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  • Kathryn R. Biel

Problem Solving

Math was never my forte. I've always blamed my middle school math teacher for this. After all, she did tell me, in front of my class, that I was bad at math and would never amount to anything. After years of ruminating on this, I've come to a realization: She is not the reason I don't like math. She is not responsible for the fact that I don't have enough patience to take the time and apply the effort needed to not make mistakes. She is not the reason that I didn't want to put in the work to get better grades in math. that was all me. And right now, I'm stumped with another problem. A bigger problem. An impossible problem: what do we do about opening schools in the fall?

We can't solve for X. There are no easy solutions and nothing will work for everyone.

We are in an impossible bind.

Kids need to be in school. Kids can't be in school. Parents need to work. Parents need to be home with their children. For every parent who wants to keep their child home, there is another that needs to send theirs to school.

We are in an impossible bind.

We need to spend money to make things safe. To buy PPE and upgrade air filtration and increase bus routes and add staffing, yet there is no additional money. In fact, there is less. We need bigger buildings. We need more time. We need more teachers. We need more bus drivers. We need more money. We have none of those things.

We are in an impossible bind.

The complexity of this situation is mind-boggling, which is why school district re-opening plans teeter on 100 pages yet still leave hundreds of questions unanswered. As a school district employee, as well as a parent, I have questions. Lots of them. They probably won't get answered either. I'm going to have to take a leap of faith.

I have no answers either. No solutions. No magic formula that you can check and re-check and always get the right answer. But I do see the problem. And maybe, we should be starting with the problem. It's hard to find the answer if you don't know why you are in the position you're in.

We've done this to ourselves, really. We've created a society of instant gratification. I want what I want when I want it, and I won't worry about the consequences of those choices. We are a commecially-driven society that focuses more on spending than on saving. We routinely live beyond our means in terms of housing, transportation, and recreation. Because we want what we want it when we want it, and we don't like to hear the word no. We don't say it to our kids, and we don't say it to ourselves. As such, we have to work. Single-parent families struggle and those with two parents have to have two incomes to make ends meet. We have to work and therefore our kids have to be in school, regardless of anything else.

If you don't think this is the case, look around. For the past five months, we've been hearing no. No traveling. No haircuts. No bars. No playdates. No sports. It's not bringing out the best in people either. In fact, in so many cases, it's bringing out the worst. We have lost the ability to dialogue with each other. Instead, we resort to a cancel-culture if we don't like what someone is saying. We have no resilience for adversity and no compassion for others.

We have made this impossible bind.

We have to be the ones to fix it.

It's time for people to start taking responsibility for themselves, rather than relying on someone else to sweep in and provide a solution. If we want to be critical of the way things are being done, then we need to be willing to put in the hard work to improve things. We need to stop complaining for the sake of complaining and figure something out. Think outside the box to find a solution rather than lamenting about the way it was always done. We don't live in a time that can support doing things the way they've always been done.

Take a long hard look at your life. What choices are you making (and they are all choices) that are resulting in your current situation? What other options are there? Have you even thought about other options? They may be hard choices. But maybe, just maybe, these hard choices can lead to better outcomes in the long run. We're often too focused on the short game that we forget about the long game. Choices that seem good in the interim are often detrimental for the long haul.

Let's all start plugging different things into our equation, keeping in mind that we all bear a personal responsibility for ourselves and our families. There is no one agency that can or will swoop in to save us. I think we're seeing the that fallacy of that ideology. It puts us in an impossible bind.


Telling stories of resilient women with humor, heart, and a happy ending, Kathryn R. Biel is an award-winning author of numerous women's fiction, romantic comedy, and contemporary romance books. Her latest book, Take a Chance on Me, released May 21, 2020.

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