“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Maya Angelou
This morning, I saw a triangle on the whiteboard of the second grade classroom and feared that the Common Core had pushed geometry down to 7 and 8 year-old students. I looked more closely and noticed the words, “Name it,” “Tame it,” and “Reframe it,” at each corner and surmised that the triangle had some other teaching and learning function.
Ironically enough, a boy in that same class struggled in music class this morning, and was sent to me. His teacher explained that she had been working with him on the “Frustration Triangle,” seeking to help him “Name” his frustration, “Tame” his frustration, and “Reframe” his frustration. A book by William Mulcahy, Zach Gets Frustrated, shares this triangle’s philosophy. Zach, while on the beach with his brothers and his father, becomes angry that his kite won’t fly. He stomps over to his father and inquires, “So when can we go home?” The father and the brothers are having such a good time that the father wants to stay at the beach and, equally important, wants Zach to enjoy his time as well, so he shares with his son the secret of the Frustration Triangle. He tells Zach that first he must name what frustrates him, must say in words what the problem is. Once he names it, Zach can now tame it, by using relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditating, stretching, or imagining something that he loves. The third step, reframing it, allows Zach to see that not flying the kite is frustrating, but being at the beach with his family, having the opportunity to dive into the waves, and building sandcastles can be fun. All of a sudden, the frustrating piece is left behind, and Zach can enjoy his time with his family at the beach, the original source of the frustration.
As the boy and I first read the book together and then spoke about his frustrations in music class, I also attempted to get him to name the frustration, think of ways to tame it—he chose deep breathing—and reframe his morning with the music instructor. I think that I brought him around, but the whole time that I was working with him, I was thinking about Maya Angelou’s quotation: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” It is our responsibility to work to change and improve the world around us. If we cannot succeed in that, we can and should change our attitude. We need to name what frustrates us, tame that frustration, and then reframe it, which is really changing our attitude and seeing the world from a different perspective.
The wisdom of Maya Angelou continues to nourish and feed this week, as we remember her words and her deeds.