All of us have stories to tell about that teacher and those 20 seconds that still reverberate. Some of the stories are wonderfully uplifting. Unfortunately, some of them are not. Mention to the person next to you on a plane that you are a teacher, and you will be able to spot whether they have a positive or negative story to tell. I hate to note that, in so many cases, the stories I hear are negative ones. And I know my own former residents of the back bedroom have negative ones to share as well. Not everyone in education is the stereotypes as popular media would have us believe (do we have to select between whether we want to be a Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher or a rebel like Robin Williams in Dead Poet's Society?).
But this concept of taking 20 seconds or so to change a life is something that is often overlooked by those outside of the classroom trying to control what goes on INSIDE the classroom. Surely we can all take 20 seconds (or a longer block) and try to reach kids. Do a 60 second read aloud. Take 10 seconds to admire a new haircut. Spend 15 seconds on a quick conversation. Hand a book to a reader you know will love it. I feel as though I am once again preaching to the choir. I know you do this. I read postings on Twitter and Facebook that show me how you take the precious few seconds you can to change a life or at least make it a little better for the day or the class or whatever.
I got an email last week from a teacher I met this summer at a conference. She was asking if I had any books to send her way. She had a list of books in particular she was seeking. I took a little corner of time to hop onto Amazon and send her 2 copies of the books she wanted most (and they were ones I loved, too). Did I change her life? Doubtful. I might, however, have reached beyond her need to the need of a student searching for the just right book. And that is what keeps me going most days: this job that permits me to talk about helping match kids to books. That's a pretty good job. So, I string together the 20 seconds here and there and hope I am making a difference.