When you talk about free and reduced lunch statistics, you're talking about me.


Let me get right to it.

I was a student that was part of the free and reduced lunch program 2nd-12th grade.

My parents divorced when I was 7, and my mom, brother, and I moved in with my grandmother. My mom went from being a stay-at-home Army wife, to a single working mom. We lived with my grandma for a short time, before we got our own apartment. I lived in that apartment from 3rd grade until the summer before my senior year of high school.

Growing up, I didn't have any friends who lived in apartments. It was a dream of mine to have a house like my friends. I lived in a very safe neighborhood. My apartment building was surrounded by big, beautiful, historic homes. If I told you my address without the apartment number, you'd think I lived in a really big house. Sometimes I did do that. I didn't know it at the time, but I was embarrassed. Just because I didn't know anyone else who lived in an apartment.

To clarify, I was never hungry. My mom worked extremely hard, and always put my brother and I before herself. There's a good chance she's reading this. Mom, I never knew how much you sacrificed for yourself until I got older. Thank you for always making Landon and I your priority.

I wore name brand clothes. I was always clean. In fact, if you saw me as a kid, you wouldn't know that I was on free and reduced lunch. Most of my teachers probably didn't even know because my mom packed me a lunch every day in elementary school, and 98% of middle school. Probably because I was (still am) a picky eater.

I do remember when I was in elementary school getting information on Summer Enrichment,
a summer school of sorts that you only got to go to if you were part of the TAG (talented and gifted) or VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) programs.

There were fees involved. I remember seeing the reduced rate for students that were part of the free and reduced lunch program. I honestly didn't know what that really meant, but I know that my mom circled it, and for some reason, I felt some kind of shame with that.

Here I sit, typing this post on my own computer, glancing down at my iPhone, my graduation cap from my Masters hanging up behind me. It's all a little surreal when you think about it. My mom always put an emphasis on school, good grades, and college. There was never any doubt in my mind that I wouldn't go to to college.

But what if I didn't have a supportive mom that pushed me and believed in me more than I believed in myself? Who would I have had? The answer...my teachers. Maybe they did know I was part of the free and reduced lunch program, maybe they didn't, but I never felt like they did.

They didn't use it as an excuse as to why they couldn't teach me. Why I couldn't learn. Why I didn't have good grades. Why I didn't speak properly. Why I didn't have clean clothes. Why I couldn't buy books at the book fair. Why I didn't have a Halloween costume. Why I was the only kid in class without Valentine's. Why I didn't give them a gift at the holidays. Why I didn't come to family nights. Why I didn't share about my summer vacation, because I didn't go anywhere.

They just taught me. They just believed in me. They just loved me.

I say all of this, because I'm now a teacher at the same elementary school I attended with a high percentage of students on free and reduced lunch, and I hear some of these excuses. I can't help but to think about if my participation of that program had my teachers ever questioning me as a learner. 

Often times we use words like poverty, Title 1, and free and reduced lunch to give excuses for our students. Why? Why can't we just teach them. Believe in them. Love them. For who they are...not give circumstances out of their control as an excuse. 

It is hard. I'm guilty of it, too. But I was one of those kids, and I wouldn't have wanted my teachers making excuses for me. 


0

An Open Letter for Every #okayteacher Going Into the New School Year

Dear #okayteacher,

Summer is winding down, and the reality of back to school is upon us. You may have spent your summer Netflix binging, crossing off books on your reading list, spending time with your family and friends, planning for the school year, shopping at Target, or teaching summer school. However you spent your summer, I hope it was what you needed.

Heading into the new school year, you may be becoming anxious. Anxious about your to do list, anxious about a grade or building change, anxious about how you'll balance it all, anxious about many things. That's okay. It's normal.

Take the time now, to set up a plan of action that will help alleviate some anxious feelings. Decide the time of the year that you feel most anxious. Got it? Good. Now plan a sick day around that time. Write it in your calendar. Write it into your plans. Get a sub lined up if you can. You need a mental health day. Your students need you to take a mental health day. Your students will survive. Your classroom will survive. You will continue to be amazing.

