Another life update…

Several things have changed at Woodson – just in the time since I have graduated from high school (which wasn’t thattt long ago)…

  • Updated flooring
  • A big, heavy mat that the football guys use to practice rolls and tackling
  • Security cameras and fobs to unlock the outside doors
  • An intercom system
  • A second portable building for pre-K/K
  • New bell sounds (including funky dance music played when school dismisses)
  • Tutorial periods built into every morning and afternoon
  • New teachers, staff members and students (many in different rooms, too)

…but so many things are the same…

  • People still proudly wear black and gold.
  • The building still looks much like it always has on the outside, since being built in 1928.
  • We still call the our gyms the Old Gym and New Gym (though this is the New Gym’s 20th anniversary!).
  • There are dogs that everyone knows and loves, and we give them treats but also have to chase them off the football field during games at times.
  • You can turn to anyone for anything, and they will help you (Thanks to Mrs. Briles for teaching advice, Mrs. Matthiews for candy and Mrs. Lester for markers!).
  • We’re still a little family – just with a few different members – that works super hard, whether we are serving chili at Homecoming, driving bus routes after school, taking money at sporting events, decorating for school functions, counselling kids about love and life, spending our weekends and evenings at extracurricular functions, grading homework, making copies and lesson plans or researching new ways to present the correct information to students.

I ❤ Woodson ISD

I have been around education my entire life. My dad started out as a math teacher and head football and basketball coach then worked his way up to being principal and, eventually, superintendent. My mom has taught sixth grade, as well as family and consumer sciences, health and physical education classes. Almost all of this has been done at Woodson ISD, my second home. I started kindergarten there in 1997, as the “new” gym was being built on campus (right behind my house, since my family still lives in the school-owned, two-story house they moved into in 1991). I remember crying in Mrs. Bellah’s fourth grade classroom when my favorite childhood cat died. When 9/11 happened, my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Bundy, tried to explain to us what was going on. I graduated from WHS in 2009, after years of basketball, academic events, breakups and makeups and being taught everything from literature and exponents to lessons on how to be the best I can be and to bloom where I was planted.

Hook ‘Em

The University of Texas at Austin was my next stop for learning; as an 18 year old, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, so I started out in business, to be generic, realized that was not for me, began writing for The Daily Texan (one of the oldest and winningest college newspapers) and transferred into the school of communication, to study magazine journalism.

Adulthood

After graduating a semester early, I wasn’t in a school setting – but I was still learning! From 2012 to 2015, I had some amazing moments (started my own freelance marketing/writing business, attended New York Fashion Week, interviewed celebrities like Ryan Gosling and made many fun memories with friends and family) and some growing moments (like a quarter-life crisis, where I didn’t get a dream job – even with a degree from UT – so had to work six jobs and live paycheck to paycheck).

Back To Woodson

I heard that journalism was a dying art, but I was determined to make a living writing…but in the meantime, as a backup, I decided to get a teaching certificate. It seemed neat to pass my passion for writing and reading on to others, especially since I wasn’t finding that full-time magazine job I wanted. When I completed my training, there happened to be an English opening at a high school near me in Austin, so I applied and made it to the second round. When I didn’t get that, though, I heard that Woodson had an opening. I joked that I should apply…and then I did. I interviewed with the principal and teachers and was presented in front of the board and got the job! My at-the-time boyfriend, Tommy, and I picked up, left our friends and beloved ATX and moved to a small town so I could teach in an even smaller town.

My Thoughts On Teaching

Pros:

  • You do get to pass your passions on to others.
  • Your work schedule is nice, with long holiday and summer breaks (You still have to plan lessons and attend trainings – but it’s better than a 9-5 every.single.day.ever.).
  • I got to help with basketball.
  • I was surrounded by other creative and caring individuals.

Cons:

  • Not everyone loves writing and reading, but some people seem to love complaining about not loving it, which makes trying to get them to learn nearly impossible.
  • Even if you’re super organized like me, the preparation never ends, since there are state standards to adhere to and essays to grade and full lessons to plan…and some kids rush through assignments and some days bring substitute teachers, so you need back-up lessons…and some schools, such as the small WHS, need one teacher covering many areas, meaning planning for four different English levels + journalism + high school theater + junior high theater.

As said, I’ve always been around education, so I heard my parents’ stories of students and classes and TAAS/TAKS/STAAR and extracurriculars and inservice. I never thought I’d end up teaching, but I was SO excited to give back to Woodson, to share my knowledge and to use my experience/creativity/organization in the classroom and beyond.

