It was a beautiful morning in Tucson. The sun was shining (not out of the norm but beautiful, nonetheless), the breeze was slight, and the desert was in full bloom. I was on my run (which is more like a jog, maybe sometimes more resembling a brisk walk) to the gym when all of a sudden…..AAAAAGH! I let out a tiny yelp (by which I mean I screamed like a little girl confronted by a scary monster from the closet). Slithering across the pebbly path was a four-foot snake. From my vantage point of ten feet in the air, the snake looked like a devilish creature better suited for the gates of Hell rather than lying across the path in our lovely neighborhood.
As I reached for my phone to take a picture of the evil serpent, so I would have proof of my bravery to show Dave, I heard from further up the path, “What is going on? Are you okay?” A gentleman was walking towards me. I asked, “What do you know about snakes?” He snorted and answered, “My knowledge of snakes would fit in a thimble, which is fine by me.” I agreed, “I don’t know much either, just wondered if this was mean or ultra-mean.” As the man and I laughed like co-conspirators in an anti-reptile plot, I heard another voice from the other direction, “Oh my, look at this beauty.” The man and I both looked to see what this new woman might be talking about, but amazingly enough, she was speaking of the snake! She continued, “Isn’t she beautiful?” Ummm….no. I wanted to say. I did not. But she continued, “She is a really striking King snake, isn’t she?” I answered, “Hmmm…get it? Striking? For a snake?” The gentleman laughed. Snake woman did not. She bent down on one knee (did I mention the snake was lying on the path???) and said as she looked (no, glared) at us with narrowed eyes, “She is nervous because she knows some humans don’t love snakes.” I assure you she said the word “humans” as if the man and I were co-presidents of the “Bad humans of the world” club. Soon enough, slithery serpent slipped away and we humans all parted ways.
This incident got me thinking about how curious it is that the man and I could perceive that creature on the path as one thing, while Snake Lover perceived him (or her, which still baffles me how she would know the gender of said snake) as quite another thing.
It reminded me that often, our perception is based on the lens through which we see certain things. I was talking to a principal the other day. She said, “The district keeps changing things and adding new mandates, it is really hard to keep up. It is taking its toll on the morale of the teachers.” I agreed that this phenomenon is common place across the country. We talked about how some staff members tend to be able to roll with the punches and prevail, despite the “crazy” and others melted down to the point of incapacitation. What makes the difference, we pondered, between the personalities? Often, it is simply the lens through which we view life.
I just finished reading a Corwin publication called “Deliberate Optimism” by Silver, Berckemeyer, and Baenen. The authors talked about how some staff members simply have the capacity to reclaim joy in education. In the book, they quote Rafe Esquith (2014), “Optimism is the foundation of all good teaching. Optimism is the face of daunting reality is downright heroic----and that, in fact, is what good teachers practice all day long while others denigrate their contributions to society.”
Perhaps we need to remember how to reclaim the joy in every job we do. Our outlook alters the way we do our work. It also, clearly, alters how we view snakes on the path. Be safe out there.