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Quiz: Which Friends character are you?
Answer: A mix of them all.
James Yates once again uses pop culture and our favourite shows to challenge the way you think. You will never watch an episode of Friends in the same in the same way again.

One thing I am sure of is the fact that you need a wide range of qualities to be an effective teacher. It can feel like a lonely and sometimes tiring profession; if you’re teaching the whole day you may only see other adults briefly at break or lunch and the rest of the time you’re left to face the world alone. However, I feel like we need to have friends.

If you think you about the characteristics of the Friends characters, they all possess key attributes that I feel we should aspire to develop and rely on in our practice. First up, Monica: driven, motivated and she has that spirit that she wants to be the best version of herself. Throughout the Friends seasons you see her go from the bottom to top in terms of her profession. She got their by hard work and being organised. Think about her OCD traits; she wants everything organised and in some kind of order. We all need that at some stage, maybe not to her level, but we need structure and a level of having things in order. It allows you to: find things, build off of them and have direction. Her tenacious attitude of  ‘I won’t be beaten’ is something we should aspire to develop because we’ve all had those days or occasionally weeks where we are tired and have numerous deadlines to meet etc. but we have to rise to the challenge. We should all aim to “do a Monica”.

Ross is a geek and I think we all need to be geeks in terms of our passion for our subjects. The way he embraces his love for science and projects it onto others is something I believe we should all do. If you’re passionate and enthusiastic, then quite often it can rub off onto others and students will recognise this and often (not always) buy into it.  I suppose it’s slightly easier for me as I am a science teacher and when I was younger a love of dinosaurs was something I shared with Ross. If you’re not passionate about your subject, why would the students be? It’s a bit like if you’re salesman and you’re selling a product you wouldn’t use yourself – unless you’re a great actor, like I talked about in my last blog, you have to let your passion sell it. Sometimes, the passion for the subject is the main thing that keeps you going as you want to share it with others. You’re effectively spreading the word.

We all need to embrace our inner Phoebe. She has grit and determination but not in the same mould as Monica. Phoebe has learnt from her tricky past and developed from it. She hasn’t always had things easy but has always come out the other side. That is definitely an attitude we should always try to adopt. Being reflective in teaching is crucial as we all need to continue to develop, and understanding how we got where we are is essential. She also has people skills. It’s not always that noticeable when you watch Friends  as a big fan you will think of exact episodes (I do claim I’ve seen everyone),  they all confide in Phoebe. Chandler when he’s going to propose, Ross when he doesn’t get his marriage to Rachel annulled and I could name a few more. As teachers, making students feel comfortable and safe is essential. When I say comfortable, please keep pushing in lessons and challenging them in learning but you know what I mean. Some students will turn up to school having seen things or experienced things that would unsettle anyone. If you create an environment where there is trust and positivity, they will thrive off of it and often, if only for a minute, forget about the outside world.

What is the one thing Joey loves most in the world? And no this isn’t that kind of blog – the answer is food. How many of us (I write this being the biggest hypocrite of all) remember to eat or look after ourselves? Joey claims in an episode that he’s “never missed a meal”. Now, I know we’ve all skipped lunch every so often but it’s not great to not eat during the day on a regular basis. Eating releases hormones in the brain which can make you feel happy and by the time you get to lunch time you may need a pick me up – missing lunch can really impact on your mood and energy levels. It’s also what you eat; I try to eat relatively healthy but a diet of super noodles and mugshots is not that healthy, but it’s better than nothing I suppose.  Another thing about Joey is his confidence: he doesn’t come across as arrogant but he knows himself and he knows his limits. We won’t go into how he uses this confidence but we all know he uses his confidence to great effect. Although I do still like the episode where he loses his awareness as he is adamant he can speak French when he clearly can’t. We must display confidence in what we do but there is difference between confidence and arrogance. People will admire and respect confidence, but the same cannot be said of arrogance.

Being principled and having strong values isn’t something you’d necessarily instantly think of with Rachel. But again, as I’ve said, true die-hard fans will be able to think of when she has been. I can think of a few easily. The one where Gunther fires Joey and Rachel felt it was wrong so she challenged him on it and the one with with Mr Zelner when she was being interviewed for Ralph Lauren.  Now, we all know that she got it wrong then and misunderstood him but she did challenge it when she felt her values were compromised. For those of you reading who are thinking but what about when she hired Tag as her assistant because he was “so pretty” rather than being the best for the job. This just goes to show we all make mistakes and nobody is perfect. We have all made mistakes and as long as we learn from then we there is no shame in getting it wrong sometimes. Apologising to students if we get something wrong is sometimes the best thing you could ever do. We try to get our students to admit to their mistakes and take responsibility. What better way to encourage this than model ourselves? We are sometimes the best role models our students will have. Think about Rachel; she is always well dressed and takes pride in her appearance. If we model this, then hopefully the students mirror us as they often do. It doesn’t mean having a great dress sense – it means dressing appropriately. Although I do instantly think of a member of  staff at my previous school who always dressed really well and had a class about the way she dressed and students would comment on how well she dressed.

Chandler is the character I most relate to. Not solely for a teaching perspective but in my general personality. Being funny is his thing (I try but I’m not always successful) – he has a clearly identifiable role and people rely on that. We all have strengths and others will rely on us at times. Humour is something I feel we should all embrace. I’m often heard saying “sometimes you just have to laugh” and actually there are moments when you either choose to laugh or could easily cry. It’s a mind set thing I think; I’ll always try to put a positive spin on things if I can. Being positive is something we can all choose to do. It’s not always easy but working around positive people will make you feel positive and vice versa. The same can be said for the classroom as if you create a positive atmosphere then students soon pick up on it and embrace it. Focus on those being positive and celebrate it. You’d be surprised how many will adapt their behaviour to ‘fit in’ with your classroom culture.

I will mention Gunther briefly as you should make sure you don’t become obsessed with school/work like he became obsessed with Rachel. Don’t forget that work/life balance is crucial in both your performance and health: spend time with your friends, family or do whatever makes you happy. Make sure that during the holidays you enjoy time off from being a teacher – we should all always try to remember “we were on a break”. It is so important you recognise that we are not robots who can just be charged overnight. So, every so often take time to look in the mirror and ask yourself “how you doin?”.
Now, let’s get to the coffee house…..

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The author

James Yates has been teaching Science for almost ten years now. He is a self confessed Superhero geek and this led him into teaching which makes sense as he is passionate about helping people. James soon picked up Pastoral leadership responsibility in school and well as some teaching and learning roles. James is always looking to improve himself and those around him which is what he tries to promote to the young people he teaches .He is passionate about teaching the person not the student. He believes every child deserves a champion and has the right to an education. That education isn’t just subjects and qualifications but life lessons and how to socialise.

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