Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dear College Caitlin (circa 2006)

Earlier this month, someone reached out to me about writing a letter to college self. I loved this idea, and considering current Caitlin is in grad school, what a great time to reflect on all I learned.

Let me set the stage: In the Fall of 2006 (how I am already this old!), I began my time at the University of North Texas (Go Mean Green) in Denton, TX (which just happens to be the cutest town/city in all of Texas). I lived in the dorms my freshman year with my very best friend since age two: Allison. After our freshman year, we moved into a 4 bedroom apartment with 2 others girls from our small group. I got my degree in Education- Interdisciplinary Studies 4-8 (because middle school seemed like a good idea). I loved college, but there are some things Caitlin-from- Aug 2006 to Dec 2009 should've known

Dear College Caitlin, 
 You will love college. You will probably also hate it at times, but trust me nothing in undergrad will compare the pressure of grad school 10 years later when you have a job and family also vying for your time. Allow me to give you some advice: 

1. School. Don't. Even. Think. About. Skipping. First of all, don't kid yourself, 8 am classes are really not your thing. Also, Friday classes aren't either. Just because high school was easy and you rarely ever studied, doesn't mean that these new topics will come as naturally. Health Psychology? Sure, it was the only thing open when you went to Freshman orientation and now it's on your schedule, but a 2 pm MWF class really should be dropped. Don't be ridiculous. It's not worth the C. Also, Astronomy? Who are you, Galileo? Don't waste time in courses that aren't going to help you on your degree plan. ...Wait? You aren't sure what a degree plan is? Quit acting like you've got this all by yourself and go visit your adviser! They are paid for this.  (P.S. While it's super overwhelming right now, you will later LOVE helping people figure out their lives based on their degree plan, so be patient!)  
About the skipping. You know Brooke (of course you do, she's your roommate)? She actually goes to class and miraculously makes a 4.0 every semester. Try it. It's worth it. You will thank me later. 

Oh! And, try to get as many certifications as you might think middle school sounds great, but honestly, elementary is more your jam. And get ESL certified! honest, you know you have a passion for gifted education. Ask your professors why you don't learn more about differentiating higher! 

2. Money. Apply for scholarships, and then apply for more. I know you're blessed to have parents that pay for your school. But consider this: they are also paying for your rent, car, insurance, cell phone, books, supplies, groceries, spending money and your life. Help them out, a little...if you can't get a job, at least apply for scholarships! You probably also want to pay attention to the types of financial aid you are applying for/accepting. After you graduate, take initiative and look into refinancing your student loans to save even more money. There are tons of options like Earnest, that even allow you to customize your monthly payment! Just because you've heard of the "teach 5 years in a Title 1 district and have $5,000 in loans forgiven" thing, doesn't mean the loan you took out applies. So definitely check on that. 

And also, it is not essential that you drink Starbucks everyday or eat out every meal during the weekend. You'll get it in a few years when you're on your own.

3. Food. You are not an athlete anymore. And intramurals totally doesn't count. Listen, your skinny little volleyball-playing self can't handle the snacks and Dr. Pepper anymore, now that you're not working out 20+ hours a week. It's so much harder to stay thin as you get older, so please, for the love of God, do not let the others persuade you to eat chimichangas and chicken sandwiches at the Kerr Hall 11pm snack hour! 

4. Time. Despite what you think, you have so much of it...use it wisely. Sure, do the studying and class time and all that jazz. But in your free time, don't stay glued to the TV and do not nap it all away.. (I mean, an hour nap is fine but do stuff.) Never again, will you have so much flexibility with your time. Hang out with people, go for walks, cook, play sand volleyball, read as much as possible...if you're going to binge watch Friends, at least do it with people! 

5. Friends. Enjoy the time you have. People say that your college friends are your friends for life. It's true..but you still won't see each other as much. You won't have as many "family dinners" won't just be able to pop in on the guys at Windsor Castle, you won't get to go watch flag football, you won't have the weekly Chipotle meals before or after church at Denton Bible. You will all be there for the big stuff (weddings, babies), but you won't live as close together. You may not even live in the same state (prepare yourself now...Sean and Allison move to Cali). You will always be friends, but you may not always be around the people you thought you would. And it's okay. Friends kind of define your season of life. And the college friends, they are such a huge chunk. They are your wedding party, your travel friends, the people who remember the middle of the night sand volleyball sessions, Spring Break mission trips, and everything else. It's a great season. It's fine that you will have other friends (from work or other places), but your college friends know you best. They help define who you are 10 years down the road. 

