by Mary Lou Rosien
I teach religion, but I am also a substitute teacher at a local elementary school. The other day, I came home and my husband asked me how my day went. I laughed and said, “It’s third grade….no one threw up and no one cried, so it was a pretty good day.” That interchange reminded me that our perspective often changes how we view our classrooms.
Psychologists call this reframing. Sometimes looking at the up-side of something can help us deal with the difficulties in that situation.
My husband had serious spinal surgery and the medications he was on dramatically changed his personality. He was short-tempered and very cranky. He did realize he was off baseline (sort of) and he apologized for his attitude. I wanted to complain back at him, but I knew that wouldn’t change anything and would make him feel worse.
Istead, I told him that, “Cranky is the new cheerful.” He had a good laugh and it lightened a tough moment.
We can apply this same technique to manage situations in our faith formation classes. If a student doesn’t see the point of coming to class or of attending Mass have them consider who or what may want them to stay away from the sacraments. To quote the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live from years ago, “Could it be Satan?” Looking at the other side of the equation may have a greater impact than giving the expected response.
This tool can also be used when managing disagreements in the classroom. Having students role play each other’s view points or asking them to defend the opposite point of the argument can help them reframe the conflict and see it in another way.
I personally find this a great coping mechanism for stress. When I feel overwhelmed by the housework and laundry created by my large family, I close my eyes for a minute and flash back to one doctor who told me I probably wouldn’t ever have a child. Suddenly, caring for all of them doesn’t seem quite so hard.
Even current economic situations can be viewed through a prism of reframing. A job layoff may be a great opportunity to pursue an area of employment that someone was afraid to previously explore. It may provide a chance to look at finances and streamline bad buying/spending habits. The new habits acquired can be beneficial long after employment is secured. Even a few weeks of unemployment may provide some family time that may not have been possible under regular circumstances.
We all know that it is better to see a glass half-full rather than half-empty. Helping our students to train themselves to look for the positive side in challenging situations can give them a tool that will help them through life. God bless.
Mary Lou Rosien is the author of Managing Stress with the Help of your Catholic Faith (OSV Publishing). Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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