Write a letter to yourself right now reflecting on the past school year, whether it was your most amazing year ever, or a year where you felt like you were drowning. Give yourself a pep talk. Take advice from yourself. You should be your biggest cheerleader. Because at the end of the day...who are you going to listen to...me or yourself? Then, when you're having a rough day, open that letter, and read it.

Remember that you are amazing. You have, in my opinion, both the hardest and most rewarding job in the world. There is a reason you became a teacher, and although on our hardest days, it can be a struggle to remember that reason, you have to remember it. Consider writing it in your planner, or on your phone. Wherever you can easily see it on a regular basis.

Finally, have an okay year. I say okay, because whatever type of year you have...you will be okay. You can plan all the things and have the best color coordinated fantamazing (fantasic/amazing) classroom you've ever dreamed of and more! You can also have a simple classroom with lesson plans that engage, but don't drain your bank account. Either way, its okay. It is always okay be okay.

Love,
Lindsey, proud #okayteacher


0

Why I didn't rebrand after marriage.


If you don't follow me closely on social media, you may not know that I'm no longer Miss Johnston. On June 12, 2015, I married the love of my life, and with that it was goodbye Miss Johnston hello Mrs. Paull. I even used the hasghtag on Instagram to document the wedding planning with #MissJ2MrsPaull


Why didn't I change my blog/TpT/social media to reflect my married name? Let me tell you.

As a young teacher (heading into year 6 for the 17-18 school year), Miss Johnston means a lot to me. It's kind of hard to explain to a non-teacher...or even a teacher who isn't married. It was like this piece of my teaching career that I didn't want to give up. It was who I was to my students...my students as a student teacher, my first students as a REAL teacher in middle school, and my students who I taught my first 2 years in elementary as a 3rd grade teacher. Holding onto Miss Johnston's Journey was my way of holding onto the beginning, where I started this whole journey...kind of crazy when you think about it. I started this blog/social media teacher journey the summer of 2013, just a 23 year old who had just finished her first 6 months of teaching in her own classroom, preparing to for her first full year teaching in 3rd grade, being completely clueless about what I was about to get myself into. And although I went from The Journey of a beginning teacher to Thriving in 3rd to finally Miss Johnston's Journey, Miss Johnston is still who I am...who I have been, and who I always will be.


I was recently asked by a Instagram friend if it bothers Jason that I didn't rebrand when we got married, and I had never thought of that, I just assumed it wouldn't. So I asked him...and this is what he responded with, "No...I literally just don't care. I mean...why would it matter? It doesn't bother me one bit." So that's good! I definitely don't need to rebrand! HA! He really doesn't care much about my whole blog/social media/TpT thing. Typical of most husbands, I think.

I was inspired and encouraged to write this post after my friend, Sarah Plumitallo, wrote a post, My Name Matters: A Challenge for All,  that really resonated with me as an educator. I encourage ALL OF YOU to read it and reflect on it. She also shared her name story on Instagram Live. If you don't follow Sarah, you have to! She is one of my favorites to follow as she ALWAYS has me thinking and reflecting on myself as an educator, and pushes me to be better for my students. Share your name story, too, and make sure you tag Sarah, so she can see!
My Name Matters: A Challenge for All
0

Introducing Teacher Thank Yous Thursday


If you've followed me for awhile, you know that I love me some Jimmy Fallon, as does my husband. So much so, that our 2015 Couple Halloween costumes were Jimmy Fallon and Hashtag the Panda!

One of my favorite segments is Jimmy's Thank You Notes on Fridays. Sometimes they're sarcastic, and sometimes they're sincere.

via GIPHY

You also may know that I love me some Instagram. It's my favorite social media platform, and I enjoy the connections it allows me to have to educators all over the world! I enjoy doing Instagram Lives, too, but sometimes I  have a hard time deciding on a topic that would interest others. That's when the idea came for a weekly Instagram Live Broadcast combining my love for teaching, Jimmy Fallon, and his Thank You notes.

My idea is to share Jimmy Fallon inspired thank you notes that teachers can relate to. My plan is to share 5-7 Thank Yous each week that will make you laugh, say "YASSSS!", and even warm your heart sometimes. Like Jimmy's, these thank you's will be both sarcastic, as well as literal. My hope is to keep it short, about 20-30 minutes, so you can keep going with your evening. Since Instagram allows you to save your Instragram Lives to your InstaStories, you will be able to rewatch! I might even upload the videos to YouTube if that is something people would like to see.