6. Boys. You got a good one. Not many people meet their future husband the 2nd month of their freshman year. You're lucky...hold on to that one. He'll make a good Daddy to the most adorably little boy one day. 

7. Career. Choose one you love. Teaching is really hard. Like, it's so much harder than anyone can ever explain and the only ones who will really "get it" are other teachers. People think teaching is arts and crafts, and summers off and all the "fun" stuff...and it totally is...but it's hard. You are the parent to so many kids..some with great parents and some that never see another adult. It's a huge are raising the next generation. You will never be compensated for all you are required to do and that doesn't even touch on the stuff you do because you know it's right for kids.  Test scores are great for data, but they do not, and will not ever, define a student. Always do what's right for kids.

You've got this, College Caitlin. One day you'll be reminiscing and think about the fun you had and miss it terribly. But you'll also live the most amazing life, with your own little family and a community of friends who also get it. (Plus, you'll get to visit Denton lots when your younger brother goes there for undergrad and grad school, so you won't be too far away!) 
Lots of love, 
Current Caitlin 

PS. And just for fun, here are some pics from the glory days
Meet the ABAC. The only girls I ever lived with. Anna, Brooke, Allison and Caitlin (me!)

Remember when jumping pictures were the coolest thing?
ABAC @ my rehearsal dinner 

Love this picture. This, honestly, is what we mostly looked like. Piled on top of each other cracking up. Most likely watching She's the Man or some Disney movie. Or Celine Dion live, on DVD

December 2006 @ Brooke's NYE party 

Look at those handsome guys (and check out Russell's hair!!)...This was our "brother" group for Bible Study, but since we married some of them, let's call them our male counterparts: Chris Muse's boys.

And here we are: Emily (bring the) Paine's small group. Also known as the best Bible study of all time. 

It's a shame we didn't like hanging out together :) 

The nights spent at this apartment (Stew's and then Russell moved in) are some of my favorite. We would cook, watch movies and take endless amounts of pictures. 
This guy. Bradley Tucker was my partner in crime for all things teaching related. We did every partner project together and took every single class together except maybe 3 from our 2nd semester until graduation (I'm not even exaggerating). I cannot think of a single college class that I had fun in, without thinking of this one's shenanigans.
....And my son and his daughter are probs going to get married in like 20 years, so there's that.

College friends...all married and grown up!

Graduation in Dec. 2009. My friend Allison's hubby, Sean graduate at the same time as me and Brad...who he actually lived with. (We're a tangled web of connections) 

One of our first pictures together. NYE 2006
Check out Russell's hair! I LOVED his long hair back then :)  
Best part of college: meeting this guy. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

I'm Still Alive

I'm still alive. I know you were wondering. It's just that since March (I honestly can't believe it's been that long), so much as happened and changed. Let me give you the speed-racer version: 

1. I decided to the leave the school district I worked for. It was so hard because I had made a name for myself and was well established, partially because I grew up there, but I didn't feel like my beliefs in education mirrored those of the people in control of the district. There were tears because change is hard, but I am 23456765432% certain God led me to the right place.

2. I wasn't alone in my decision and there is something to be said when there is a mass exodus from a school or district. The people that I worked with that are my besties in life and in work are almost all embarking on new adventures at different schools or in different districts and there is comfort in knowing you weren't the only one who "left the nest". 

3. I got a new job in a new district. I am now a GT Specialist at an elementary school in a district that is equivalent in distance to my old district. The comparison stops there. I have heard nothing but positive things in every training or meeting I've attended and the teachers and parents in this district, LOVE this place (I'd I totally do too). It is so refreshing to hear repeatedly that in [my new district], our job is to love kids. Umm, hello...sign me up! 
*Ironically, this district has outstanding test scores and yet test scores have been mentioned exactly zero times. #lessonsothersshouldlearn

4. Remember that time I was middle school certified? (If you didn't, it's because after doing my student teaching and graduating with a 4-8 certification, I immediately pursued my elementary certs--middle schoolers are crazy, ya'll. Bless you middle school teachers #shoutouttomyhubs) ANYWAY, this special little certification is actually coming in handy because this year I will be teaching PreAP 6th grade Math to some very gifted math students at my school. :) My math course will rely heavily on technology so stay tuned for my transformation into #supertechnologyteacher

5. Monday starts my new adventure (with the kids). I'm thrilled. I know I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. The staff at my new campus is phenomenal and I'm amazed when I realize that, if Jackson were in "big school" already, I wouldn't even have a preference of which teacher--because they are all that good. They really truly love kids and can't wait for the school year. Can I get a #blessed?! 

