Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lessons learned.

This year has easily been my most difficult year teaching. This isn't my story alone; it the story of most of my friends and family in education. My students have been hopelessly apathetic (although incredibly nice), the climate of my school has been challenging, and the state in which I live has made an already thankless job somehow even less valued. I've questioned my career choice on more than my one occasion. However, an encounter last week with one of my graduating seniors restored the drive to keep teaching (at least for one more year). 

My student, I'll call him "Mick", was in my class all year. He failed my writing class first semester, and due to a deal I made with his guidance counselor to stay on him until passed, he returned to the same course second semester. He is one of those kids who drives me insane! He's a nice kid, a deep kid, an artistic kid. I love this kid, but sometimes, I want to scream at him because he throws away his potential. He knows that I believe all these things about him. I've told him on multiple occasions as I stand in the hallway and ask for an explanation as to why his homework is not done...again. I told him the day he served a detention with me for not having homework done (it's worse to spend a detention with a teacher like me than in school's detention because you have to do something). That's also the day he opened up about his angst over the world we live in. He questioned how a fellow classmate could die so young. I didn't have an answer, but I did listen. 

With all of this, I shouldn't be surprised that it was this kid who reminded me why I teach. Mick was serving yet another detention with me on Friday. This one wasn't from me, but instead of sitting with everyone else, he asked if he could serve a detention with me. I agreed, but told him that since he didn't write all of what he was supposed to while in my class, he'd spend his detention writing. His prompt: "What did you learn in my class this year?" The following are excerpts from Mick's response.

"Knowing that all of the MLA stuff is going to be stuck in my head for a good length of time should at least give you some satisfaction. I know that I learned more than my grade reflects. Although much of the knowledge would not show in any grade. It is the knowledge of actual things, not words on paper or how to earn money or have a big house and car and wife and kids. It is knowledge that I could go out and apply in any situation I am in. It is common sense, self-awareness, and being able to think independently....I know you may end up feeling like you didn't do your job properly, or that you could have done better. This I only know from previous conversations, but you did just fine, Mrs. Samples. Exceptionally better than most, as a matter of fact. Even though you are making me sit her and write, I truly don't mind it. You actually gave a damn....Thanks for everything."

Yes, Mick, I did. I do. And at least for one more year, I will continue to care about who my students become and that even if they don't really get MLA, they will really get that someone believes in them, knows that they have potential, listens to them, and gives a damn. And Mick, thanks for reminding me why I became a teacher in the first place. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend--Hello, Summer!

Memorial Day weekend has historically been anti-climactic for me. This year, however, the holiday lived up to the hype surrounding it. It started with a unique opportunity. As most of you know, my incredibly talented best friends, Becky and Jenn, own a successful photography company, Hoyle Cunningham Photography. (Oh, you noticed my maiden name? That's because my dear friend Becky married my dear brother, Randy. :) Through a series of events, Becky and Jenn asked me if I would help them shoot a swanky wedding in downtown Chicago. While it was a long, grueling day, I loved every second of it! It was a throwback to the days when we used to shoot events for our high school yearbook and newspaper. Not only did I get to hang out with two of my lifelong friends, I also gained a new appreciation for what they do. I had no idea just how physically and mentally taxing their profession is. By the time I got home fourteen hours later, I was wiped. 

Somehow I recovered in time for us to head over to Mike's sister's house for a cookout. After the torrential downpour and tornado sirens, it actually shaped up to be a pretty nice day. Here's a photo recap. 
Jen & Keith, our always accommodating hosts

Ashley, Jake, & me-Being their aunt was one of the greatest parts of marrying Mike

Geoff & Ashley-They've been together almost as long as Mike & me!

Look at how tall Jake is! He's certainly catching up to Uncle Mike

The two Mikes enjoying the perfect weather!

Jen & Mono!

Me & Jen-Love her!

After recovering a bit from yesterday's activities, Mike and I got going on some projects. On a whim, I bought a Topsy-Turvy planter while we were checking out of the Home Depot this morning. I figured I should probably take this garden thing nice and easy. In the midst of preparing my first "garden," Mike came into the back yard and said, "Um. I have some bad news. Some of your china broke. A shelf in the garage fell." 

The good news: My coveted wedding china did NOT break. 
The bad news: The shelf that fell in the garage held ALL of the leftover paint from our house. 
The God-is-so-good news: Our recently paid-off Charger was NOT in its usual spot in the garage, so it was NOT covered in paint. 
When all was said and done, it took us approximately 2 hours to clean up the paint, but there were so many blessings in the crisis, that neither of us really cared.