Although I have SO many already typed out and ready to go, I want this to be interactive and fun for all of you! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, submit your ideas! I will be looking through submissions regularly and sharing my favorites each week. Just use this Google form to submit! You are welcome to share your first name, location, and username so that I can give credit where credit is due, but if you want to be anonymous...that's fine, too! 

I'm so excited to start this fun, interactive, live segment, and hope you'll join me this coming Thursday, July 6, 2017 for the first one! 

0

stages of grief when a teacher changes grade level

For the past year, many of the questions I have gotten involve my change in grade level for the 2016-17 school year. If you didn't know, moved from 3rd grade to 1st grade this past year, and not by choice. More about that move here. I've gotten questions like, "Do you like 1st grade more?" "How did you deal with that?" "Will you go back to 3rd?"...
Changing grade levels as a teacher isn't easy, whether it is by choice or not. Read to anticipate the stages you may go through and some advice to help you cope.
Honestly, I went through all the stages of grief throughout the past year adjusting to a new grade level. I think it was especially hard in the midst of coming to terms with my anxiety, but I imagine any teacher who goes through a change in what they're teaching, by choice or not, would feel some, if not all, of these emotions. It is not my intent to be insensitive to anyone who has grieved the loss of a loved one.

DENIAL
I first learned about the possibility of my section of 3rd grade being cut in mid April. Even though the rumors were circling, I was in complete denial that it was actually going to happen for the following school year. Even when I was told by my curriculum director face to face we were losing a section, I thought for sure things would change when enrollment started. Nope. Which led to...

ANGER
I was frustrated for many reasons, but mostly at the fact that I just spent 3 years in 3rd grade. I was finally at the point that I felt like I had a really good plan of how I wanted to teach things, what books and resources I wanted to use, not to mention all of the money I spent out of my own pocket on 3rd grade specific resources. I was also bitter, because my former 3rd grade teammates had taught fewer years in 3rd than I. It just didn't seem fair.

BARGAINING
This was the only stage I didn't really encounter. Would I have taught 3rd grade again at any point of the school year? Yes. In. A. Heartbeat. Did I want to move my entire classroom again? No way. 

DEPRESSION
This stage lasted the entire year. While battling my anxiety and mild depression, I felt like this was the school year that was going to break me. I was having the hardest time accepting the change. Accepting that I was now a 1st grade teacher. There were so many tears shed. So many doubts. I couldn't wait for the school year to end....for the year from H to be done and over with. 

ACCEPTANCE
I'd say this didn't happen until April. When I started to really realize how much my students had learned and grown since August. BECAUSE OF ME. You see change and growth in every grade, but what I experienced this past April teaching firsties gave me CHILLS.
Did I suddenly decide this wasn't an extremely hard transition? Uhm, no. It definitely was, but I finally felt accomplished as a teacher. Something I hadn't felt in over a year. I felt like what I was doing was enough....that I was making a difference in my students' lives. I needed that...so badly.

I have felt like a new teacher 3 times in my short 5 year career. When I was actually a 1st year teacher (I taught 6th-8th grade reading intervention starting in January 2013), when I moved to 3rd grade for 2013-14 school year, and again this past year moving to 1st grade.

My advice is to not be hard on yourself. Remember what it was like your first couple years of teaching...because that's what a new grade is going to feel like. You'll feel lost sometimes. Give yourself grace as you master a new craft and navigate through the unknown of this new position. Ask for help, but don't be afraid to do your own thing, too.

There are pros and cons to every grade level in my opinion. Try to focus on the pros to your new position, rather than what you miss about your old position. Maybe you won't spend 7 months being bitter and grieving, like me.
1

3 things every #okayteacher needs to do during the summer

As teachers, we use summer to re-energize, relax, and reflect. We also make big to do lists with ideas that both excite us and haunt us, as they tend to be really time consuming. Do we have to do it all? Absolutely not. Here are my top tips to help you make the most of your summer.

Give yourself time.


