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Sam Wilson: Revolution Is The Only Solution

Sam Wilson / Falcon

It’s been a minute, so where should I start?  Today was a day unlike any I have experienced.  It starts with a class I’m teaching, social skills. This class is something I came up with. I teach self-contained special ed English.  Kids with learning disabilities and behavior disorders who need a small class setting to be taught the general English curriculum.  One semester to teach kids with learning disabilities Shakespeare, a novel, nonfiction, persuasive writing, grammar, all the while preparing them for a state standardized test; needless to say corners need to be cut and the time investment required to make these students successful is simplified to the extent very few remain functional and the majority do a little worse than fall through the cracks. They fall flat on their faces, give up, and in frustration wreak havoc and lash out at everything and everyone. Is this their fault? Yes, to an extent, but at the same time systemic dysfunction in public education is vastly responsible for their neglect, in their minds what other options do they have?  This is where my social skills class comes in.

Social skills is a handpicked class of many of the students in my self-contained literature class and some other high needs students, some behavioral, some academic, who all needed an extra semester of one-on-one attention to help them become functional high school students. These are students who don’t bring pencils and paper to class, read at maybe a 1st or 2nd grade level (some better, some worse, and they are all in high school), and have an excessive amount of school absences or tardy to class marks (a few of them are on the verge of being kicked out).  I’ve had most of them in class at one point or another, and some of them I have back to back in social skills and another lit class in the period before.  It’s my job, a job I volunteered for, to get them back on track. To get them to focus on one thing, to read better, write better, function better as students and decrease their disciplinary referrals, to be that adult in life that believes in them and cares about them when everyone else has written them off and wants nothing to do with them. Most adults talk about them like they talk about a distasteful meal, being condescending and dismissive at the same time.  I really dislike those people but that is another conversation.

So I’ve been plugging along with this, and I find myself constantly rewriting my playbook. If grammar and basic skills aren’t working, I try and figure out what works for them to make them more functional. Eric clearly needs a father figure; he gets fathered (many of them do, but whatever). Isabelle has Asperger’s syndrome (a type of autism) and has trouble spitting out sentences but her mind goes a million miles and hour and she has a ton to say. She needs patience and someone to listen to her.  Finally there is Jimmy, no teacher in the school has any love for him. He is a known drug dealer and at one point last semester had skipped so much class he was going to be withdrawn. I had him as a freshman, we had our moments but at the end of the day we had an understanding. If he worked I would pass him, and no matter what he did the next day was always a new day.  I’m better with him than most, and in a way this story is about him.

Today I discovered a graphic novel I brought for one of my students to read was stolen. It was from my own personal collection, a giant, encyclopedia sized hardcover of spider-man comics. It was for a student who has so much anxiety he can’t eat lunch in the cafeteria so he has to eat in the classroom, and for the life of him he hasn’t done one once of schoolwork in quite some time (I have documentation to prove this). He does like comic books though, and in an effort to get him to focus on one thing for more than 20 minutes I brought the giant spider man book for him to read. I told him we would start slow, sit and read for 20 minutes at a stretch and we will build from that. It wasn’t going as smoothly as planned but I think I was making headway. Then I discovered some kids who used my room in an afterschool program trashed my room and stole the book. I was pretty defeated after that happened. It wasn’t about the book, it was the fact I would have loaned the book to any kid who would have asked me.  All my students know that. The young man who was reading the book? He was pretty upset. He literally turned the room upside down looking for the book before we decided it was stolen. Not knowing what to do I kinda shut down. I thought I was doing everything in my power to help, and this is what I get for my efforts.  After school I was walking to my car and Jimmy, the known drug dealer, chased me down.  He had my giant spider-man book in his hand and said, “hey, we found who took your book and got it back.” That’s all he said. I looked at him and hugged him.  There was nothing else I could do.  He went back to the afterschool program to do his thing and I went home.

What did I learn here? Selfishly, I’ve been struggling with who I am now. I used to be fat; that was my mantra for a minute. It always goes back to that but then it doesn’t. I don’t want to be that guy anymore. I actually hate that guy. He was mean and took his anger out on the world and made himself fat because he wasn’t sure why anyone would love him, so why not make that a reality and destroy myself and be mean.  You all know the story, I got my act together, it all went away and I was left with the question, “who am I?”  Still trying to figure out that answer, but today, at least for now, when Jimmy brought my book back, I know who I am and I’m not the guy who used to be fat. I’m the guy who cares about those whom no one else cares about because I know what it’s like to be them, and I’ll be dammed if I’m ever going to watch another kid suffer through that.

