I have so not gotten on the gratefulness wagon I have to avoid certain settings, since my failure to chime in would surely draw a collective frown. It's not that I'm not grateful, it's just that I don't want to join the latest emotional directive. It's like when everyone is reading the same book, and it’s The Da Vinci Code.
I understand gratefulness is supposed to boost your happiness hormones and all that, but why make a project of it. Yesterday, for example, I went home really looking forward to the two hours of the day when I would not be working. I was so happy I even smiled. What I felt was gratefulness, but I didn't have time to craft a hallmark card about it.
Anyway, in the thankfulness department, my semiannual give-thanks-to-a-teacher anxiety came to a head this week when a couple FB friends posted about teachers who changed their lives by recognizing their talents or inclinations. Then a Slate editor published a memoirette about his relationship with his 10-grade English teacher, who advised him well after school ended not to pursue lawyerdom, along with delivering other life-enriching lessons.
To confess, I've always felt kind of grateful to my 10-grade English teacher, a former nun who presided over our class with dry detachment. She swayed like a stork in her 70s get-up, a short bob and bell-bottom slacks. She was a humorless sort, but she had the idea of giving students an extra point for each book they read. So if you had 86 points, a B or B+, you could kick it up to an A by reading 4 or more extra-curricular books each grading period. She passed out a list of acceptable titles that I kept until my house burned down 10 years later. I was already a reader, since my dad demanded I read 10 books every summer, but reading now had more rewards. I read everything. I read also to please my teacher, though she was about as interested in me as in dryer lint.
One day I got up the nerve to ask her if she'd recommend me to take honors English the following year. She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I didn't fit her picture of what honors English was. I knew who was in honors English and it's true I was not like them. Today they are housewives, realtors, or working payroll at a swimming pool chemicals company.
I was stung, it's true. As I said, I’ve always been kind of grateful to this teacher but lately I wonder what for. I’m grateful that she helped spark my interest in literature. But I am not grateful to her for anything else, not any later academic success, not my landing in journalism, not my poetry. I would like to thank her for taking an interest in me, but she didn't, and I managed anyway.