As you read this post, you may not even be on summer break yet. The last thing you're thinking about is the 2017-18 school year. That is okay! Give yourself time to step back from school and the classroom. That may be a day, a weekend, a week, or a whole month. However long you give yourself, enjoy it. Enjoy your family, enjoy time for yourself, and enjoy NOT being in the classroom. We all know that we deserve it. Do not feel guilty about not already planning for the next school year.

Don't buy all the things.

I use to be a big supporter of #buyallthethings. You're going to see so many trends this summer for the next school year. Take ideas, take inspiration, but don't feel pressured or guilty to buy all the cute things at Target. Ask yourself, "What am I going to use this for?" If you don't have an almost immediate answer for it, you don't need it. Again, don't feel guilty when you're not doing everything everyone else is doing on social media. You can't keep up with the Jones' and you don't have to! Your kiddos will love you and their classroom all the same.

Don't change everything.
As teachers, we take summer to think about how we can change things in our classroom for the next school year. How to make things better for us and our students. Which you should do. Summer is wonderful for reflection. However, be careful, and give yourself grace. Don't make a mile long list of things for you to do before August or September. Because then the school year will roll around and you're going to be setting yourself up for a not so awesome guilt trip. I'm going to give myself a list like I would for my students. A must and may do list. I think I will limit my must do's to 3, and 10 may do's. If I get my 3 must do's done by end of July, great! I can start working on my May Do list afterwards. I'm still thinking on my list, so I'll keep you updated on Instagram. I did, however, make my template, so if you'd like it.


You can grab it here.

So there you go my friends. Enjoy your time, don't spend your whole savings, and limit changes. Don't set yourself up for a guilt trip. You don't need that.

I've also uploaded 11 watercolor #okayteacher affirmations that you can print or save to your phone for extra reminders.

You can find them here.

This summer I will be featuring other teachers (including bloggers, TpTers, mamas) to share their stories.

If you haven't already, please check out this post by my friend Carlee from The Kindergarten Press. She shares her struggles with anxiety and postpartum panic disorder all while being a young teacher and new mom. Thank you Carlee for sharing your story! You're making a difference, my dear friend.

1

Top 3 Tips to Survive A Field Trip

Last Friday I took my first field trip with just my class! Thanks to many of my followers, our class pet Sonic the Hedgehog won a gift card to a local attraction and we used it to take an end of the year trip. These 3 things helped me survive and save my sanity :)
We were going to a big place where a kid could easily run off in any direction. This scared the bajeezus (how do you even spell that?) out of me. So, I planned accordingly by making my kids shirts. Now, most of my kiddos don't have a school shirt, so I purposely sized up to last them through the years. They loved them, and I loved that I could easily spot them with their purple tees. If your kids have the same school shirt, that would work well, but you could also just request that all kids wear a specific solid color shirt. You could even tie-dye!


 Our trip consisted of arcade games, ticket redemption, playing in a giant indoor jungle gym equipped with foam balls you can throw and shoot out of canons, and a pizza lunch. I was concerned about letting the kids go back to playing in the jungle gym after lunch, even if time allowed. So, I brought some printables with me along with highlighters, pencils, and crayons zip pouches. 
I made a word search using this website that included their names and attractions at our location. After lunch, I handed out highlighters and they chose to do the word search and tic-tac-toe for 10 minutes while we waited on our bus. It kept them busy, and my anxiety under control as they weren't running around.


We did the reflection when we got back to school. It was the perfect way to end our day and allow them to share about their trip with me. 

I was so excited to have parents willing to help out on our trip. This made it so much easier on me when I put all the kids into groups. I wanted our parents to have all the needed information, but didn't want them to have to carry around a piece of paper. So I made mini information pages that fit into name tag clips I had access to use from my school office. 
I included our approximate timeline so they knew what our activities were and when they were happening, a list of all of the groups so they could easily see who was with who, and our expectations and consequences (which I didn't have to give, THANK GOODNESS). My kids and I reviewed these (1-3 PBIS) all week long so they knew they were not going to act crazy!
I also included my cell number (AHHH!) just in case anyone got separated. Not used at all. Let's hope I don't have siblings next year and parents saved that number... ;)

Parents were great about clipping the tags to their shirts somewhere, so I could also keep track of them...totally unintentional, but super helpful.