However, here are some things people don’t realize…

  • People can be lazy and rude. Yes, different personalities and interests and people are what make our diverse world so neat. In a school setting, though, a certain level of effort and respect is expected. I know perfection is impossible – from anyone, in anything – but I was surprised at how many students seemed to not care about failing grades or bad attitudes. I know school can be challenging, and balancing activities + homework + life can be a lot; I was in this exact classroom not that long ago, though, and while several people failed tests and got d-hall (myself included, at times!), there was that level of effort/respect. We knew that we came to school to learn and work and study, so there was no point in complaining – just get it done! We joined the extracurricular activities we were interested in, and we showed up to practices and games, ready to work there, too, resulting in state championship football games and competitions/trips at Galveston and gold medals, blue ribbons and pride. This year’s volleyball team made it to the playoffs, and that’s the first time that any of these high school students have done that in anything; there are many factors that could play into this (tougher competition, changes in coaching staff, fewer players, etc.), but I have to wonder about the effort + success correlation.
  • Teaching is a lot of work. I don’t think many people realize the amount of behind-the-scenes details that go into this job – even someone like me, who saw Mom grade papers after the bell rang and had to wait on Dad to get home from practice/games/board meetings. The lovely STAAR test alone leads to certain things having to be taught to certain grades at certain times, all to try and pass this one test that keeps changing and getting harder. On top of that, there are normal concepts that each subject brings – such as making sure students understand fractions, commas, cells and the history of our country – and you have to find the textbook and worksheets and accompanying texts/papers and quizzes that go along with all of that. Finally, we are also responsible for instilling these young people with deeper lessons; there isn’t a state-issued list somewhere that says this, but a. students are sometimes with teachers more than their parents and b. at Woodson ISD specifically, we’re all taught character traits – like determination, honesty, punctuality and respect – and to “be the best we can be” (our school motto:).
  • Last but not least, Woodson’s population is only 296. There are less than 50 students in high school, and these students share a building with every grade, down to pre-K. Many of these kids are also bussed in from Graham and Breckenridge, as parents like having their children in more one-on-one settings and able to participate in more than one activity. As mentioned, with a smaller school and staff, your English teacher is also your UIL and OAP director and assistant basketball coach, and your principal and superintendent teach classes and coach teams, on top of all of their other responsibilities. This is how it’s always been, and for many years, Woodson had the same staff members, who were familiar with their jobs/roles and became family. Over the years, retirement and graduating children have brought in new, younger teachers – teachers who like starting out in smaller settings. Changes are going to happen in any school, and people move for numerous reasons. It can be said that Woodson is at a disadvantage, since we’re small and in the middle of nowhere and don’t have baseball. But we do have…
    • Exciting six-man football (State runners-up in 2008. State semi-finalists in 1980 & 2001. Quarterfinal champions & state runners-up in 1978 & 2007. Regional champions in 2006 & 2009. Bi- district champions in 1993, 1994, 1995 & 2000. District champions in 1957, 1960, 1967, 1973 & 1996. The boys’ teams saw success under Coach Gordon Thomas from 1992-2002, and under Coach Reece Walker from 2002-2008.)
    • A staff that hustles and cares (Do you know these people? You probably do, ha. They’re amazing.)
    • History (such as the town being named after J.O. Wood and his son, an impactful tornado, a railroad and a Japanese balloon bomb)
    • Awesome community members (and many are graduates of Woodson AND started booming businesses here – like Jones Trailer, BJB Transport and the Woodson Inn – where other current and ex-students work)
    • A high reputation (Woodson ISD was started by passionate people who hired other upstanding faculty members…members who helped make all the positive things mentioned in this very long piece possible…winning games and building a new gym and earning awards/praises from the state/surrounding schools and sending kiddos off to state competitions/top universities/high-paying jobs…and then possibly having them come back to spread some of that goodness around (i.e. Ashlee Sullivan, Kim Miller, Nanci Baxley, Melissa Vickers and Richard Sullivan).

Life Now

I don’t owe an explanation of why I came here, how I feel about it or what I will be doing now; but, as a writer, I wanted/needed to get all of this out. My now-husband, Tommy, is working to get job back in Austin – since we miss it terribly! – and my last day as a teacher at WHS was May 23. He actually fell in love with teaching when we were here, passed his content test with flying colors, spent the last year teaching at Olney and would love to be passing on his smarts to an ATX school. Since I started my own biz in 2012, I’ve kept that going on the side, and now it’s grown so much that I can write and tweet and blog and pitch publications all day, every day.

