The Great Day of Gratitude is May 5, 2010

Things have been silent over here while I shift into a new space, a new yin and quiet place. It is a good thing to learn to be receptive. So many ideas run through my brain these days on wonderful things to write about. Fear not, when the time is ripe I will write again. I am not blocked. Just in a silent place.

But one of the joys of being in that yin receptive space is being able to notice, see and express gratitude for all the small and simple things in life. Like a great teacher. So when I saw this post over at PBS Supersisters on their Day of Gratitude I couldn’t resist breaking the silence and posting.

I want to take a few minutes to talk about a teacher who made a huge difference in my son’s life. A tiny Chinese woman who taught Max last year in first grade. Ms Cai. She had a reputation as a strict teacher. To be honest, Max quaked in fear the day he learned he had her for first grade. He had heard she would push him and that scared him. But after the first day of class everything changed. First grade would be a magical year.

Not too long into the school year, Max told me, “Mom, I feel like Ms Cai has been my teacher for a thousand years.” He said it with such earnestness that I knew it to be true. Max’s reading soared in first grade. For one reason and one reason only. Ms Cai believed in him. She told him every day. She told him how smart he was. She told him he could catch up to the kids in the top reading group. She never said things like, “if you try harder” or “if you do more”. Sure she encouraged him to work but she never ever gave him the impression he was lacking anything. She just said he would learn and grow simply by being himself. His wonderful self. And he did. He rose to her every expectation.

Ms Cai taught Max and his classmates how to give oral presentations, how to stand up with confidence and speak like a pro and give a book report. She taught him how to connect with his audience, how to fake it even if he was scared. She taught him to believe that everything he had to say was fascinating and interesting and something that every child in the room needed to know.

Ms Cai made a big deal out of it when Max defended the new girl on the playground. Even though there was a price to pay, in terms of teasing from the mean kids when he stood up for her, Ms Cai taught him that what he did was not simply “kind” but “heroic” and he never forgot how she made him feel extraordinary for being so brave.

Ms Cai reflected back at Max all the good things he is. She was a mirror for him. He was appreciative, kind, smart, creative, loving and he knew it every day because this powerful tiny loving woman made sure he knew.

This year Max has a wonderful teacher who has opened up a whole new world of literature to him. He is in a reading group of one and there they talk about great books, as well as what he is doing in the school mandated primer. But he still talks about Ms Cai and misses her terribly. He visits when he can. He prays that she will decide to teach 3rd grade next year and that he would be lucky enough to get her. When I ask her what he loves most about Ms Cai he tells me, “She believes in me”. But I think its something even more powerful. She teaches him to believe in himself.

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