So, here's to the new year, and here's to hoping I blog again before 2017! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Crowd Source Funding for Teachers...what?!

Ok. I know you have all seen a billion GoFundMe links on Facebook and everything and many of you may be familiar with crowd source funding for your classroom and could probably offer WAY more info than me but I wanted to share a few things.

For the last 5 years, the 4th grade teachers at my school have planned a big field trip to Austin, TX (the state capitol) for our students as their major field trip. It costs around $10,000 to do this trip so we normally do a ton of fundraising. The first year we planned this trip was definitely a learning experience and I think we have perfected the schedule and such since then (more on that in a later post). 

So this year, I thought I would try out for funding for our trip. If you aren't familiar, Donors Choose is specifically for teachers to offer projects that will benefit their students. When you are first starting out, they suggest you proposing a project that isn't a huge dollar amount so that you can actually be funded. (If you look into it further, this will make sense...) 

My first project was for Scholastic Storyworks magazines for all of my students in my gen ed classes. Y'all. WE LOVE STORYWORKS. It was about $700 or so for the project and Donors Choose offers a donation match the first week of most projects so if people donate $50 it's like $100! My kids get so excited every month when we get our magazines AND we even got the online subscription so I have used the articles to add questions to our assignments through Google classroom. (check out the pic from my Instagram-and come follow me!) @ckandrews8809

THEN, I put in the big project: $7000 which would pay for the charter buses we take to Austin. (It's about 3 hours from our area to Austin and school buses just won't cut it.) We posted the project in November and through donations from our students parents, teachers, teachers' family members, and then one huge donation from Wells Fargo (shout out!!) , we were able to get our buses completely paid for. You guys. This. is. huge. Our field trip is going to be OFF THE CHAIN...and it's Friday so be prepared for pics!

Meanwhile, I helped one of my teammates post a project to get hygiene products for all 140 4th graders including deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, etc. It was funded in just a few days and we were able to get these items to all of our kids (and trust me, the 4th grade teachers thank these donors immensely, especially after morning PE)

Well, after our Austin field trip project was funded, I get a message from my amazing cousins in California who had their donation matched by Google (since one of my cousins works there) so I had $200 to spend on another project. I decided to put in for blank books for all 140 4th graders so that they can write their end of year stories in these hard-cover books. AND IT WAS FUNDED IN LESS THAN A WEEK! Thank you Google and the anonymous donors who funded this $800 project. 

Moral of the story? People: There are companies and individuals out there with better paying jobs than we have (duh) who are incredibly generous and who would love to help if you just ask! Basically, Donors Choose is a place for these people to go and see exactly where their donation goes! My kids are so excited every time I tell them that we have a project funded. I highly encourage you to check it out...look at the other projects if you need inspiration! Or email me if you need help :) 

Have you posted any projects? Give me some good ideas about Must-Haves for my class! 
Hope to hear from you soon! 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Life Lately

Let's just skip past the part about me not blogging consistently and move on to the part that where I tell you what I've been up to: 

1. The cat is out of the bag...I am looking to move school districts next year. It was a super super hard decision to make, because I currently teach where I grew up (even at the same school) and frankly, I thought I'd be there until I retire. But God has a funny way of showing you that you aren't in charge #amiright. I just really want a specific position in another district that involves working with my favorite population of little people: gifted and talented kids. Which brings me to #2...

2. Grad school is in full swing (remember...I'm getting my Masters in Teacher Leadership with a focus on Gifted and Talented curriculum). This week I finish my 5th class and it has been hands down the.hardest. Research for teachers? I have learned a ton but I'm not even going to sugar coat it, I am ready for this class to be over. I am SO looking forward to my GT specific classes but those aren't until the fall. 

3. My little guy is getting so big, y'all. 

Easter at Great-Grandma's house

Ok people...I PROMISE (seriously) to blog more often in the month of April. 
Tomorrow my students take their first round of testing: STAAR Writing. Pray for them! My amazing teammate Krissy has worked her tail off this year preparing all 75 of our darlings (P.S. I'll share some of the stuff that we've done to prepare them in a later post) but it's still stressful for everyone! I know my kids are ready--they just need to believe in themselves! 

