Do I Matter?

My first mainstream book, After 3PM, comes out in three weeks. And I wrote it for one reason: To change the system; to change perspectives; to make a difference.

But I find myself asking the pessimistic (yet potentially real) questions: Will my book make a difference? Will I make a difference? Will I matter?

If nothing else, these difficult years (ever since 2010, when I committed my crime) have made me an extremely self-aware person. Essentially, “I know my place.” Or, at least, I know what place society demands I remain: Out of sight — Out of mind. But that’s not what I’m doing.

I wrote a book, I’ve been on television, I’ve been featured in the newspaper, I’ve given speeches across the country, I have regular readers and subscribers to my blog and website — So at least a few people think what I’m saying is (at the very least) interesting.

In addition, several people have read advance copies of the book, and I have received gracious and humbling praise, not only for what it says and how it says it, but also what the book hopes to accomplish.

Here are some comments I’ve received:

  • “After reading your book, I also see you now as a victim of exceptionally poor judgment 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.”
    Current New Jersey Educator
  • “Kurt really gets to the core of patterns and the ways that teacher/school culture turns a blind eye to lots of damaging behavior. After 3PM is a book of great value. I found myself writing in the margins, ‘yes,’ or ‘good point’ or helpful.’”
    Dr. Charol Shakeshaft, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • “I absolutely could not put it down. I read the whole thing in two days! It really got to me. At first, I hated you; and then I cried for you.”
    Former Wichita Educator
  • “I just finished [reading] the book. Have you sent a copy to Alicia Thompson? What would you have to lose? It paints East in a painfully broken light. But it sounds like it needs to be addressed. I mean, I am seriously in shock.”
    Current Wichita Educator

I suppose, in retrospect, a difference is being made. I sent an advance copy of After 3PM to the administration of Wichita East High School, and they are aware of the book’s public release date, April 24th. I learned soon after that the Principal, Ken Thiessen, has chosen to retire at the end of this year. This is a man whose whole life has revolved around being an administrator at this school, dating back to when I was a student there at East High. As a Principal, I always felt Mr. Thiessen did an exemplary job as a school administrator regarding the bureaucratic and political nonsense that comes with being a top-tier school administrator. However, where he failed was keeping his employees in check, holding his staff to the behavioral standards he held the students. But one unfortunate fact remained: He had full knowledge of on-campus drug use, alcohol use, and sexual misconduct (in many forms) which were occurring on his watch, on his campus, but he chose to turn a blind eye.

And now, my book will expose all of it.

And now, he has decided to retire.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not “taking credit” for the retirement of Ken Thiessen. For all I know, he’d been planning it for years. But it seems like a convenient coincidence for him to retire immediately after a nation-wide book is released, exposing the scandalous behavior he fostered among his staff. I am ashamed to say that I enjoyed partaking in this scandalous behavior while I was a wayward educator employed at his school; now, after two years of prison and even more years of therapy, I am completely and utterly ashamed of my behavior as a teacher at Wichita East High School — not simply the relationship with the student, but also the on-campus alcohol use, drug use, and sexual escapades in which I indulged with a countless number of my colleagues.

And just as a caveat, if you’d like to hear more about the drugs at East High School during my tenure there, listen to Episode #5 of my Podcast.

But in the grand scheme of things, I’m only talking about one school. The problem is, it’s not simply one school. So the purpose of my book is not to change the school where I taught — the purpose of my book is to change the system as a whole!

The paramount point I attempt to make in After 3PM is to shed light upon the overall out-of-control culture which has a significant impact on teachers’ cognitive distortions regarding many of their destructive choices, including unlawful relationships with students.

It’s not simply about “not hooking up with students.” It’s about changing the entire out-of-control drug/booze/sex-filled culture which is fostered within many school faculties, many of which are ignored by their supervising administrations.

So, I guess, that is what matters. The message matters. The book matters.

I don’t matter, because it’s not about me — it’s about changing the culture of high school teachers who will be teaching my daughter in only a few short years. And honestly, if I was an East High parent and I knew what the teachers were doing behind closed doors, I would withdraw my daughter immediately.

People need to know what is really happening.

That is why my book matters. Not me — the book.

This book is not about me — this book is about doing the right thing.