If you found these tips helpful, I also put together a product that includes the editable version of my activity page, reflection page (primary lines with dashes, primary lines without dashes, and smaller lines idea for upper elementary), and editable chaperone name tag clips. This product is on sale 50% off for 48 hours since posting this blog post.



If you'd like to save these tips, just hover the image and save to Pinterest!

0

3 things every #okayteacher needs to do at the end of the year

After the response of my initial #okayteacher post, Learning to be okay with being an okay teacher, I decided to turn it into a series. As the school year is coming to an end, I wanted to give 3 simple pieces of advice for any #okayteacher, and really any teacher.



The end of the year is a stressful, but also fun time with our kids. There is a ton to get done, and it seems like everything happens all at once. Here is my top 3 tips to help you survive and feel okay with being an #okayteacher.



If you're a teacher on social media, as an avid poster or an avid browser, you're going to start seeing teachers prepare their end of the year gifts for their students. You're going to see really cute ideas! Some you may feel inspired by. Some you may feel like you're the worst teacher in the world, because all you were planning on giving them was something simple. You will see inexpensive gifts, and you will see expensive, time consuming gifts. Do not feel obligated to go over the top and deep into your wallet for your student gifts. You do things for you students all year long. Whether that is purchasing extra supplies, treating them to a fun snack, or simply being their amazing teacher. Your students are not going to know how much money or time you spent on them. They will know how much you love them, and that doesn't have to be an elaborate expensive gift. The best gifts come from the heart, and those are the gifts your students will remember and cherish.

This is one thing I did for my students last year. It did take some time, but it was time well spent. I wrote each of my students letters. I reflected on the year I had with them, told them how special they were, and how proud I was. I included paper, pencil, envelope, and stamp, so they could write me back this summer. I received letters from almost every one of my students last summer.


You probably have some days built up and can take a day off just for you. At the end of the year, it is easier to take a day off because your classroom has routines and procedures established, and that makes it a little easier to take a day to yourself. I took my first personal day ever for just me last month. I slept in, went to the spa for a massage (thanks to my amazing husband), and did nothing. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. If you can't take a full day, try taking a morning or afternoon. If you still can't take a day from school actually off, take a night or weekend off from school work. Take time for you. There is no shame in that. 
Today I went to the movies with my husband rather than lesson planning. My plans are still yet to be written as I work on grad school and try to enjoy my Sunday evening. When I published my blog post back in January about being a teacher with anxiety, I had no idea it would touch so many people. I love hearing from each and every one of you. Your stories help me, too! So I decided to unite us all with an #okayteacher tee. When you wear it, I want you to be reminded of all of the other teachers that are right there with you. Doing everything possible while still being human and living a life outside of the classroom. 💕 "Because being an okay teacher in my mind, can still mean that I'm a great teacher in the minds of my students." Tee is available on lpaulldesigns.com and also linked in my profile.
A post shared by Lindsey Paull (@missjohnstonsjourney) on

The weather is getting nicer and if you had state testing, you're probably done or will be soon. April and May is the best time to step away from the lesson plans. Take your class outside and let them be kids. Play a game as a class...tag, kickball, or what my class just did the day before Spring Break...Duck, Duck, Goose. It is so much fun watching your kids just be kids! They work so hard, they deserve to have fun. I know it is hard when you still have standards x,y, and z to cover, but giving your kids a 15 minute break will be okay. Rainy day? Show a video. Don't be ashamed to turn on a Magic School Bus episode or Bill Nye. They will survive, and so will you.


Cheers to the rest of the school year, and cheers to being an #okayteacher.

Stay tuned for more #okayteacher posts. I have loved hearing each and every one of your stories via email, messages on Instragram and Facebook, and comments. It has warmed my heart to let teacher unite through their struggles and feeling of inadequacy. You are enough. You are more than okay. I love seeing your #okayteacher moments. Please continue to share them using the #okayteacher on Instagram.

0

Learning to be okay with being an okay teacher


I've tried to write this post for a long time now, but couldn't manage allowing myself to be vulnerable. Then I realized that I'm probably not alone. So, I finally decided it was time to share.

