Sunday, August 29, 2010

What is success these days???

This weekend has been FANtastic!!!!!!!!! Not only has there been plenty of activities this weekend, BUT both Friday and Saturday night my friends and I (somewhat different group each night) stayed up until midnight talking about education and what we are seeing as the new generation of teachers!!! ESPECIALLY in India!!!! It felt like we were in college again!!! So yes students, your boring old teachers stay up until midnight talking about education!!!:) EXCITING!!!!! For us at least!!! Anyways, last night was the more intense conversation about education than Friday night, mainly because we were talking about expectations at Woodstock and our opinions on them!!! Now I'm not going to repeat these conversations because we know what we talked about and that is that nor am I going to mention names with their opinions!!!:) However, I wanted to share some thoughts on my experiences with education, both as a student and now as a teacher!!!!!!! Mostly from the teaching perspective!!! Which has a LONG, ELABORATE history I know!! A whole whopping 1 year and 1 month!!! But that is in formal education, I also have 7 years of teaching experience on the courts back in Shako, so it's not like I'm brand spanking new to this concept of pedagogy!!! As a student I won't lie I was one of the more "teacher's pets" you could say!!! ALWAYS excited to go to school and see my friends and goof around!! But when it came to the books I was above average!!! At least up to high school!! Then my easy ways of barely studying and just basically knowing was going down the pooper!! I actually had to study now!! And this is where a lot of students determine their path in education right here and there!!! They can either CARE about grades and their future, OR they can blow it off all together and go through the motions!! Well luckily I cared about my grades and future and I got down and dirty, not studying too hard but enough to get a 3.5GPA!!!:) On the ACT (similar to SAT's) I scored an 18 the first time and a whopping 22 the second time, out of 36 I think!! Needless to say aint going to Harvard!! But thankfully I had no ambition at ALL to go to an IVY league school or any of those "rich" schools!! My eyes were set on THE U of M (sorry Michigan, but we are THE U of M) or THE University of Minnesota Duluth!!! By 11th grade those were my 2 college choices and thanks to 5 years of teaching tennis at that point I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to be: a PHYSICAL EDUCATION TEACHER!!!!:) Senior year came by, I applied for both U of M and UMD and was accepted FIRST into UMD and from there the rest is history!!! I didn't need a campus visit, because I've been to Duluth so many times I knew I would love it there!!! College was AMAZING!! First year on academic probation (stupid lib eds!!) and again had a choice either shape up or give up!!! OH I SHAPED UP HARD AND FAST!!!! Got off of Academic Probation after my second semester of college and never looked back!!! I was motivated as all crap to get that Physical Education degree!! Because I knew there was nothing more that I wanted to be in life, or anything more meaningful!!! So going from a 2.2GPA after my first semester and graduating with a 3.14 wasn't too shabby!!! And yes comment all you want that it was only "UMD"!! No glamor school, no nationally known college, it was plain and simply my college and now my alma mater!!!:) And you know what, everyone else's opinion simply didn't matter!!! Why?!?! Because I was happy and proud to be a college grad and on track to teach Physical Education the rest of my life!!!!!!:) AND THAT IS WHAT MATTERS!!!!! Not the college you graduate from, not the grades/marks you receive, not how many extra-curricular activities you participate in!!! The one and only thing that I think matters in life is going after what you're passionate about!!! And the rest will fall into place!!!!:) I was passionate about teaching (specifically PE) and that passion turned my grades around in college and landed me a job at Woodstock!!! If interviews only went by grades and marks there was no way I would have landed this job!! However, interviews focus on one thing, that person's personality and character!! And Woodstock (I hoped) could see my passion for teaching and for Physical Education!!!!! THAT is what landed me my first dream job!!! And what a dream it has been so far!!!!:) I couldn't be happier, and this coming from a UMD grad, shocking right?!?! How could I ever be THIS happy without an IVY league degree, graduated with top marks in my class, or a big bank account?!?! Simply groundbreaking stuff right here!!!! Ooooooooooooooooh wait I think I know, it's because I am doing what I WANT AND LOVE TO DO!!!!!!!! A lot of this/most of this comes from my parents!!! My dad got into banking when he was 15 and loved it ever since!!! My mom got in to religion and has been the most passionate pastor I know ever since!!! When I told them I signed a contract to Woodstock School in India and then told them what I would be making, they were the happiest parents I knew!!! Why?!?! Because they know this is what I want to do, and this makes me happy!!!!!! They didn't care what I was making, or what school I was teaching at, all they care about is seeing their son happy and doing something he loves and is passionate for!!! Which brings me back to the perspective as a teacher!!! In a lot of ways we are parents to these kids, especially at Woodstock!!! If we show up to school everyday showing no enthusiasm or passion for what we do, how are we ever expecting our students to be excited about life?!?! You teach by example damn it!!! If I teach PE, you better believe I'm going to be active EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE!!!! How can I preach the benefits of staying active if I'm a 100lb overweight lazy butt!?!?! How can I teach enthusiasm about life if I don't show it myself every single day!?!?!? How can I inspire students to do something they love, if I myself do not do something I love every single day?!?! In a perfect world every student would be in shape and going after what they love!!! Well real world says that aint gonna happen, and you know what that's okay!!! Why?!?! Because that is why we become teachers to take that head on and try to motivate and inspire!! If teaching was easy, EVERYONE would want to be a teacher!!! But it's not!!! That is why I will NEVER tell my students to stop doing what they love and focus on what will benefit them the most financially and what will look good on a resume!! Once we (teachers) start doing that we're not teachers anymore, we're everyday people who just tell someone younger than us what is the best thing to do.......a.k.a ADULTS!!!!!!!!!!! No, a teacher is someone who cares and believe in students!! A teacher is someone who will work that extra hour one on one with a student who is struggling and trying to find their place in life!!! A teacher is someone who WILL SHOW UP TO WORK DAY IN AND DAY OUT READY TO INSPIRE!!! A TEACHER IS SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T FOCUS ON RANK/GRADES BUT ON A STUDENT'S CHARACTER AND MORAL DECISIONS!!!!!!!! We are shaping the future teachers of the world, and if we do not lead by example then what becomes of this next generation?!!? Who are we but dust in the wind if we do not try to make a difference and impact on each student's life!!!!! Good college, big paycheck, nice car?!?! Those things come and go!!! Heart, passion, and character stick with someone forever!!! They are you, they are your soul!!! We cannot change their character, we can only inspire and lead by example!!!! To all those out their who strive to make change every single day in the classroom I solute you!! For those who go through the motions everyday cause it's giving you a paycheck get out now!!! You are doing no good for yourself and for your students!!!! Why does the system fail from time to time, because there are teacher's out there who don't care for the student's, only themselves and advancing in the paycheck ladder!!!! So what is success these days, I can't tell you what yours is but I know what mine is and I know I'm on the right path!!!!!!! There's my teaching philosophy!! And they say keep it under a paragraph!!!! RIGHT!!!!:) Hope everyone's weekend was FANTASTIC and HAVE A WONDERFUL SEPTEMBER!!!!!!!!!!!!

