A Letter to my Freshman Self

7:00 AM

Hi y'all,

I have seen on overload of new college freshman headed off to their orientations. This, of course, has left me super nostalgic as I think back to mine that was *gasp* 6 years ago. Now, that I'm feeling slightly oldish, here goes nothing:

Dear Lindsey,

It's going to be alright. I know you decided to move 3 hours away from everything you know to an area that you were told never to venture into. However, CNU really is as worth it.

You're going to struggle. But, you'll learn from it. You'll have to ask professors for help (and you'll get much better at it-don't worry). You'll also learn how to kill it in your classes and impress your professors (helpful hint: take all the classes you have to write papers, not take tests). Don't skip the classes, it isn't worth it (good news, all classes take attendance). Be thankful for the strict technology policy. You'll be grateful later when you learned how to take notes by hand instead of on your computer. Also, no cell phone in class equals actual attention on the professor and not on whatever is going on in your life (and that's nice for an hour and 15 minutes).

Parties aren't all what they're cracked up to be, and you'll be thankful for the nights you stayed in, just as you will be for the nights you went out. You don't need a date to have fun, either. Truthfully, you'll have more fun without one.

Your roommate doesn't have to be in your best friend, but she can turn into your best friend. Starting out, roommate situations are often sticky, but don't worry, it'll get better. You'll get the best roommate ever, and somehow you'll keep each other (barely) alive.

On that note, you'll also learn who your true friends are and who is willing to turn their back. That's okay. You'll learn how to stay out of the drama you don't need to be in (and somehow sleep through the biggest drama all year). Keep in mind, your friends will change. Be (very) thankful that housing isn't until February.

You'll learn how to handle going to the doctor by yourself, including a trip to the ER. It's okay, you'll survive, and you somehow will learn to advocate for yourself.

You will learn what is important, and what you can live without. Your priorities will change, and you'll focus in on the more important things (or at least what you consider more important).

It's okay that you stick with your major that you chose coming in. Everyone around you might be changing their minds, but it's okay to stick with it. It's also okay to throw in a second minor on signing day.

Get a job, and treat school like a job. You'll be thankful for the money when you graduate. Volunteer (at more than one place) you'll be thankful for the experiences later. Be thankful for the work ethic that becomes ingrained in you.

Go to the gym. More than once. It's a great stress reliever and time killer. You don't need to watch Netflix all the time.

Don't mind the construction. At the end of your time, you'll be thankful you saw CNU's campus change and grow. You'll really be thankful on graduation day when you can say you were part of the first class to graduate in front of Christopher Newport Hall.

This goes along with spend time in each building. You'll love them all and find a purpose for each of them (even if you remain confused how some your leadership and Communication classes end up being in Forbes).  Also, the walk to the third floor of McMurran is killer. Wear comfortable shoes.

Make friends with your professors. Also, take Connable very seriously when he wants to know your weekend plans/what you did during your weekend. They want you to have a life! Don't be afraid to go see them for no reason.

Be on top of your advising appointments, always. Go prepared and you'll end up getting to know them instead of having to deal with things that you could have looked up on your own.

PLP Speakers aren't that bad. Well, at least not all of them. You'll hear some cool stories, and your views on leadership will definitely change. 

Last, but certainly not least, your four years will go by far too quickly. Enjoy each day as much as you can.
with southern grace,

Teacher Prep: Making a Unit Plan

7:00 AM

Hi Y'all,

Since I'm finishing up school to be a teacher, I figured I would share some of my insights on what I've learned from my program thus far (after all, teachers learn from each other).

I do realize the school year just ended (or is ending for some districts). However, some teachers have to switch grade levels and have to start coming up with lessons and units for their new grade. New teachers also have to do this.

For one of my classes (Elementary Education Methods), I had to learn Backwards Design lesson planning and create a lesson plan. Now, I'd made lesson plans specific to language arts and reading groups before; but I had never done the Backwards Design model before.

For my class we turned in two lesson plans before working on our actual unit plan. Our unit had several requirements (like you had to have a technology lesson, cooperative lesson, and a lesson you found on the internet). Quite frankly, I found most of them on the internet, but I wasn't afraid to switch some things up.