Last April, I had a panic attack. This was a first for me. While in the middle of a conversation, I remember telling my husband something was wrong as my breathing began to change and become very shallow. My legs wouldn't stop shaking and I began to lose the ability to communicate. I could hear myself in my mind saying what I wanted to say, but the words weren't coming out of my mouth. I stopped breathing. I held my head between my legs as my husband told me I had to breathe. Again, I could hear myself in my mind telling me to breathe, that if I didn't I was going to pass out. But I couldn't breathe.
I don't know how much time passed.

I do know that my husband took me to the emergency room, and I was scheduled an in-take appointment for the following Monday at our mental health clinic upon being discharged a few hours later.

I then began to get anxiety about my anxiety.
Am I crazy? I'm not crazy. I'm fine. I don't need help. I'm just stressed. I'm fine. Do I need medicine? I don't want to be on medicine. I'm fine. I don't need to talk to anyone. I'm fine.

I wasn't fine. I'd been dealing with anxiety and mild depression for years. I finally came to a breaking point. That breaking point was the stress and pressure I endure from the job I love, but also hate.
Teaching.

I had been having a pretty hard month in what was a pretty good school year, but certain aspects of my job were really weighing heavily on me. And that's when I began to crack.

After my first panic attack, I had more. I had to learn breathing techniques and learn how to not catastrophize things, which is something that I am continually working on. Every day is a battle. I have good days, and bad days. There are times when I go to therapy thinking...I don't have anything to talk about...then I find myself spilling my guts through tears 10 minutes later. Because let me be clear, teaching wasn't the only thing causing me anxiety. I had personal battles that I had been dealing with in silence since I was 7 years old. But teaching was definitely taking its toll on me.

I thought I would do really well in the summer months, because I wasn't worrying about my job. However, the 1st week of summer I was told that my section of 3rd grade was being eliminated and I was being moved. Cue anxiety. My anxiety last summer was probably worse than what it was when I had my first panic attack. It was really defeating.

I started this blogging/social media world of teaching almost the same time I started teaching. This was both a blessing and a curse. You see, for someone with anxiety whose primary core belief is never being good enough, seeing the amazing things other teachers do, makes you feel everything but amazing.

I constantly feel that I'm not doing enough. I feel guilty if I take a couple hours on a weekend to just sit and watch TV, when I could be creating things for my classroom, TpT, or even getting ahead on my business orders. I also feel guilty when I don't stay late or get to school early. There is SO much I could be doing at school, especially since I'm in a new grade level this year, but honestly, I'm just trying to get through the day. I rarely stay late. I have gone in early. I do go in on weekends.

What I've slowly began to realize, thanks to therapy, is that if I don't take that time for ME, I'm not being the best teacher I can for my students. I'm not being the best wife for my husband. I'm not being the best mom for my animals (judge me). Because you need time for yourself. Every single day I try to do something for me. Usually that is a trip to Starbucks in the morning. My colleagues make fun of me for paying $5 for a coffee almost every morning, but it makes me feel good. I shouldn't feel bad about that. But I do, on a regular basis.

This school year has been a pretty difficult one for me. I try not to talk about it too much on social media, but just know that I am struggling. I also know that there are many of you who are struggling, too, for various reasons.


This year I have second guessed my career on multiple occassions. I've worried about being part of the statistic we all hear in college about teacher turn over and teachers leaving the field after 5 years or less. I'm on year 5, and I totally get it.

The point of this post is simply to share. To let others know that they're not alone, because that's how I felt. I felt like how is everyone else doing this? How do they have time to create new products all the time? How do they have time to reorganize their classrooms all the time? How do they have the energy to stay til 9PM 3 times a week and go in on weekends? How do they balance this all with being a wife and a mom? I'm not even a mom, yet, how am I ever going to find a way to do all of it?!

The answer is...I won't. I will have to learn to give things up. To not do as much. To not worry when it doesn't get done.

I'm going to have to learn that it's okay to be an okay teacher. Because being an okay teacher in my mind, can still mean that I'm a great teacher in the minds of my students.

I would love to hear from you if you feel comfortable sharing your story. You can leave me a comment, message me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or email me at thrivingin3rd@gmail.com
17
Back to Top