3 MONTHS AND 20 DAYS MINNESOTA/IOWA/KANSAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:)

"Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others, cannot keep it from themselves" -James Barrie

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A unique experience??

Well as of 12:35pm (Saturday, August 21, 2010) I said my 3 month and 28 days goodbye to the Wiebe's until I see them again in Kansas back in the states over break!!!!! But still that's 3 months and 28 days too long!!! As I took last night to kind of reflect on everything that has happen this past 1 1/2 months I realize I'm kind of in a unique predicament right now, comparing myself to the staff that I came over here with that is!! Let me explain:

-One of the few that came to Woodstock knowing NO ONE and left all friends/family behind
-The only one that has not gone home to see family and friends since arriving (going to be 1 1/2 years)
-Helped pack BOTH the Farley's and Wiebe's things before they left Woodstock for good (within a 1 1/2 month span)
-1/2 to 3/4th of the staff that I arrived with has either quit and gone somewhere else or had to go home before their 3 year contract was up (which will be end of next year)
-One of the few living alone (which I like)
-Have only been on 2 dates this entire time and have had NOOOOO relationships (good and bad)
-I've had to say goodbye to 4 really close friends (basically family over here, and within a 42 day span)
-And somehow through all of this, for the most part, managed to keep on smiling 9/10th of the time!!!:)

