MONSTERS I’VE MET
I met a ghost, but he didn’t want my head,
He only wanted to know the way to Denver.
I met a devil, but he didn’t want my soul,
He only wanted to borrow my bike awhile.
I met a vampire, but he didn’t want my blood,
He only wanted two nickels for a dime.
I keep meeting all the right people -
At all the wrong times.
- Shel Silverstein
I had a great conversation with two early education teachers who operate in polar opposite situations: One teaches at-risk children whose backgrounds and prior experiences suggest they're on the fast-track to future incarceration, while the other teaches relatively well-adjusted kids from largely stable backgrounds whose futures look decidedly brighter.
Both teachers are passionate about their jobs with multiple struggles to deal with, but their day-to-day experiences are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. While one teacher may have a child cockily report to her mother that "my teacher loves me," the other might have to deal with the pain of having to report a parent for a blatant disregard of crucial oral hygiene. Both love their children equally and are dedicated to their jobs, but the nature of the jobs each has chosen makes their day-to-day a completely different ordeal.
The conversation I had with them brought to mind what type of scenarios they could be dealing with at a different point in time? If the kids they both taught were even just 3 years older, would their experiences be the same? A child from a "stable" background at 5 may have gone through a traumatic ordeal before age 8 and be a potential future danger to society. An at-risk youth at age 6 could have a life-changing teacher at that age and be a star pupil by age 9.
Shel Silverstein's poem contains no obvious verbal complexity, but the depth of it is unfathomable. The length at which our experiences and the times at which we go through these incidents affects us is an amazing spectrum of possibilities. The breadth of the human experience is staggering, a fact that is simply and succinctly addressed in "Monsters I've Met".
Yesterday's devil may be tomorrow's polite bicyclist.