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I Got Nothing

Sam Wilson / FalconEveryone wants to know how I do it.

I guess I should clarify that statement before I continue. I used to weight 550 lbs. Well, yeah, I’m not certain but it was well over 500. I never really got on a scale that could accurately measure my weight. 550 was my best educated guess. I used to have a size 58 pants. Before I would even register on a scale I had to get down to a size 50 pants, and then I finally started showing up at 440 lbs so my best guess is I started at 550 lbs in February 2007. I had a final “retreat” meal (I’ll explain that in a minute) of a large cheese-steak, a full size bag of kettle chips and a diet coke and then I started the next day with my new lifestyle.

I say retreat meal because retreating was why I ate the way I did. I was retreating from everything. I hated my life and I hated myself. I lost the only job I ever loved (my short time as a police officer) for reasons I had no control over. My only sense of self-identity up until that point was being the biggest and meanest guy in the room, and at one point I may have been the most muscular but I was slowly just becoming “big” as in fat. Obese. When people would try to be nice about it they said “wow, you’re a big guy” but they meant, “damn, you are unhealthy”. It wouldn’t have mattered if they had actually said that, I wouldn’t have listened. I mean, people did say it. My friends, my wife, they all said they were worried and they all tried to help but I didn’t listen and I didn’t care. Eating was a retreat and it gave me something. It was an escape, an instant gratification. It almost killed me though, until I figured it out and came all the way back.

I started by acknowledging I had no idea what I was doing. I told my wife I didn’t want to make decisions for myself anymore because clearly I had no idea how to take care of myself and asked her if she would make all pertinent decisions about my health and my diet for me. At least for awhile. She was a medical professional and sought the aid of a dietician and a personal trainer. In conjunction with my wife the people at my gym provided me a lot of support. Deidre, the manager, had known me for a few years. I started going there when I was still big and strong and had that going for me, but in a couple of years I had lost it and was just getting unhealthy. She saw this and offered me some help. She told me she was worried about me and would do whatever it took to help me get on track and she did. She had a trainer work with me and she provided me emotional support, which doesn’t seem like anything but to someone who hated himself it was a lot. In fact it was everything. If it weren’t for her support or my wife’s I never would have gotten started, and now here I sit. 4 years later, 250 some pounds lighter, and post-surgery. I finally got to the point where I needed to have the excess skin around my abdomen removed, about 15 lbs of it after they were all done. And Deidre and my wife were there for that too (in fact, Deidre and the gym paid for it).

So I sit here typing this going a little crazy, I just had the surgery 4 days ago and I have a couple hundred stitches across my abdomen. I can’t exercise and I haven’t left the house since the surgery, and I can’t leave the house until Tuesday which is my post-op and I get my drains removed. But I’ve had visitors, people who have been with me ever since I started, and new people I just met who say I’m an inspiration (which I dismiss, I mean, as I said, I put myself in that position to begin with so I don’t see how I did anything inspirational). Either way, these are all people who love me and have supported me, and without that I never would have gotten here. My wife has been doting on me and showing me love she knows I’ve never had. Even though it’s hard to see through all my anxiety and self-deprecation, I hope she knows I love her the same way. The bottom line is though, it’s just starting, it hasn’t ended the path is the same as it always was. Inspirational, no, at least I don’t think so. Mental illness? More than likely, if it is hereditary then yes, mental illness for sure. Either way, I’m going to chase after it…

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Friday Night Lights

You Must See This Movie!

We talk a lot about super heroes on this website. But we have real life super heroes who post here on the forum pages – educators, healers, law enforcement. Sam Wilson is one such poster. I am grateful that he tells us true stories of his life in the public school he works at. Here’s the latest:

Sam Wilson: Revolution, It’s the Only Solution


Friday Night Lights

Friday night was homecoming weekend. The game of the year of course, and the hype machine was building up the drama, cumulating with a pep rally and lots of fanfare. The players were excited, there was going to be people watching and for a minute they were local celebrities. Even if they weren’t playing they all wore their jerseys to class and were recognized as those about to do battle for the glory of the group. Parents would be proud, dinners would be had and celebrating was to be done.

This holds true in most kids but didn’t hold true for Jose, one of my students in my English class. Jose was a good kid, he wrote beautiful poetry about low-riding with his father in LA and was a class leader, tutoring other members of the football team and helping out his teacher whenever asked without question. A good kid with a good heart, someone I would have been proud to call my son if my wife and I had a child. This good kid texts me at 11:30 PM on a Friday night asking me if I could come pick him up from the game.