Now the point of this post is not for sympathy, please leave that for someone who really needs it!! I guess the point of this post is to open your eyes and see what your life is like and if you think you have it bad try walking in someone else's shoes or looking through their eyes (empathy)!! For example, I haven't seen family and friends for over a year now and won't for another 3 months and 26 days, BUT that's still not as bad as military who have 2-3 year campaigns and have to wait that entire time to see their family and friends again!! Sadly, God bless them, some don't even return for that moment when they get to hug their wife, husband, kids, father, mother, etc.!! So I'm thankful that I get to go home in 3 months and 26 days, and not have to wait another year or so!!!  I'm thankful that I've made such close friends here this past year!!! I dearly miss the family and friends back at home like you have NO idea, but to fill that void Woodstock has such unique and wonderful people that if you put yourself out there and try to make close friends/family over here it is very very easy!!:) Because, they, like you for the most part are in the same boat!!! And we know how hard it is to leave everything we are comfortable with at home and go out on an adventure on our own not knowing what to expect!!  I still revisit the quote Dave told me in my tennis goodbye video, "those who love you will still be here (Minnesota) and waiting for you when you return, so go out there and live life!"  And that's so true!! Your family and close friends who really miss you will be waiting impatiently when you return and will be waiting with open arms!! Or some may have closed shivering arms if it's freakin -30 degrees and snowing when I return to Minnesota!!! CAN'T WAIT FOR THAT FINALLY!!! A TRUE WINTER!!!;) Life is full of lessons, hardships and a variety of get knocked down and get up and do it again scenarios!! What I've learned, and this is a definite life lesson, is no matter how much you may be feeling down in the dumps or sad because of something, there will always be someone there to pick you back up again!!! Like last night, definitely feeling sad and alone, but Jen and Shooby (yes your nickname from now on), invited me over for dinner and tried their very best to give me that sense of belonging!! I will never forget that night!!!:) If you are one of the few that have no one to help you through rough times, then I truly feel for you!! Because I don't know what I would have done yesterday if I didn't have my friends along for the ride!!  To everyone out there that has helped me through rough patches of life I thank you from the bottom of my heart!! And to those who need some help getting through the rough times I will always be there for you, no matter if I'm in India or literally standing behind you ready to scare the crap out of you cause you think no one is behind you!! Those are always fun moments!!!;) Hope everyone's weekend was fun, happy and in NO way sad!!! 3 MONTHS AND 26 DAYS NOW MINNESOTA/IOWA/KANSAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TIME WILL FLY BY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:) HAPPY SMILING AND HERE'S LOOKING ON THE UP AND UP BRIGHT-SIDE!!!!!!!!!

God bless and safe travels home Wiebe's!!!:)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Wiebe's

