A Tribute to My Teacher:
Occasionally, a person comes into our lives who makes a powerful, positive difference.
Have you ever had a relationship with a teacher or someone else who believed in you and helped you learn to believe in yourself? This blog is dedicated to my high school music teacher and long-time friend, Carole (Saucier) Pyant.
I want to share my heartfelt gratitude and our story from my perspective. This tale began many years ago when you were my teacher. It was September in Room 329, Beginning Chorus. I was a sophomore and you were my new teacher. Although I knew next to nothing about singing in a choir, I was an eager student. Our first song was Wade in the Water, a spiritual I love to this day. My joy for listening to and singing spirituals clearly began with you.
In class, you had clear expectations. You were funny and kind in a special sort of way. As I came to know you, you were especially kind to me, and I could make you laugh. I knew from the beginning that you were someone I liked, Mrs. Saucier. Gail and I and a few of our friends called you Sauc, remember?
Soon it was spring and time for senior choir auditions. I anxiously sang for you. You accepted me as an alto, later to sing in the tenor section. Some years later you told me you almost didn’t admit me to senior choir until you saw how much I wanted it. Let me remind you that you also said accepting me was one of the best decisions you ever made. Your candid comment was one of the most significant things anyone has ever told me and nurtured my strengths and self-efficacy; made me feel significant and cared about; let me know you liked me for who I was, and saw who I could become.
As a junior and senior, I would walk all over school to find you, just to talk for a few minutes. On days you were absent, it didn’t feel so great to be at school. Sometimes I would go to the office saying I didn’t feel well, because with your absence I didn’t see much reason to be there.
My life would have been very different if you hadn’t been so kind, hadn’t seen me the way you did. Remember when I told you I didn’t I want to go to college? Thank you for insisting that I “must go to college” and making me promise you that I would. Four degrees and um-teen certifications later, I think you were right! Do you remember that you were one of the people to whom I dedicated my doctoral clinical research project? I studied resilience and the factors that strengthen people to bounce back from life’s adversities, citing research showing that supportive relationships with adults are significant to buffer children and teens from life’s challenges. Sounds a lot like my relationship with you during high school. You saw my strengths, held my dreams, generously shared your hope and wisdom, and lent me courage and perspective.
As a young adult, I became a teacher mostly because you were a teacher. I wanted to be like you as I saw you, but later realized that wasn’t possible. I needed to discover my own gifts and find my own path.
Later, we sang in Apollo choir together. Those several years were joyful. And in the time between then and now we’ve stayed in touch – you, Gail, and me – sharing meaningful, enjoyable, beautiful conversations and moments.
Thank you for letting me hang around you during my high school years – especially as a senior – when you certainly could have been doing other things. Thank you for offering to go out with me on prom night, if I didn’t get a date! Thank you for signing a full page in my yearbook and writing just what I needed to read. You might recall I sat on the floor behind your desk during your ninth period class, trying not to look like I was watching every word you wrote.
Thank you for listening to my youthful emotions and angst, for seeing strengths I couldn’t see in myself and for accepting me simply for who I was. Thank you for being that supportive, caring adult in my life who believed in me in a way that I could feel, who helped me feel loved and hopeful encouraging me toward my potential.
Whom Do You Want to Thank?
Do you have someone you want to thank? The word gratitude stems from the Latin “gratia” meaning grace or gratefulness. Practicing gratitude is widely recognized among the world’s spiritual and ethical traditions. According to contemporary positive psychology research, gratitude is highly correlated with happiness, well-being and positive emotions.
One practice, the gratitude visit (Seligman, 2005;2011), involves writing a gratitude letter to someone who has been especially kind or did something good for you in your life, and then if possible personally sharing the letter. This person may be a family member, friend, teacher, mentor, or colleague.
Recall someone who impacted your life for the better. Consider writing a gratitude letter and if possible share a gratitude visit. Write directly to that person and be specific about how she/he has impacted your life. If you are unable to conduct the gratitude visit with the person directly, perhaps you can email that person or read it to someone else.
I’d love to hear about your gratitude visit! Let me know how it goes.
Resources and References to Learn More:
- Emmons, R.A., (2003) et al. Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 377–89.
- Rutter, M. (1993). Resilience: Some Conceptual Considerations. Journal of Adolescent Health, 14, 626-631.
- Seligman M.E.P. (2011) Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. Atria Paperback, NY.
- Seligman, M.E.P., et al. Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions, American Psychologist (July–Aug. 2005): Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 410–21.
- Werner, E. (1994). Overcoming the Odds. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 15(2), 131-136.
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Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CMC is an ICF Credentialed Professional Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with their strengths, callings and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online and access free resources at http://ileneberns-zare.com.
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