BY M. SCOTT MORRIS
TUPELO – Lessons come from books, as well as from personal experiences.
Julian Carroll, 51, an eighth-grade teacher at Tupelo Middle School, delivers both.
A member of the science department, he teaches the geological ages of the Earth and the complexity of the human body. A poster of the periodic table of elements hangs on one wall, and a bulletin board features a yellow sign with a dinosaur and the words “Dead End.”
“The classroom is home now,” Carroll said. “I can't think of being anywhere else.”
But he's been other places and probably will again.
During the 2006-07 school year, he taught his students for the first three weeks, then didn't see them again until the last month of classes.
In the interim, he served as a chief petty officer in the Naval Reserves. His duties took him to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kenya and 19 other countries.
“The way I see it, the military takes me away,” Carroll said, “so I don't take personal days from work.”
While overseas, Carroll documented the lives of “sailors on the ground,” rather than those serving on ships.
“My job was to start up a newsletter,” he said. “I asked them, What desktop publishing software do you use?' They said, What do you want?' I was reading manuals on the way over there.”
Basically, he was a reporter and a photographer for the Navy. It wasn't exactly like his days at the Daily Journal, where he worked as a photographer from 1997 to 2003.
“When the insurgents starting getting more effective with ground-based attacks on helicopters in Iraq, we started having to be more weight conscious,” he said.
He learned that his Macintosh computer, Nikon D2 camera, M4 rifle, body armor, food, clothes, water and other gear weighed 123 pounds.
“Then you have to hike three quarters of a mile to your tent, and the shower's a quarter of a mile away from that,” he said. “That's the military.”
Carroll spent part of his tour on the front lines, where he put both his D2 and his M4 to use. At other times, life was more civilized.
“It was almost worse in my apartment in Bahrain than being in the field,” he said. “It's easier to be in field conditions nonstop. It's a mind-set. Once you leave the field, you really don't want to go back to it. If I was going to be comfortable in my apartment, I would rather be home.”
Though Carroll didn't spend much time with his students before shipping out, they were morale boosters during his tour.
“They were great. They e-mailed me constantly,” he said. “The kids were unbelievable.”
Carroll and his class kept in touch until he returned to Northeast Mississippi with about a month to go in the school year. He spent two days with his wife, Stacy Carroll, and their daughter, Annaleise, who's now 5, then he went to work.
“On my first day back, I reached into a folder to get the first transparency for my lesson plan for the day that had been prepared by my co-workers,” he said. “It was a transparency of the male reproductive system. I thought, not today, not the first day back. I put it back.”
There's no telling when the military will require his services again, but Carroll was able to spend all of the 2007-08 school year with his students. He taught the eighth-grade science curriculum, as well as something extra.
“The children I saw in other places were living in dire conditions, and it was their everyday life, and they could still laugh about certain things,” Carroll said. “I want to impress on my students that they really should be thankful for everything they have here. That's always on my mind: the world conditions and how lucky we have it.”
Contact M. Scott Morris at 678-1589