How to be a Happy Teacher: Tip #3

FramingThink about your framing

How happy you are as a teacher has a lot to do with how you frame things. Broadly speaking you can frame things positively or negatively; as an opportunity or a threat and as a challenge or a hurdle. If we take my image as an example, we might all face the same garbage but if you frame it in the right way you’ll be happier. Whilst it doesn’t change what you’re actually looking at, it will change how you feel about it.

I’m no Pollyanna, I fully accept the challenges our profession faces: sweeping and relentless curriculum changes; uncertainty about life after levels; an ineffectual Ofsted; high levels of stress and poor retention of new teachers to name just a few. But what does framing things in the wrong way achieve? Ultimately I think it just serves to make you feel unhappy.

How do you frame things?

The negative framer:

The sort of person whose first reaction to whatever picture they’re presented with is to focus on the aspects they dislike. They might not be able to see past a surprising composition to appreciate the use of colour. They prop the picture up against a wall in the corner. They don’t bother to hang it let alone frame it. Their paintings sit in the dark and gather dust.

The positive framer:

The sort of person who takes whatever picture they’re presented with – even a very dodgy painting of a sheep with wonky eyes – and see something good in it. They actively look for what is working rather than focusing on what doesn’t. They take the painting and hang it on the wall, in the light, in a cheery frame that distracts from the disconcerting eyes. When they walk past the painting they can’t help but smile a little.

The threat framer:

The sort of person who sees a new picture as a threat to what they’re already doing (imagine the National Portrait Gallery being asked to display a landscape painting…). They might hide the painting so they don’t have to face it or else do whatever they can to destroy it. Fear is the ruling emotion and they’d rather stick to what they know than look at something they see as threatening.

The challenge framer:

The sort of person who accepts that a picture doesn’t currently fit with a collection they’ve put together but accepts the challenge of finding the right place for it or rearranging what they’ve already done. They’re not quite sure how they’ll fit Tracy Emin’s ‘My Bed’ amongst the Pre-Raphaelite paintings but they’ll enjoy figuring it out. Once they’ve found a place for it they’ll feel a sense of pride at what they’ve managed to achieve.

The hurdle framer:

The sort of person who sees a picture as something they have to hang. There’s no pleasure in the act it’s just something they need to do. It’s tiring work and there’s not pleasure in it. It’s a chore.

The opportunity framer:

The sort of person who sees a new picture as an opportunity to do something different. A chance to take a collection in a new direction or diversify or completely throw out the old stuff for something new and exciting. It might not have been what they were expecting but they embrace the opportunity it represents.

If you want to be a happy teacher in a time when a lot of the profession are making a lot of noise about how challenging it is, I encourage you to think about how you frame the challenges we face. Be positive about the job we’re doing despite how tough it is. See the curriculum changes as a challenge to do something better and life after levels as an opportunity to do something different. We can’t stop the waves of change that keep coming our way – and, like Canute, it seems futile to bid the tide to stop – so let’s change what we can: our attitude.

See Tip #1.

See Tip #2.


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