I have the good fortunate to be getting my licensure in the state of Virginia, which means that I have the Standards of Learning (or SOLs) to follow.  Most (if not all) states have something similar.

Since I already knew I had a guideline, I picked out first grade citizenship as my focus for my unit. Citizenship is super important, especially for the younger grades as they're learning about society (gives them background knowledge they might now have) and it also teaches them about being nice to each other.

I took each standard, and put it into Google Sheets (I don't have Microsoft on my computer). I then had a column for each lesson (I had to have 10 lessons). Each time I completed an SOL, I put a check for the lesson plan.
(c) withsoutherngrace

This way, I knew exactly what I needed to accomplish in my lessons. I also thought about how I wanted to assess my students. Something I've noticed is there is way to many papers. I'm glad that students have stuff to take home to their families, but come on, no one needs that many papers. 

Therefore, I thought about ways I could ask questions to the students and do check lists instead. That way, I could write out the responses and be able to watch what they were doing instead of having 15 plus worksheets to grade throughout the unit. 

In Wiggins and McTighe's model of Backwards Design, after you figure out how you're going to assess, you have to figure out what the Big Idea/Understandings and Questions are (these are also known as Essential Understandings and Questions). Luckily, in the state of Virginia, it's essentially the SOLs, just reworded. This allows the students to have something to discuss. 

I then wrote out the lesson plan using the WhereTo format. I also typed out what materials were needed (worksheets, technology, pencils, markets, erasers, etc.). This way, when I pull up the lesson I know exactly what I need and can have it ready to go!

For some of the activities, I found them online (I found ideas on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers). However, some of them I had to tweak to the Virginia SOL specifications. I've even been thinking about putting them on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

How do y'all lesson/unit plan? How do you find your activities? Do you use Teachers Pay Teachers?

with southern grace,


7:00 AM

Hi y'all,

Passion. The word that so many people are trying to find. I can't tell you how many times in college I was asked, "what's your passion?" or "what are you passionate about?". I get it now because that is what helps you figure out your potential career. However, what I'm passionate about now is much different than it was two years ago when I was fresh out of college.

When I was in my last semester, I thought about starting my own social media business. Then I realized I would have to do all the things I don't like: work all the time and live in a big city. Now, my hometown is a college town, thus about a quarter of the population isn't here four months out of the year.

Now, I can fully say my passion is in education. Both myself and future generations of children. Knowledge really is power.

After working a job that I lost my passion for, finding it again has been key to my success. I have maintained a 3.9 GPA in my program and have passed all of my tests so far on the first try (still waiting on the last one).

When I was thinking about my passion and how I found it, I also thought to myself you know what didn't prepare me for this? High School. I never took a career aptitude test, ever. The only time I took one was when I was already considering going back to school and I took one on the community college's website. Sure enough, teacher was the first suggestion.

I won't say my passion was easy to find. I did struggle and it took some time (and two bachelor's degrees, but who's counting?). However, I'm grateful for my story and I know that I am more passionate about teaching than anything else and I will continue to be thankful for my journey even when I have my own classroom.

What's your passion?

with southern grace,

Last Day of School Anxieties

7:00 AM

Hi y'all,

Well, it came so fast (as it does every year), but tomorrow is the last day of school.

I've had children be "hurt" more than usual this week, seen more tears and fits, and overall general anxiety about the school year ending than I ever thought possible. I've also gotten more "I'm going to miss you" and hugs than I ever though possible. 

I work in two grades (first and second), and one of my first graders was telling me how he wanted to stay in first grade forever. Have his summers but every year go back to first grade every August. I looked at him and told him "that's awful silly". "But if we go to second grade we get Ms. Martin again!" shouted one student.

...except maybe not. I'm leaving behind my TA job to student teach this fall. While the main university in my hometown has already had their student teaching "match day" and know where they'll be (and most have already met with their mentor teacher), I have no idea where I'll be. I don't know what school, what grade, teacher, nothing. I might not even know something until late July. 