Death. Cancer. Moving.  Three words that come to mind about this past week and the past couple of weeks.  It is truly a shame that all three words have to do with one fantastic caring person.  About 2 weeks ago we (Woodstock) found out that Cookie Wiebe was diagnosed with cancer.  Nothing deflates a happy bubble from summer break with news quite like that.  Over these past couple of weeks there has been a lot of talk about death, not only at Woodstock but especially at Mt. Hermon.  In all of this though, not surprisingly, Cookie has been strong as ever!!  Also Dave as well, to be at her side and both staying so optimistic and strong!! Truly inspirational!!  On coming up dooty with the students, some of us went to visit Cookie in the hospital and while we were there she was enthusiastic, light-hearted and plain old being Cookie!!  It was truly remarkable that even at the darker moments of her life she can be so strong on the outside and be such an inspiration for all!!  Since their return from Delhi and her first chemo session, the nights have been up and down.  Some good and some bad.  Whenever I have seen her though it always seems to be a good night.  Again not surprising, seeing this is the Wiebe's we're talking about!!  If there's one inspiring couple I want to emulate as I grow old this is definitely one!!:)  Full of life, energy and a lifetime of stories!! Nothing seems to bring them down, hold them back, or make them give up!!  I am truly blessed to know such an amazing couple and wonderful friends/family!!  When this week started they were talking about leaving Woodstock to return to the states for the third (possibly second) round of chemo and another attempt at surgery to remove the cancer.  First surgery the cancer was "frozen" and was too hard to remove, thus the chemo to try and weaken it as much as possible.  I/we all had a gut feeling they would return home for this, it was just a matter of when??  Now I have to admit I was thinking, 2 or 3 weeks, maybe even a month down the road they would return home, sometime around middle of October.  Tuesday morning was just another morning.  Did my morning run, fitness room, and breakfast routine, then homeroom with 11th grade.  First period flew by with energy in the air and feeling good......then 14 minutes into second period, while the students were doing group work, I happened to sit down for a second at my computer and noticed an e-mail from Cookie.  An e-mail that would put the entire period on hold.  The line that stood out when reading: "we will be leaving Woodstock on Saturday."  I couldn't believe it was already happening.  Needless to say that moment of maybe 10 seconds seemed like 10 minutes of just sitting there in disbelief and sadness.  I think one of my students must have called out my name 3 or 4 times before I finally snapped out of it.  Sucked it up for that period and finished class in a blur.  Luckily it was tea time and 2 preps after that so there was some time to be alone and think/cry.  Mostly cry.  I was smart and chose the upstairs bathroom so there would be drains around and no flooding!!;)  But they were a flowing and it felt good (after holding it in for the entire second period mostly).  When I finally stopped, mostly dehydration, I needed to get some air and luckily ran into Kate who greeted me in open arms and gave me a wonderful hug, just what I needed.  The rest of the day was a blur as well.  Honestly, just wanted to get home and have some time alone.  After getting most of the emotions out on Tuesday, waking up Wednesday was a lot better start.  Started with another morning run, fitness room workout and a perfect morning hug from Shubhra that seemed to last forever.  So everything was starting off right.  Well except for breakfast which had NO eggs, don't get me started on that.  After breakfast we headed up to the senior school for morning assembly.  This is where it got rough/emotional again.  Cookie was giving devotions today, and basically reading her 4 points to death speech and being okay and accepting death as a possibility.  Her speech was perfect.  Such heart, passion, and emotion was built into it.  Her words were poetic yet picturesque.  There was one line that I will never forget, and she said "What other life do you have to go all out?"  That right there sums up not only Cookie but the heart and soul of the Wiebe's.  At that point I could not hold back any longer, tears were streaming again and again it was going to be another emotional day.  For the most part only the morning was rough, after lunch it brightened up with my fantastic 10th grade health class.  Full of energy and pulled me right out of the emotional sadness that was my morning.  I keep thinking about these past couple of days and admire the Wiebe's strength during all of this.  Meanwhile the entire staff is breaking down left and right.  I don't know what we would do if we saw them breakdown.  They keep us strong.  They keep us full of hope.  Most importantly they keep us striving to live life to the fullest and NEVER let anything conquer you.  Not even for a second.  To the Wiebe's, my friends, my family, and my neighbors for the past year I wish you NOTHING but the best.  You have inspired me in so many ways I can't thank you enough for that.  I love you guys with all of my heart.  I WILL see you in 4 months when I return to the states, so save a game of Settler's for me and a bowl of popcorn.  Thank you for an unforgettable and magnificent 13 months 3 days and 22 hours!!!!!!!! May God bless you and be with you as you begin your next journey back in Kansas and the next stages of chemo!!!!

Much love and prayers!!!

Steven Mark Luukkonen

Thanks for the memories Wiebe's!!!!:)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Busy to the 10th degree!!!!!!:)

An actual blog post IS coming I promise!!! However, waking up at 5am and not getting home until 8/9pm at night doesn't leave a lot of time!!! AND with the busy weekends both last and this weekend, it will be a hectic end to a hectic week!!!! BUT a busy week is definitely going to pay off in the long run when this SATURDAY US STAFF SHOW WOODSTOCK WHAT BOLLYWOOD DANCING IS ALL ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:) STAFF STYLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There will definitely be a post about that AND the entire first 2 weeks of school!!!!! Hang in there and HAPPY SMILING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!;)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THAT IS ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!