It begins with tiny Caroline, surrounded by stacks of grammar books, teaching books, “how to” books, inspirational books, papers everywhere, schedules, documents, pre-work, post-work, welcome letters, rejection letters, rejected files, school supplies, lists, lists, lists. Her entrance into Arkansas, into outdoor elementary school from the 60s, into a culture where everyone said “Bless your heart” when they found out what she was teaching and “You look like one of the kids!” when they saw her with students.
It continues with a few months so dark she bans the word “quit” from her vocabulary. Anxiety deep enough to prevent sleep for anything longer than a three hour stretch, that has her trying remedy after remedy after remedy for said anxiety; runs at 6:00am because that’s the latest she can hold her racing head to a pillow on a good morning.
It keeps going with tears into the neighbor teacher’s arms, with screams into empty cars and with daily McFlurries. With students that give hugs every single day and others that refuse to stop muttering under their breath. Frequent drives to Little Rock, learning how to grade, learning that teaching is, in reality, about 10% actually teaching and 90% paperwork, organizing, re-organizing, discussing, pleading, rationalizing, phone calling, stressing, traveling, researching, analyzing, analyzing, analyzing.
And then later it’s Caroline realizing she has a full time job and a salary. A slight acceptance of the fact that college is over and the fate or attitude or day or just minute of one or 120 student or students may be changed by her existence in Arkansas with these lists, with this analysis.
Now sits Caroline in a borrowed dress for her students’ graduation. In a classroom with walls almost naked, with 26 desks mostly functional, and a full full heart. She has been a teacher for a year. She will be 24 in two weeks. Her life has changed so much in one year, she can hardly comprehend it.