Talk to ya soon! 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Don't Worry---I'm Still Alive

Raise your hand if you're the biggest blog failure of the year?! 

{{That'd be me}}

Ya'll. Seriously. What is wrong with me this year?! I could give you excuses like: 

1. I'm back in 4th grade so I'm learning to work with a new team/partner teacher in planning sessions
2. We had such gianormous class sizes that we had another teacher added the 5th week of school which rocked my world and changed my teaching assignment but which also was the BEST thing ever. (Shout out to Katie Wrenn, the missing piece to our team that we didn't even know we needed) 
3. I started grad school 
4. I realized that sometimes "mom-ing" is the most important job I have and it beats out blogging, school and work so playing basketball, racing and snuggling take precedence over me writing 
5. I'm tired 

But let's be honest...I haven't blogged because I haven't really had anything major to share.

This week at school I got a student teacher. This isn't my first student teacher but I feel like this time around, I actually know what I should and shouldn't do :) (sorry to my other girls...hopefully I didn't fail you completely!) Working with Alyssa (that's my student teacher/new fav person) has re-reminded me of why I'm in grad school and why I have previously spent so many hours trying to become better at my job. 

You see, I started grad school even though I have a 2 year old because I want to be an academic specialist. Not only do I love working with students, I want to work with teachers too. Obviously my subject of choice would be ELAR but I don't know that I've ever shared on here my other passion in the education world: teaching gifted learners. So my masters is in Teacher Leadership with an emphasis on Gifted and Talented Education. I've loved 66% of my classes so far (the ones about data and curriculum) and I can't wait for this semester to get started. 

I promise to at least try to blog once a month this semester and hopefully I'll have some cool stuff to share with you guys (all 7 of you who might still follow this blog!). 

Here's to a new year! 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Teacher Organizations

Can I get an amen?  My room was so super organized and (duh) adorable and then the first week struck. I am exhausted! If I thought teaching all day and having a 2 year old was exhausting then I definitely had no clue what I was getting myself into by starting my Masters! #overachiever 

I just finished up a guest blog post on their blog so go check it out!

Just so you know, this blog post was sponsored by ATPE, but the words and opinion are alllll mine!  

Anyway, sorry for the short post here, but go check out my post on ATPE's website and if you aren't a member of an organization, definitely check them out! 

Be back soon! Here’s what you have to look forward to this fall:
-Vocab strategies
-Launching the Reading Workshop
-Anchor Charts I Can't Live Without 
-Field Trips and how I organize for them
-ATPE Part 2 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Classroom Reveal and Happy First Day Back to Me!

It's finally ready! Listen, I worked so hard for two days and got a ton accomplished and THEN...the heat. It was so hot in my room. I am thrilled that the fabulous maintenance men fixed my broken AC so that I won't die while working in my room. Anyway....Welcome to Room 404. This year I am back in 4th Grade teaching Reading and Writing. This is my 4th classroom and I'm starting my 6th year but I gotta say...this room may be my favorite. Besides the fact that the 3 former occupants of the room are all my BFFs, I can see my parents' house from my desk... (for real)...and it has the best set up of all my classrooms so far. it is: 
Computer area with my UNT giant window is just to the left of the green shelf and gives a TON of light to our room...unfortunately, it also gives a ton of heat and makes it difficult to use the document camera so I have curtains up. #wompwomp

I hate that this pic is blurry #mommaneedsanewiphone, but this is the front board and also the location of my "whole group" area. I've never had whole group at the board before but I'm loving the rain gutters shelves at the front that I can use to house my markers and such for anchor charts we create. I can't wait til there are 25 4th graders in the floor talking about books :) 

No, you're eyes aren't playing tricks...I have a curved wall in my room. It's like a castle. Everyone who walks in, loves it...I haven't decided yet...we will see if my Writing anchor charts stick to the curve and then we can make a decision. 

Fiction section of the classroom library
This is the view of my class from my "desk" aka the guided reading table. 

Of course the Wizard of Oz section is located close to me :) It makes me happy!  

My little corner. You can see the bright light coming in the curtains are up and aren't even opaque and it has that much light!
My back counter and cabinets
There you have it! My little slice of home at Elliott. I really love my room this year :) I'm sure I'll love it even more when it is filled with kids in just a little while! Come back soon!