The thing is no one came to watch Jose play. His dad was in LA (supposedly) and his mom was in South America, he has a grandmother (grandfather is not in the picture) but she works third shift. Jose is on his own most of the time when he is not in school. Jose also has a sister who is in 7th grade who came to the game to watch him play. I find this all out when I show up to pick him up. I was ready to go to bed when he called, but I put on some sneakers and answered the call anyway, without hesitation. I’m not sure why until I thought about it later.

On a Friday night of homecoming the kid calls me for a ride. He could have gone out with anyone on the team, he could have went and gotten in trouble or gone to a hotel party or done whatever disturbing things teenagers do these days that we don’t want to think about but happen anyway, but he didn’t. He called me for a ride. He had to take care of his sister. I’m sure that was part of it but a bigger part of it was he was lonely and just wanted someone to show him some love. He wanted an adult to show him some love. An adult male who reminded him of his father…

My wife and I took Jose and his sister out for burgers, I told him, “it’s past curfew, so if anyone asks you have to pretend you are my kid or something”. Jose smiled real big and said, “yeah, I look just like you anyway”. He does. He’s light skinned, I’m a bit darker but paired with my fair skinned Irish wife he looks like he could be my kid. It was the smile that tipped me off. Since Friday night I haven’t been able to get it out of my head and it makes me sad. Sad, frustrated and angry.

This kid who anyone would be proud of has no one. No adult male anyway. No one to tell him he is loved, no one to be proud, no one to teach him about being a man or what it takes to be a man. What he does have is opportunity to become whatever he wants, and in most cases young people take that opportunity to become something bad, they get in trouble, they turn to drugs or partying and forget about school and a future and live for the here and now. Instant gratification because it’s all they have ever known. Except for Jose, he just wanted someone to love him and on Friday night he chose me. Teenage bravado, (which Jose is full of) is more often than not a mask. As hard as a kid wants to be sometimes, more often than not they want to be loved more.

My name is Sam Wilson. Revolution is the only solution, and sometimes the best agent for that revolution is love.

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End of the School Year

  Sam Wilson: Revolution, It’s the Only Solution

Sorry I haven’t been around the forum. Work is pretty much falling apart. 30 some people got cut today, not me, but since I have a reputation for being a "go to guy" a lot of things are falling on me. I’m pretty sure teachers who’ve been cut are going to not show up the last two weeks of school, which means there will be some type of violent act at some point. When I left today it looked like an alleyway in a third world country. Trash strewn about everywhere, chaos, people crying. I’m not even making that up. It’s going to be a long two weeks, and I gotta do what I do because now more than ever people are counting on me. For some reason I’m looked up to as a leader, so I guess I’d better lead. Anyway, I’ll check in when I can.

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No Tricks

Before After
Here is me at SDCC July 2007
550 lbs size 58 pants
Here is me in March 2010
305 lbs size 38 pants


No Tricks

By Mrs. Sam Wilson

A little over two years ago my husband, Sam Wilson, was in trouble. He weighed about 550 pounds, got winded after going up a flight of stairs, kept falling asleep at the wheel, and it’s no exaggeration when I say I was not sure he was going to make it to forty. Many friends and loved ones, myself included, tried to express concern about his health, but he wasn’t ready to make the change.

A little over two years ago Diedra, the manager at our gym, approached me, as I was getting ready to work out after work. She told me that she and the owner were concerned about Sam; they wanted to help. Our conversation led to Deidra talking to Sam, and her genuine, caring concern was key in starting him on an astounding transformation.

Since that day Sam has lost over 245 pounds and counting. We constantly get asked how he did it, how he managed such an incredible feat. People, quite rightly, find him an inspiration and want to learn from his success.

People make millions of dollars every year on fad diets, products, scams which promise this kind of dramatic result. Research consistently shows, however that these diets do not work. Here is a summary of what did work, and it has not always been easy. It’s a complete and permanent lifestyle change.

