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. 


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.

Lindsey, proud #okayteacher


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
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