As of today, I have been home from prison for three years.
So perhaps it’s time for a bit of reflection.
As I look back over those three years, have I accomplished anything? I mean, sure, I’ve written two books (with numerous more in production), I’ve run three marathons, repaired a few relationships (and been ostracized from many others), I’ve given a speech at a national conference, I’ve been interviewed numerous times in the media — but what does any (or all) of that mean?
Have I made a difference yet?
Yesterday I received a very encouraging email from someone I met (from New Jersey) after my speech in Arizona in October, asking for 20 copies of my book, After 3PM, because (partly) as a result of my speech, he went back to his respective school district and formed an entire committee on the issue of teacher/student boundaries.
“I have been looking for a source that, like me, is past the point of polite intellectual exploration of the subject and more about getting something in motion to help. You were kind enough to give me an advance copy of After 3PM. I have read it and find it very useful despite it being very disturbing,” his message read. “You provided a valued glimpse into the life of a perpetrator. After reading your book, I also see you now as a victim of exceptionally poor judgement and of a system that provides little or no constructive conversation about boundary violations. Your perspective is important and your willingness to irritate every school district out of complacency is, frankly, refreshing.”
I very much appreciated his acknowledgement that I wasn’t “blaming the system” for my choices — that I was, in fact, at fault; but that there were systematic and cultural issues at-play as well. Frankly, he perfectly understood the point I was trying to make.
He went on to ask for twenty copies of my book; one copy for each of the ten members of his newly-formed committee as well as extra copies to give to others.
What an amazing feeling, to know my struggles and my failures are actually starting to serve a positive purpose, helping someone on the other side of the country take proactive steps toward making a positive change!
Him saying that I am willing “to irritate every school district out of complacency” is easily the best way I’ve ever heard my mission and message described. This is the sort of thing — the sort of sentiment, the sort of message — which keeps me pushing forward in my endeavor of making my “mess into my message” (as someone else once said).
I’ve learned recently that my former colleagues at Wichita East High School absolutely despise me, and I don’t —not for a single moment — pretend to not know why. First of all, I understand that they feel violated and betrayed by my unlawful actions because they trusted me as a colleague and I violated that trust, casting a negative shadow upon their profession and their school. This anger, I can totally understand; and for doing this, I would offer my sincere apologies.
However, I know why else they hate me. They hate me because I am publicly exposing the culture in which they have been basking for so many years — the culture of sex, drugs, and scandals which (until now) has remained in the dark shadows of see-no-evil-hear-no-evil — the culture which is fostered and ignored by the administration. I do not — and will not apologize for showing people what actually goes on. I do not — and will not apologize for telling the truth!
Parents need to know who is educating their children. And while I am fully aware that a vast majority of teachers are great people, positive educators, and impact a very positive change in the lives of their students, it’s the silent minority of teachers in this seedy subculture of educators who pose the greatest risk to students — well, unless you think a teacher teaching drunk or high (or worse) is permissible and safe for students.
So, after being home for three years, have I made a difference? I think so, yes — a small difference thus far, but a difference nonetheless.
My prayer is, this is just the beginning.
I can make a difference.
I will make a difference!