I carry my CCSD identification badge and the tracking device contained therein. I carry my keys, guaranteed entrance to most doors in our school, except those most in need of opening.
I carry the burden of expectation, the anxiety borne of the worst kind of perfectionism–the feeling that you are forever letting other people down. I carry the endless list of questions: Am I a good teacher? Am I good enough to make this meaningful? If I cannot make it meaningful to students, does it matter that it matters to me? Have I picked the wrong job in the wrong era? Should I have said something to that student? Should I have said something different? Does that student who makes no eye contact want me to say hello, is she just introverted, or does she hate me? What have I done to give her reason to hate me? What has this world done to her to give her reason to hate me? What has hate done to make her fear this world?
I carry pain in my back, the dormant remnants of an optical nerve sheath meningioma behind my left eye socket, the worrisome twinges of aging.
I carry the gnawing pangs of hunger throughout the school day. Sometimes for food, always for meaning.
I carry my conscience, the vestiges of Catholic guilt, my sense of professional decorum. I carry a tie around my neck, a visible symbol of the weight of my father’s influence.
I carry pens and notecards, physical reminders that digital technology will not save us. I carry my laptop, acknowledging our digital overlords. I carry the permanently on-call feeling technology in education has bestowed upon educators and students alike, a world where it has never been easier to learn but never harder to find time to process any learning.
I carry you and your learning and your humanity and your needs and your dreams and your fears. And I carry the growing awareness that no one can carry all our society now expects teachers and students to carry.
I carry my frustrations that we have lost sight of empathy and learning and replaced them with grades, class rank, and the repugnant smudge of standardized test scores. And then we express surprise at how our nation has filled in the oval.
I carry the words of the poet Luci Tapahonso:
“an undercurrent of fear,
an outpouring of love,
a whispered chant of loneliness.”