Beast Tamer – the most rewarding job in the world.

I heard many a story growing up in the South of people who tried domesticating wild animals such as squirrels, raccoons and other such critters. Most of the stories went a little something like this: “Well my daddy was out in the yard looking for snakes to kill when he came up on an injured animal. He felt real bad so instead of putting it out of it’s misery he decided to bring it back to the house and make it our new pet! We named it Rowdy.”

That ridiculous scenario usually ends badly. Either the dog or cat kills it, it runs off or something like that. Every now of then the story will end like this: “You’ll never guess what happened yesterday. Momma was feeding Rowdy like she always does. When it happened. I mean it was crazy because normally he loves eating Combos out of her hand. We’ve taken tons of pictures of them. This time he freaked out and bit the fire out of her hand! Daddy says we can’t keep him anymore.”

Literally biting the hand that feeds you. How poetic.

Teaching students from the inner city is a pretty wild experience. It’s scary and uncertain at times and just when you get comfortable and think you have them figured out, that’s when it happens. They snap at you. They bite your hand and don’t even care. They get primal. They get enraged, and it seems as if it comes out of nowhere. One of my favorite student “bit the fire out of me” recently and it sucked big time. I was hurt and confused and got pretty angry. I stayed angry for a bit until I realized that it sucks way more for him and that his life is so chaotic and dis functional it makes mine look like an episode of “Leave it to Beaver.”

His father is a drug dealer who has been in and out of prison nine times. Nine times. He is 16 and his father has only been out of prison for 3 years of his life. His father has never seen him play sports. And he is really good. He is a starter on the football team. Oh and he recently tore his ACL.

He has some built up stress and like many young men his age has a difficult time processing and dealing with his emotions. Emotions that need to come out and will find their way out for better or worse. One day he is the kid full of life and joy and flashes a smile that lights up the hallway. The next day he flips out on me in class and yells that I should have never been a teacher because I can’t handle kids like him. Wow.

Did I sign up for THIS? Yes, yes I did. I did because I am him. I too have a beast of rage inside that is so difficult to tame that I can’t dare tame it myself. I need a team of beast-tamers in my corner all doing their part. Loving me, challenging me, forgiving me, supporting me. I’m lucky that I don’t have to face the beast alone. As I have learned we cannot fight such beasts on our own.

This kid may not realize it but he needs me. Heck maybe I need him. All I know is that helping him navigate through the maze of adolescence is totally worth the risk of getting my hand bitten off!



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