It's hard. Come tomorrow at 2:20, I'll be leaving behind a school that has literally raised me. My brother started there when I was around 2 1/2 turning 3. I went to school there. Most of my teachers are still there. It's hard to believe that this place has been around that long, but I'm super glad that it has. It's taught me how to be a good student and a great teacher. 

I haven't quite figured out how to tell them (my students) that I don't know what my plans are for the fall, and it's making it harder to tell them. I also know they're attached. Probably just as attached to me as I am to them at this point.

I'm hoping that I'll be put in a classroom at the school I currently work at. I'm checking my email religiously, hoping that I can find out something (literally anything). 

This was when I realized, I feel the same way my kids do. I have the same anxieties because I don't know what will happen come August. 

While some of my kids are excited for what the summer brings (camp, vacations, unlimited tablet playing time), others want the structure of school. 

I have two math methods classes to finish up this summer and one licensure test left before student teaching. Plus I have some other fun plans in the works. 

with southern grace,

Worth it...or Not?

7:00 AM

Hi y'all,

This is something that has been weighing heavily on my heart recently.

Not everything is worth it, others are worth more than their weight in gold.

I recently told an old friend about some stuff that was going on in my life. Her response was "wow that is a lot" and promptly stopped contacting me. Like, duh. That's why I didn't want to tell you, and quite frankly why I haven't told a lot of people.

But then, I remembered thinking back to how I felt in January and February of 2016. I had already started taking classes for my teaching licensure through the community college and was working full time. And by full time, I mean literally working all the time. I had maybe two days off a week (sometimes that was pushing it) and often worked long stretches (like 7 days without a day off). Also, I wasn't being treated that great at my place of employment. As many of you know I already knew I needed a change, so I took a leap of faith and applied for a job that could have only lasted from start day through the first week/week and a half in June. Luckily, that job continued for me through the next school year (my last day is Friday, and I'm  already super sad about it). I also have another job that has fulfilled my time during the summer and during school breaks (and makes it so I work 40+ hours during the school year most weeks).

I have friends like my college roommate and my best friend who are willing to talk to me about things and lend me a shoulder (or a cute puppy or kitten) when I need it.

I've also been looking at my spending habits. Especially since in August I won't have a paying job for most of the time, since I'm only going to be able to work a few weekends a month (instead I get to pay to work, yay student teaching). Even though, this means that I'm at the end of my teaching licensure path, I know that I will have to make my money stretch further than I'm used to.

Obviously I've done some soul searching recently. It became important to me to look at what I really need (and what I don't).

How do I know if it's worth the leap of faith?

Well, if I think it will benefit me in some way shape or form. I was willing to take the job in education because I thought it would help me really recognize it as a goal (and the experience doesn't hurt either). On the same token, I haven't bought a new computer yet because mine is still functioning and meeting all my needs (minus the fact that Microsoft Office doesn't work on it, but I've managed without it).

If it doesn't hurt anyone, its okay. This includes emotionally. I'm not so much of a go-getter that I will do anything to reach my goals, they have to be pretty reasonable actually. I do try to make it so that everyone (within reason) is taken care of. I would never buy a house that I knew would take me forever to pay off or that I wouldn't be able to live comfortably. I would make sure my family is taken care of. Why would I go on some ravish vacation if it meant something else was neglected?

However, I've also realized it isn't worth it if I'm emotionally drained all the time. I'm an important human, too. I (and everyone else) deserves to be listened to. We all deserve just as much emotional attention as everyone else. Believe me, I've been there. It goes along with if someone is always asking for your advice and then doesn't follow it and complains the entire time. When the situation is over they go "oh I should have listened"...why did you ask for my advice in the first place? Sometimes, that relationship needs to be ended unless there is a conversation about the changes that need to happen. A friendship or relationship or any sort is a two way street, it does take two to tango after all.

Moral of the story, the pros and cons of the situation need to be weighed before the metaphorical cutting of the cord or the jumping blindly into the abyss.

This doesn't mean that it isn't a mistake to cut the cord or jump blindly into the abyss. It also doesn't mean the relationships can't be fixed. Sometimes, it takes some soul searching and you have to be willing to be wrong.

with southern grace,