, if only Julie would stop talking to me I could get some rest…

* Our flight to Australia left LAX on Saturday night and landed in Brisbane on Monday morning, after only flying for 14 hours. Julie's birthday was supposed to be on Sunday but we jettisoned that day in the Pacific when we crossed the International Date Line. Did Julie actually get a year younger?

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