I have an utter fear of snakes. I can’t read books about them, I can’t watch them on tv, and the thought of being in a room with one has me shaking and in tears. It’s a fear that is well known in school.
When Animals in Hands came into Year 3 back in September, Mo gave me a heads up when he was about to bring out the Burmese python, which had up until that point been totally out of sight. I suddenly remembered the copious amount of emergency photocopying I had to do and made a very hasty exit.
A few years ago, we went in a whole school trip to Twycross Zoo. During the conservation workshop, as a snake was brought out, I made a hasty retreat to the back of the room in tears. One of the boys, fortunately, decided that he really needed the toilet, and I was more than happy to take him. He held my hand and said, “It’s ok Miss, I’ll get you out of here.” He didn’t actually need the toilet, he just took pity on an adult who was clearly terrified.
So, today, when Animals In Hand came in to kick off topics for Year 6 And Year 1, the first question I asked was “Is… is there a snake?”
“Yes, it’s going to be in that display cage all morning.” came the reply.
I had promised myself I was going to try and stay in the room. And then, Mo transferred the Albino Python to the display case. I stood rooted to the spot. My whole body was shaking, I was in tears, but I didn’t leave the room. I did go and hide behind my desk, but I was in the room, with a four metre long snake, and pulled myself together enough to get on with the job. It couldn’t get out. It couldn’t hurt me.
When it came time for Mr Sunshine to have his moment in the spotlight, I stayed firmly rooted in my chair. The shaking returned, the tears returned, the children noticed and told me how brave I was. I managed to take some blurry photos of the children with the snake, get through until lunchtime, and then went and threw up. But, I had faced my fear and won. I was really proud of myself!
The Year 1 teacher asked if I’d talk to one of her girls, who was upset due to being scared about meeting some of the animals in the afternoon. I told her I totally understood, as I had been terrified of the big snake, and I promised if she was scared, I’d come and help her. I’d seen the rabbit, the guinea pig, the chinchilla – not a problem!
The call came, in I went and asked what she was scared of. She pointed, I looked, she said, “You put it on you.” A corn snake. The shakes came back, my stomach was trying to escape through my mouth. I wasn’t going to break my promise. I knelt down next to her, held her hand, and nodded at Mo…
Fear is a horrible thing, it can be crippling. Today, I refused to let it conquer me. Today, I was as brave as any of the heroes in the books that I love. In future, though, I’d much rather be frightened and feel that adrenaline rush sat reading about other people.
That’s why I love reading. I get to explore new places, meet new people, go on exhilarating adventures, solve mysteries, and feel the fear all from the comfort of my favourite reading spot. It’s one of the reasons I encourage children to read. Books are safer than tv or films – the images you create in your head are only ever as scary as you imagination allows them to be. If a child asks for a ‘scary book’ Robin Jarvis is my go to author, but I now have a bank of books that will get their pulses racing. Whether supernatural horror, historical fiction, or a gripping adventure, there is a book out there that will allow every child to feel the fear safely, with a lot less shaking, tears and vomiting than I went through today. My pulse rate is just about back to normal!
These are my go to adrenaline fuelled, heart pumping reads for Year 6 up:
- The Power of Dark by Robin Jarvis
- The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone
- The Boy With One Name by J.R. Wallis
- Strange Star by Emma Carroll
- The Thieves of Pudding Lane by Jonathan Eyers
- Boy X by Dan Smith
- Gaslight by Eloise Williams
- Stunt Double by Tamsin Cooke