I really don’t know what to do with myself.
I don’t want to admit that. It feels like a declaration of weakness and, in all likelihood, will be seen as such.
Ever since I was escorted out of East Middle School Monday, April 8, by our school’s police officer, moments after being told I was being placed on paid administrative leave, I have spent hours and hours wrestling with how to handle this situation.
I have joked about it on Facebook and in a few conversations, simply because that is the way I deal with setbacks. I don’t want to let people know that I am worried to death about losing a job I love and worried that the steps that have been taken against me could end up marking the end of my teaching career.
Though I feel like a young man, let’s face it- I’m 57 and I have a pacemaker. Schools aren’t going to be lining up to add me to their faculties.
More than anything I am frustrated about the steps that have put me into this position.
I am frustrated that the question-and-answer session that led directly to my being placed on leave was barely more than five minutes.
I am frustrated that I was never even asked if I had made a profit off Scars from the Tornado. A more careful investigation would have shown that I have not and that I have made every effort to be open and honest with my students, their parents, and the taxpayers of the Joplin School District about what I would like to see done with that money.
I am frustrated that a book that says so many positive things about the Joplin School District and should be one that any school district should be proud of is being treated like it is part of a criminal activity.
The frustration extends to the accusations centering on my book No Child Left Alive. I wonder why a few more moments couldn’t have been taken by the human resources director to hear my side of the story. She clearly says I will get my opportunity to tell my side, but should that opportunity have to wait until my job is on the line at a do-or-die hearing? Room 210 Discussion is not a classroom blog and I have not talked to my class about it for years. It mentions East Middle School at the top only because, for a brief time three years ago, I considered trying to set up a discussion blog. I did not do it and I have not pointed my students in the direction of that blog.
An investigation that was seeking the truth would have found that out rather quickly.
An investigation that was seeking the truth would never have led to the Board of Education and a vote that is clearly not in the best interests of the Joplin School District.
One of the people who left comments on my blog said some kind things about me- things that I deeply appreciate.
It is true that I am usually one of the first ones to arrive at work each day and one of the last to leave. In 36 years of working, I have only missed four days. Three of those came last year and it took a pacemaker implantation procedure to pull me out of class those three days. When I am working at a job, whether it be at newspapers, where I worked 22 years, or the last 14 as a classroom teacher, I have never cheated my employers. I show up, I do my job, and I do it well.
I have always considered it to be part of my job to help younger teachers deal with the day-to-day problems they face. Young teachers, like the students who sit in their classrooms each day, are the hope of the future.
In the 10 years I have spent in this district, I have probably done as much as anyone to emphasize the positive, whether it be on my Journalism Club website, my Mr. Turner’s Corner, which is the only classroom website I have, or in The Turner Report.
In 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado and Spirit of Hope: The Year after the Joplin Tornado, I wrote stories that specifically pointed out nothing but positive things about the Joplin School District.
In 10 years in this district, I have never once received a bad evaluation. My fellow teachers thought enough of me to name me one of the first two teachers at South Middle School to receive the Golden Eagle Award, something that is given to the top teacher, as voted by his or her colleagues. There are others I thought were more worthy, but of all the honors I have received in my years in journalism and education, the Golden Eagle Award is the one that means the most to me.
That year, I was also a finalist for the Joplin School District’s Teacher of the Year Award.
For 10 years, I have done my best to be a positive force for the children of the Joplin School District. You will find few people outside of those who have brought this action against me who would disagree with that assessment.
For all of that, I deserved more than five minutes with someone who clearly had already decided the outcome of the interview.
For all of that, I deserve to have this hearing canceled and be put back into my classroom,
Instead, my time as a teacher may very well have ended with a police officer leading me out of the building.
Can this really be the message the Joplin School District wants to send?