I loved being back at Woodson, and I look forward to continuing to give back to this amazing community, no matter where I end up or what I am doing. Thank YOU for helping to make Woodson so amazing, thank YOU for making the past two years so eventful, and thank YOU for taking even a tiny bit of inspiration from this and realizing that life is short, so we must bloom where we are planted and be the best we can be!

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70+ English Resources!

I have only been teaching for a year and a half, but over that time, I researched numerous sites, attended several workshops and built up a huge list of resources; I teach English I-IV, journalism and theater arts…and if you do, too, here’s some assistance!

Below, you will find over 70 links to websites full of assignments, projects, worksheets and more!

I also sell lesson plans on Teachers Pay Teachers and have a Pinterest board dedicated to all this creative/hard work we put in! Follow me! Tell me what awesome links I left out! We’re all in this together…(cue High School Musical dance;)!

ENGLISH

General Lesson Plans (with some linked directly to my fave page on the site!)

http://www.varsitytutors.com/englishteacher

Grammar

Writing
Reading
Vocab
Worksheets/Quizzes
STAAR (resources, practice, details, info)
ACT
JOURNALISM
THEATER ARTS

Reflecting on Work

I may have only been out of college for two years, but I’ve already learned some very valuable real-world lessons – perhaps some of the most important I ever will learn, since I transitioned from a “child” to an “adult” – ha. And since it’s the most wonderful time of the year, that means I’m even more nostalgic than usual, so I’m reminiscing about the good I’ve done and planning on how to fix the not-so-hot items.

Hopefully, the below life/work lessons will inspire you, too – no matter your industry, title, role or goals – as we head into 2015…

1* Try your absolute hardest every time, and if you still fail, don’t beat yourself up: You can train for days, practice for hours and get all the teaching, advice and prep out there…but we’re human, so we sometimes fall short. If you’re giving it your all, though, what more can you do? Know you did your best and keep on truckin’!

2* Choose your battles carefully and remain silent the rest of the time: I’m a pretty quiet person, so this may not fully work for everyone, but I’ve found that rolling with the punches (a boss you disagree with, a customer service rep who just doesn’t understand, etc.) is easiest. However, you need to know when to stand up for yourself, in a calm and professional manner.

3* Communicate clearly: Whether you’re giving a presentation, asking for a raise, assigning/delegating tasks or just chatting at the water cooler, make sure what you’re saying is coming out correctly. This not only makes you look competent and put together, but it will also help avoid any problems that can occur through miscommunication.

4* Do what you love: I have realized how hard it can be to get stuck in a position you don’t love. And while the bills do have to get paid, YOU don’t have to suffer! Therefore, either a. work towards getting a role at a place you love b. use your spare time to focus on your passions (What’s time you ask? Trust me, if you get to do fun stuff, like I do via briannathomaswrites, you’ll find the time!) and/or c. see how you can implement some of your skills and loves into your current position.

From a town of 300 to UT and beyond, I feel these are the most important lessons I’ve learned thus far, and as I enter a new job (today!) and we enter a new year (soon!), I’m excited to see what’s next!

keep-calm-and-get-a-new-job-4

tight thursday: update on life

Readers–

Please let me apologize for my absence. The post-grad life has proved to be busier – and more lovely – than I had first imagined. True, I did not end up at my dream Big Apple job right out of UT, but no worries…I’m still dreaming.

Hearst: where all the fashion/journalism magic happens

Hearst: where all the fashion/journalism magic happens

Until then, though, my time has been used quite greatly…

MWF – 9:00 am-12:30 pm – Sixth Street: I somehow landed a social media/marketing/PR job at a super sweet office with a totally great boss for a very neat company. Bloom Herbal Organics produces these little wellness drops – like Airborne or Emergencee – and I write blogs, press releases, media pieces, tweets and such about them…and get paid to do it!

TTh – 1:30-4:30 pm/Sa – 8:00-10:30 am – near me: I babysit a laughing almost-two-year old boy named Bennett, which is fun and easy money!

Afternoons/Evenings: Luckily, I still have plenty of time to workout, hang with friends, catch movies and spend time with the boyfriend. I’m glad I’m not completely unemployed (like I was scared I would be), but I do love my free time (yay being young with no kids, 9-5, etc)!

tight thursday shows how much i admire my loved ones