High-Risk American

I’m a high-risk American,
a potential embarrassment to my country,
serving fifteen years with chalk-dusted fingers.
Compassion stings like a vaccine no one will take
due to fear of authority or god’s wrath.

I’m a high-risk American,
an acceptable loss for my country,
tortuously teaching youth the truth.
Illegally instructing the less fortunate
to jimmy the locks of their own cages.

I’m a high-risk American,
collateral damage in my country’s crossfire,
investing in the future without a bulletproof vest.
Maybe one day, I will be remembered
as brave, unmasked and seen.

Is there a better banner
for the home of the free?
The teacher,
who stands longer than most,
takes less, forgives more.

© khartless 2021, All Rights Reserved


I wrote a shell of this poem many years ago, but so many of the lines seem true now, so it was time to take it out and give it new life and context. While markers and white boards are more common, I spent many years teaching with chalkboards, and still use them occasionally depending on where in the world I am teaching.

Tricia is host tonight for dVerse’s Poetics with the call to Take a Risk. Be sure to join us.

  • by tackling difficult subjects 
  • by laying bare a personal struggle in vivid detail
  • by writing on any topic as long the word “risk” is used (perhaps the risk we take falling in love)
  • by exploring a new writing form that you may find “risky” or unconventional

Anil Kumar is a teacher and artist. This painting is his response to the social media (PUG) addiction he sees in his students in India.

48 Comments

  1. Ingrid

    In the UK, the curriculum is so circumscribed (and dull) that it makes it almost impossible for teachers to take risks. Which is exactly what the government wants – a nation of conformists. Well done for singing the praises of these unsung superheroes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. K.Hartless

      Thank you, Ingrid. I see the curriculums tighten, even in an international setting. Still, there are choices to be made and ways of presenting information that opens the mind and makes learning exploratory. Hopefully, that is still possible everywhere. My greatest teachers made me question everything I knew. I thank them for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sunra Rainz

    As a teacher, I totally felt this. I also try and plant seeds where I can and if I ever come across a whiff of racism, sexism or any other type of -ism, address is kindly where possible, but I never ignore it.

    I especially enjoyed the following lines:

    Maybe one day, I will be remembered
    as brave, unmasked and seen.

    Is there a better banner
    for the home of the free?
    The teacher,
    who stands longer than most,
    takes less, forgives more.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beverly Crawford

    In my circle, teachers are heroes, dealing with the remarkable frustration of Covid in addition to changing lifestyles and children arriving at school with little or no respect for authority. Your poem speaks well for the frustration.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. rothpoetry

    Bless you for being a teacher who cares about teaching children to think and plan for their future! It is often a thankless job, hounded by administrators and score keepers. Don’t let them wear you down. We need you!

    Liked by 1 person

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