  • See a doctor. Get any other health concerns taken care of so that you don’t risk injury, heart attacks, etc. Farhat had terrible sleep apnea, and without having a sleep study and getting a CPAP machine so that he can get good rest at night, none of this would have been possible.
  • See a nutritionist. I work in a hospital and was able talk to one of the nutritionists there to get started, but a scheduled appointment with a nutritionist is a great way to really understand what you’re eating now, what a portion size is, and to work out a healthy, balanced diet which won’t leave you feeling deprived.
  • See a personal trainer. Not all trainers are created equal. Look for certifications like NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), ACE (American Council on Exercise), or for someone with a BS in Exercise Physiology. Farhat has been an athlete all his life, I am a Physical Therapist, and we’re lucky to have a number of trainers among our friends to fill in any gaps.
  • No cheat days. Cheat days start with eating one dessert, to eating a double cheeseburger, French fries and dessert, to cheat weekends, to cheat weeks to falling back into old habits. This is not a diet. This is a lifestyle change and therefore needs to be something you can maintain. With help from your nutritionist, build moderate portions of foods you really enjoy into your plan so you don’t feel deprived.
  • Make a plan and stick to it. Every Saturday morning we plan what we’re going to eat for the week, then spend Sunday afternoon cooking. That way there’s no question of what’s for dinner, no excuse for picking up take-out on the way home because we’re both tired after work. A healthy, balanced dinner is ready in less than five minutes. And a home-cooked meal always tastes better than restaurant fare.
  • Find other ways to socialize that don’t focus on food. This is probably the hardest thing. Our society celebrates everything with either food or alcohol, and people tend to feel like you’re judging them when you choose not to partake. Alcohol, in addition to having lots of calories, also effects the way you metabolize food, so avoid it or treat a drink like you would a high-calorie dessert in your food plan.
  • Surround yourself with people who share, or at least support your lifestyle. We’re lucky that we both choose a healthy lifestyle and can support each other even when our friends and co-workers are pushing brownies and “happy hours.”

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The System Is Broken

  Sam Wilson: Revolution, It’s the Only Solution 

home sick, lost my voice, excessive coughing. Anyway…

My co-teacher, the one who refuses to teach because the kids are to bad and she has to work on her masters degree. the one who is says it’s okay to call black kids nigger when she is at home as long as she doesn’t at school, I’ve been on her admin and dept. head to deal with her all semester. I get nothing from those crackers, they claim they will do something but they do nothing. I went to my dept. head and my admin (an ivy league educated black woman). They’re helping. But the further I push things the more bad things I find. I now found out that she (co-teacher) has been flat refusing to enter my students (special ed) grades. Even when the work is done. She doesn’t feel they are "worth" it since they are so bad and they are going to fail anyway. I’m not making this up.

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Revolution, it's the only solution


Today I took donuts from the teacher’s lounge and gave them to a hungry kid.

But let me clarify,

The lady who brings those donuts is a 50 something republican/Christian fundamentalist/ultra right wing white lady. She once had an open conversation in said lounge about how MLK day is a "worthless" holiday and "they don’t deserve a day". I took that bitch’s donuts and gave them to a kid with a neck tattoo. He was hungry, said his mom has no food in the house. Not uncommon in my school. I had no money, I had to improvise. So I took the bitch’s donuts.

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Don't Do What They Tell You, #2

After school special sh*t, for real. Check this…

Okay, so my US history class. I’m co-teaching with this dumb white bitch. 25, super republican (I’m the special ed IRR teacher in the classroom). She decided to give up teaching. She said that. She stated she refuses to teach the kids because they are bad and she has more important things to do in her other classes and her masters classes (not school related). Whatever, same old.

Anyway, the kids hate her. I hate her. There is a group of four who sit in the back and haven’t done anything since day one. All hispanic gangbangers. BTW, it’s a repeater class, everyone in there has failed the class at least once. Anyway, the 4 in the back, I asked them if they wanted to work, they said no, and I said fine. As long as you are quiet, I will leave you be, but if you ever want to start, I’ll do whatever it takes to help you.

Anyway, one day one of the four was talking to me, god came up. I don’t know how. He told me he saw god. He also told me the ammount of drugs he’s done in life and is always flashing gang signs, so whatever. I told him I don’t believe in god. He said god was real, I said maybe, but I don’t believe in him. If he’s male.

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Don't Do What They Tell You

Oscar Brown wanders the streets where I live aimlessly. He’s not really going anywhere, he doesn’t have an agenda, he just wanders. He wears a t-shirt and gym shorts and flip flops, he’s always sweaty and he’s always out of breath and he lumbers. He’s not fast, he’s not slow, he just lumbers. There are some things you need to know about Oscar. In high school he was in advanced calculus. Where I teach, that’s a big deal (he is also black, and being poor, black and in advanced calc is a big deal at my high school). He also has mad crazy video game skills. One day in game club, afterschool, he did an unheard of finishing move in super-smash brothers. A move so amazing, so skilled, and timed so perfectly that he was an instant celebrity, if only for that evening.  Oscar also cracked open a pen once and spread the blue ink on half of his face celtic-warrior style and used the rest of the ink to write out “chaos” on a wall (yes, indeed the child did spell it right).  He has also taken a giant bite out of a white-board eraser and stripped down to his drawls in the cafeteria because he felt it was to hot. There is one more thing I should mention about Oscar, he is severely autistic and has been diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome.

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