Snake Handling for Leaders

Snake Handling for Leaders


Oh, hi there! Thanks for visiting me here
at the Bell Museum of Natural History! My name is Santi. I’m just hanging out with my
friend here, Kaa, the King Snake. Say “Hi” to the audience, Kaa. I know it may be hard
to believe, but Kaa and I didn’t always used to be friends. In fact, we used to be
quite afraid of one another, weren’t we Kaa? Where should I begin? I was in an office being interviewed for the position as an interpretive guide. It was all going quite well until the
employer asked me the question that would one day bring Kaa and I together: “Would
you be comfortable handling invertebrates and reptiles, including snakes?” My heart
stopped in that moment. Would I be comfortable handling snakes? No. The answer was absolutely
not. It was nearly summer though, and I needed this job. So I bit my tongue, and the answer
that came out of my mouth was “Of course!” Now I know this might all sound insane, but
my thought process was this: One of the biggest lessons I took away from Dean’s Scholars
is the importance of leaders to push themselves outside of their comfort zones, whether it’s
done by having difficult conversations, serving communities we might be unfamiliar with,
or even something as small as conquering a personal fear. This is how we are able to
challenge ourselves to grow, and this is exactly what I hoped to do at the Bell Museum.
So I had talked the talk, but when training day came, it was time to walk the walk. My
heart was racing when we approached the snake cage. The trainer stroked Kaa while discussing
morbid emergency procedures and slowly pulled her out. I stiffly extended my arms. When
she set him on my hands I completely stopped breathing. I thought he was going to slide
right off, my hands were so sweaty. I didn’t move a muscle until the trainer took her back.
Even though my first time handling Kaa was a pretty difficult jump outside of my comfort
zone- after about three months I was able to pick her up all on my own, and today we’re
the best of buds. I’ll definitely always look back at Kaa and the Dean’s Scholars
program when I’m facing something that seems a little too difficult for me to handle. Alright,
I think it’s about time for us to get going now, huh Kaa? Thanks for visiting, everybody!

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