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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Woodson, TX: How to tell you’re from this awesome town!

 You’re probably familiar with those “You know you’re from a small town when…” pages, and I like those funnies as much as the next person…but they’re a little generic. It’s common – especially in tiny Texas town – to have a passion for Friday-night football, a memory of riding a four-wheeler and only one blinking red light…but Woodson, Texas…not a single traffic light, blinking or not!
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Therefore, we need our own honorable pages and relatable stories, right?
I present to you…”Woodson, TX: How to tell you’re from this awesome town!”
Woodson is…
-famous for the Japanese bomb
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-full of many people from the Jones, Brockman and Dickey clans
-fun for hard-working, ambitious and talented Cowboys and Cowgirls (since said boys and girls get to be in sports AND U.I.L AND OAP AND pep squad AND so on…)
In Woodson, you…
-have to ride the Drag for fun – though we used to have a movie theater
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-hang around forever (even if you said you wouldn’t! I mean, you HAVE to come back for Homecoming…and to see your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.)
-have dogs that regularly walk into the school building, Christmas lights on the water tower, chickens in your backyard, snow days on the football field, dress-up days during Homecoming, no waits at a red light and a lifetime of love (and then some!)
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People from Woodson will always…
-remember great moments, like our 2001 six-man team, small-town pancake dinners at the Inn and men-as-women pageant contestants
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-remain close to the few people they graduated with (in some way or another)
-reach for their highest goals, because the people and experiences mentioned above stick with you, reminding you to be the best you can be.
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Tap Your Heels Together

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Every time I visit home (which I’m about to do again, for Homecoming2014), I’m filled with every emotion imaginable, as my head races down memory lane, while still caught up in the goodness of my current state.

As animals, we have anchors tied to certain places, so whether home to you is where you live now, where you grew up, your best friend’s house, a tree house or your office cubicle, it’s still that place where your heart rests and where heart swells.

Of course, I believe my home(s) are the best, filled with my loved ones, my hand-picked decor, my comfort and my memories.

To paint a picture of where I’m coming from, imagine living in a fun and active city, where hiking trails, unique bars/restaurants and exuberant festivals fill my time and space. When I need to escape, though, I head back to my hometown, where less than 300 people reside, surrounded only by blue skies and open fields – not skyscrapers, traffic lights or honking cabs/buses.

That alone sounds nice, right? It’s awesome that I get to enjoy the best of both worlds (like Sex & the City and Andy Griffith), but it goes so much deeper…

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My story began in Woodson, Texas, meaning that even though I’ve gone on to attend UT and cover NYFW and even though my K-12 years are short compared to the rest of my life, with kids and careers, it shaped me.

The most people I ever sat in a classroom with – 13 – yet I went on to sit with 250 kids in my first college class.

The shortest distance I had to travel just to buy milk and eggs – 20 miles – yet I went on trips to Boston, LA, Orlando and Germany.

The amount of people I had to choose from in the boyfriend/best friend arenas – not many – yet I’m still friends with people I met when I was one and keep up with all of my exes, since I’ve known them about that long, too!

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I love that I live in Austin now and am using my journalism degree and adopted a cat and can walk/bike to parks, grocery stores, malls and food trucks. And I love having people over to my apartment I work hard for, to create new memories with friends and laughter and family and love.

When I scan my brain for times full of those four things, I do think of Woodson, too…driving the drag with friends – even though we didn’t have licenses yet – with the music blaring and the windows down…playing games and watching home videos with my family in the living room where first words were spoken and first steps were taken…

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The moral of this story is that life is kind of cool, and I’m SO thankful for every moment, basketball game, tear, kiss, vacation (thank YOU:)…This is all short and doesn’t matter in the big picture, oddly/sadly/truthfully, but in our own little worlds, it’s fun to see where we came from, where we’re going and where we call HOM<3.

 

 

 

Lyrics That Take Me Back…

One song can cause powerful memories to come flooding back to you, transporting you through time to a distant place. These are the ones that do it for me…

  • “We Can’t Stop” – Ha, I know where you’re thinking, but it’s just pop-y and just easy-breezy enough to make it the tune I had on repeat while lying on the beaches of Kauai in the summer of 2014.
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  • “White Christmas” – Christmastime is my all-time fave, and hearing Bing croon, combined with the scent of evergreen and gingerbread, the sights of twinkling lights and the sounds of my family is a top memory/feeling.
  • “Fireflies” – My nostalgic high school/hometown days could be wrapped up in the summer after my junior year; for some reason, I just remember my friends and I being so carefree and filling warm Texas evenings with star-gazing, random swimming and cute walks (all played in a montage with this song;).
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    You can tell my the craziness of our hair how happy we are…….

  • “Day Man” – If my current apartment/life had to have a theme song, I’d pick this It’s Always Sunny tune: It’s uplifting, inspiring and really just makes me LOL.

What are the songs that take you back?