Once the paint was cleaned up (sorry no picture--we went into crazy cleaning mode as soon as it happened), I finished assembling my planter. Here are the before pictures. Here's hoping my heirloom tomatoes, basil, oregano, and parsley come in. 
This "little" project took WAY more time, energy & money than I thought it would...

Please, tomato plant, make this worth it! :)

Monday, May 23, 2011


I'm a Chicago Bulls fan. I grew up during the age of Jordan. MJ, Pippen, B.J. Armstrong, and Dennis Rodman made me fall in love with the game. As a child, I sat alone in front of our television, curled up in my favorite rocking chair and watched the first Three-Peat. It was magical to watch that trophy hoisted into the air by the greatest basket ball player of all time. That trophy, while won by a few men, felt like an entire city's; it felt like mine. To this day, the Bulls are the only team I have loved my entire life.

Of the many things my husband and I have in common, the love for this team is one of my favorites. I vividly remember when the Bulls won the first pick in the NBA draft in 2008. Michael informed me that the odds were against us, yet somehow, kismet took over and Derrick Rose joined our team. A quiet kid from the Southside, the future of the Bulls dynasty would come rest on his shoulders.

Fast forward to present day. In three short years, Rose was named the youngest MVP in league history and has lead the Bulls into a competition for the Eastern Conference title against the loathed Miami Heat. (I have my own opinions about LeBron James and his cowardice, however I won't discuss them at this time.) For the first time in thirteen years, the possibility of a world championship is here.

Truly though, as a fan, I couldn't be more thrilled or proud. This Bulls team defines humility and perseverance. While Rose is our superstar, we fans love the entire team. We cheer for Joakim Noah, (a player who has received his share of heckles), Carlos Boozer, Keith Bogans, and Luol Deng, and we're proud of our Bench Mob (Korver, Gibson, Brewer, Watson, Thomas and Asik).

While I know we're down one game in this series, I haven't been this proud to be a Bulls fan in years. We have stand-up guys who play as a team, and they're making the whole city See Red!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Good-bye, Smallville.

Despite countless attempts on my part, most of my life I've been, well, a nerd. In high school my best friends and I spent hours dreaming about what life would be like if we married Hanson brothers. We had vocab parties instead of drinking parties (shocking that two of three of us became English teachers), and we would often drive slowly down the streets of our town waving out of rolled down windows (to no one in particular) with music blaring. We called them "parades". I'm certain others called us "losers".

I have a lot of favorites that contribute to my loser-nerd status. The short list includes: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Twilight, Scrabble, and most superheroes. As a kid I admired Batman and Robin. I remember watching Lois & Clark with my dad and dreamed that one day I would be a quippy and talented writer like Lois Lane who found her Superman. (FYI: I did find my Clark Kent.) When I met my husband, the nerd in me LOVED that he was a comic book fanatic. (Doesn't fanatic have a nicer connotation than "freak" or "nerd"?!) Then Michael introduced me to Smallville, and I fell in love again. 

Tonight, we'll say good-bye to Tom Welling's Clark Kent. After ten seasons, the naive farm boy is ready to put on tights and a cape and become our beloved Man of Steel. For those of you who don't have the same love for Kal-El (Superman's Kryptonian name), I'm giving you...

The Top Five Reasons Superman is the 
Greatest Superhero of All Time

5. Any guy that can change his identity completely with accessories deserves some serious respect. 

4. A crazy awesome posse of b.a. good guys, aka the Justice League call him their leader. 

3. Family is a priority. Ma and Pa Kent raised a man with good, old fashioned values. Another example that nurture is just as (if not more) important than nature.

2. Beautiful, brainy brunettes turn him on. 

1. He's a protector of the innocent. 

At the end of the day, the nerd in me loves the sci-fi of superheroes, but the part of my soul that believes in the end goodness and honesty prevail, will always love Superman. He is symbol of all that is good and admirable in this world. (It doesn't hurt that there are many similarities between Superman and Jesus either.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

15 Days...

Yes, it's been over a month since my last post. 

This is all I've got right now. 

15 days left with my seniors. I'm ecstatic! Seriously...SO READY to be done for the summer.

(21 days left with my sophomores...no comment.)

Yes, I remember my commitment to blog about everyday, ordinary stuff.  I will blog more if it kills me. I'm trying to get my cyber-presence fluid. I've got Facebook down; I recently started to Tweet...regularly; and I will continue to strive toward daily blogging (or at least 5x a week blogging). (Maybe I should blog on days that I work out...that would keep me accountable, eh? You [all 12 of you] could harass me if I didn't post since that means I didn't work out either. Something to consider...)

That's all for now.