This entry was inspired by Ralph Fletcher’s seminal book, A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You. When thinking about unforgettable stories, I wrote about a moment with a teacher that has stayed with me, given me confidence in my role as a literacy coach and reminded me that our actions, even when they seem minor, have an impact.
Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters by Portia Nelson first came into my life nearly 15 years ago when I taught fifth grade in the Bronx. My mentor, Diana hosted a “lunch and learn” on poetry and this was among the powerful poems she shared.
I shared the poem with teachers at my current school in upstate New York when I first arrived 10 years ago. I had nearly forgotten it until one day last week when I sat with a colleague to plan a lesson that we would teach together on book discussion. Towards the end of our planning session, she asked if I would look over the lesson she planned for her upcoming observation. I happily agreed and to my surprise and delight found that she had taken “Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters” and connected it to the evolution of Cole, the main character in the powerful novel, Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen. There it was. This beautiful poem that I shared years ago being used in a thoughtful and inventive way. Feeling so touched that she remembered, that she thought to use this poem that I had given her, nearly made me cry.
So often we get bogged down in our daily lives. Whether we are coaches or teachers, the endless to-do lists and challenging realities of our jobs can make us doubt our effectiveness. “Am I making a difference?”, we ask. That day served as a reminder that yes, we are. It may be a poem, words of encouragement, a lesson that touched the heart, but when we serve others, we always make a difference. We just may not see it right away.