Getting Out of the Corner

It made no sense to back him in a corner. I could see him stiffen and flare his eyes as he went on the defensive. How she could not have seen it too is beyond me. But no, she pushed him even harder. Any trust and sense of belonging he’d had up to that point was on the run like a spooked horse that shits on the fly to lighten its load.

Yes, he was exactly like that. A spooked horse, possibly one that’s been mishandled, dominated, forced. Horses generally don’t want to kick or bite; sure, they’ll knock each other around in the herd some, but basically they’re grass-eaters, peaceful, more prey than predator. They’re not looking for a fight. But they’ll become predators if you push them hard enough, if you force your hand, and they’ve got nowhere to run. Any creature would. It’s a matter of dignity.

If you continue to pressure and push a cornered, scared horse that has already shown it’s willing to bite or kick to defend itself, then in my book, you get what you deserve. The solution? You have to back off, give the horse some space, remind it that it’s not cornered. In fact, encourage it to move off away from you, a much safer and more peaceful option than flying hooves or lunging teeth with ears pinned back. Only then can you begin traveling the long slow road to re-establish trust and make a connection.

Same with this student. Tattooed, atti-tooed, jailed, paroled, trying his best to not fuck up again. A young man who could swing either way, and it wouldn’t take much. He’d already passed one test towards his GED, something he thought he didn’t have the smarts for, something that surprised all of us, but him most of all. He didn’t know he had it in him to pass a really hard test, to succeed at anything, to actually possess the capability to not continue down the wrong road. He was starting to open up. To dream. Little dreams, at first. Then medium sized dreams. Maybe even big dreams.

But then he’s shamed and pushed around. She does it in front of the rest of the class. To his credit, he doesn’t blow a gasket and come out swinging. He pushes it down for later. Smart move, but it costs him.

I want to defend him, stick up for him, protect the trust and connection we’re building as teacher/student. I want to make her wrong for interfering. I want to find out exactly what’s wrong with her so I can explain it to her in great detail and make her back down.

But that road doesn’t feel right either. Maybe she’s feeling the same way he is. Pushed into a corner. Pressured enough to let the snarl get a hold of her. Scared. Isolated. In survival mode. And oblivious to the contra-indications.

I have to back off from both of them. Launder my agenda and hang it out to purify in the sunlight. Reconnect my own self so that I’m calm, consistent, patient. Only then can I give them space to remember they’re okay. They can move their feet. They’re not cornered. Just like with a nervous horse, I need to release the pressure as soon as I feel just the smallest try.

2 comments on “Getting Out of the Corner
  1. So thoughtful and perceptive! Makes me want these folks to succeed, find their self-worth.

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