Good Thoughts

One of Carole Bigler's legacies was the "Secretary's Report."  She treated all of her students like gold, of course; her favorite thing to remind them was that while at piano lessons, the student was The Boss and the parent was only The Secretary.  These roles being duly assigned, clearly the secretary was not allowed to give "advice" to the boss, only compliments.  So the secretary's job was to write down every single nice thing the teacher said to the student throughout the lesson.

This was a brilliant way for Carole to ensure she said lots of positive things about the student (not that she ever had a problem being positive!)  These compliments ranged from the musical to the inane: when I studied with her at a workshop once, she remarked on my beautiful long hair and how dramatic my bow was because of it.

The Secretary's Report, however, was a powerful thing.  Everyone loves to be praised, but to be praised out loud and then have it repeated back to you a few minutes later is a huge boost.  Carole told the story of one teenage boy who acted disinterested and eventually didn't want his dad to read the compliments aloud, saying it embarrassed him.  But, said the dad, as soon as the car door closed behind him, the boy would mumble, "Lemme see," and grab the notebook to read them to himself.

It's amazing, isn't it, how one small compliment can make your day?  When a co-worker compliments my skirt, I walk with a little more confidence.  Once, when a friend sent me a thank-you note written on a pretty Post-it, I kept it stuck to my desk for years.  I can still remember the text: "Emily, you have done a wonderful job with all of this!  BRAVO!"  It referred to some music I had written down for her, I think, but the text was generic enough for me to glance at it from time to time and pretend she was complimenting my organizational technique, my classroom preparedness, or my bruschetta.

Somehow I lost that note, but last week I replaced it with a new one.  When I applied for a scholarship to Loyola, my principal had to sign the form, but instead of merely giving it back to me, she included a note in a cheery cursive hand: "I'm so glad you are doing this, Emily!"  I keep it here, because while I'm pounding out a paper or slogging through a text, it's nice to have a reminder: she's glad I'm doing this.  So am I.