Reframe Game

One of the activities I use during professional development sessions with educators, I call, “The Reframe Game”. The premise is easy, each participant takes about 30 seconds to think about a student who can be a challenge and writes down all the things that they deem difficult (or negative) about that youth. Then I give them each a minute (60 seconds) to think about all the redeeming qualities about that same person. It is interesting how quickly the list fills up within the 30 seconds and how hard it can be at times to come up with items to include in the second round even when they are given more time. There are two points to that “game”. First, it is always easier to think of the negative, to see faults or things we don’t like. Secondly, there is ALWAYS a flip side. It may take more effort to find it but good is there.
As we recently recognized and remember the horrific tragedy of 9/11 and all of the innocent lives that were lost, I read an article about two people who met while their plane was being detained for safety purposes. They were later married and are celebrating their 17th anniversary. The story shared about their family and their life together and I thought, “Well, look at that, even during an extremely heartbreaking time for our nation, there was a little good”.
Additionally, this summer has been wrought with personal challenges for me. You know those times, where things seem to just pile up, one disappointment or difficulty after another. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and serves a purpose in our lives. As I’ve been mustering through each obstacle, sometimes responding really well and other times not so much, I’ve tried to reflect on what I need to be learning through all of this. Maybe it’s patience or letting go or growing in my ability to roll with things and not try to control it all. But I think it also could be to gain perspective.
One night a couple of weeks ago we had a storm come through and it knocked our power out, along with about 55,000 other people in our metro area. As it became evident that it was going to take about 24 hours for it to be repaired, I began problem solving. Sent my daughter to a friend’s, made arrangements to go somewhere the next day so I can work (when I’m not on the road, I primarily work from home, which is difficult to do without power). Life was quickly and fairly easily rearranged, all was set. As things progressed the next day, I’m making accommodations and light-heartedly joking about how my life should be a sitcom, when someone close to me said “Man you just can’t catch a break can you?” At first I thought “Yeah! Wait a minute, you are right. Things have been really crappy lately”. I immediately went from joking and light-hearted to feeling weighed down by that realization. I began to think about ALL the bad things that had happened over the course of a few months. It felt heavy and discouraging. But then in the next moment, I was able to stop that thought train, reframe things and recognize all the good. Can you see the good in this situation? It’s easy to do if you are looking for it. Here’s what I noticed, I had options, places to go, the power outage was short-term (unlike those in the Bahamas or elsewhere who have it FAR worse). If I take each situation on its own as opposed to lumping them all together, it feels manageable and I can find positives in each one.
If we aren’t careful and aware, we can let the weight of hard times take us down. As staff who work in schools we could think, “I have so many papers to grade, lesson plans to write, meetings to attend, students with IEPs, students who need IEPs….” It can feel overwhelming! (and is, many times). My hope is that we can play the reframe game. Similar to the activity, mentioned above, we identify ONE situation, not all of them. We acknowledge the challenging parts of that particular issue, but then we think about the good. Perhaps we can do that not only professionally but also in our daily lives. Instead of seeing everything that is going wrong or all we have to do and dwelling on that, maybe we can try to only focus on one thing at a time, the matter at hand. We can acknowledge its difficulties or all we feel about it but then look for ways to reframe it. It could help life become a fun game.

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