Teaching Advice from Experienced Educators

Hey y’all! Welcome back to another post, today we are going to talk about some advice that experienced educators would give first year educators. I began teaching in August 2021 and reached out to my online community on Facebook and Instagram asking teacher friends to give me their best advice. I have posted the wisdom they shared below.

If you have other advice that you would give to a first year teacher, please feel free to send me a message and I will add it to the list of advice. I hope this post continues to grow!

Facebook Community

“The very first thing every baby teacher must not just know, but internalize as holy writ, is that the support staff in the office can make or break you. Be kind, polite, and thankful to them, seek their advice, and remember that it is they and their friends at central administration who have the ears of the bosses and control what goes in those bosses’ inboxes.” -Jack K.

“So, I think that for me, I started out trying so hard to be lenient and “cool” that I made things harder on myself…I also spent too much time trying to perfect everything I did. All I did was stress out and have anxiety. Eventually I learned what was the most important and necessary for my classes, and I learned to go into a class with the skeleton of lesson plans and let the class evolve naturally. I also believe that whenever possible, spend the shortest amount of time lecturing as possible and use more time to workshop assignments in class where you are there one on one to help students as needed. You’ll get better quality work, they will learn better, and less homework is better for everyone.” – Felicia P.

“Relax and go easy on yourself. It’s common to want to be perfect but teaching is a lot of trial and error. Every new lesson takes twice as long as you think to execute so give yourself some wiggle room. Before creating the class, write down your top 3-5 goals for the class and then design the course around those goals. Too much homework is bad for everyone. There is no award or extra pay for giving yourself extra grading. So when you think about homework think about how this fits within the goals for the class. Are your goals to help them improve their written communication skills? Is it to provide them with diverse viewpoints throughout history? Is it to help them find value in the subject of study? In my own teaching feedback I have found that a clear and well organized class makes everyone happier regardless of major. I also share with them why I assigned the homework I did. Don’t take it personally if a math major just wants to make a C in your course to get the credit and move on. Sometimes these students get the most out of your course because they walk away realizing they don’t hate history class. Some of us coming out of graduate school are used to being high achievers so we can assume everyone wants an A+. Also reach out to the failing students every once in awhile and try to help them along. We never really know what’s going on with them and some will rise to the occasion if they think someone cares. But remember you cannot save them all from themselves or whatever is preventing them from succeeding. Lastly, seek out the guidance of seasoned teachers as much as you can. More often than not, they have had similar experiences and can help reassure or guide you through the rocky weeks.” -Amanda J.

Instagram Community

“Have grace for both yourself and your students. No one’s perfect. Also, honesty is super important 👍” -Miachael L.

“Don’t stress about trying to develop your own curriculum. Your first year is the year to get into a rhythm for how you teach and manage your classroom. The last thing you need to to stress yourself about having 100% original lessons.” -@runningtohistoryclass

“Whenever I would go to my favorite mentor teacher for advice/input, he would always ask “what do your students need?” In the fury of everything we need and want to accomplish as teachers, knowing our students and what they need should come before everything else! You’ll never regret building those relationships. 💛” -S. Baker

“Establish your rules and your tone early and often. Save all of your assigned work to students they will come back and challenge you on this. Have fun when you can.” -@hist10950

Concluding Thoughts

I am so thankful to be surrounded by awesome educators who were willing to share their advice. I hope you learned something from this post and will share it with other teachers!

Good luck friend and thank you for all that you do! The world wouldn’t be the same without teachers like you 🙂

5 Things You Need To Know Before Moving To College

Hey friend! Welcome back! Today we are talking about the essential things you need to know before moving into a college dorm or apartment!

Moving away to college can be a scary experience for some people because they’ve never lived anywhere but home. But I’m here to tell you that it can be a fun and exciting experience! Make sure to read all of my tips and also feel free to ask questions!

My college journey was unique because I commuted my first two years to community college, then lived in the dorms for two years while finishing my bachelor’s degree, and then lived in two apartments during my master’s program. So I’ve lived in quite a few places and I am going to tell you what you need to know!

1. Before moving to college make a list of things that you need to bring with you.

Many colleges and universities have lists on their websites of things they suggest you bring with you. There is also usually a list of things that you can’t bring to a dorm with you (i.e. candles, toasters, and pets) – so look at your school’s website. Below is a short list of things I found useful when living in a dorm and apartment in my college town!

Things that I found useful when living in a dorm:

Pillows, Sheets, & Blankets



Shower Caddy for Toiletries

Shower Shoes (Sandals)

Desk Organizer


Plastic Dishes


Good Pair of Walking Shoes

Plastic Storage Bin Tower

2 Large Plastic Bins

Clothes Hangers

Lint Roller

Blackout Curtains

Things that I found useful to add to the above list when living in an apartment:



Blackout Curtains


Good Pair of Walking Shoes

Futon or Chair

Shower Curtain & Rings

Bathroom Rug

Pots & Pans

Dining Table & Chairs

Silverware & Plates

Small TV

Remember this is not a complete list! These are just a few things that I think most people might use. If you’re missing something you can always run to the store in your town.

BONUS TIP: Make sure to look at the thrift stores and antique shops in college towns! They have great stuff for cheaper prices than the chain stores. You could even make a DIY project if you have time! Also look for stuff at the dollar stores – they have cute storage options and decor!

2. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes. You will need them!

Make sure to pack a good pair of walking shoes when moving to college. You will be walking all over campus and will want comfy shoes! Some campuses cover miles and your feet could hurt if you don’t have good shoes.

If you need to wear professional shoes for a presentation I recommend sticking your heels or sandals in a plastic sack inside your backpack and switching shoes once you get to class! My life was forever changed when I started doing this! Your feet will definitely thank you 🙂

Here’s a little bit of insider information from a person who commuted for two years – make sure that you have comfy shoes because the close parking spots fill up fast and you will likely find yourself walking a long way to get to class… It happens, but good shoes can help!

Also, as a commuter I also tried to leave a spare pair of shoes and socks in the trunk in case it rained and my shoes got wet. There’s nothing worse than having to wear soggy socks for an entire day of school… trust me. Just pack the extra shoes on rainy days! Stick them in a plastic sack so nothing else in your trunk will get wet if you change shoes!

3. Talk to anyone and everyone in your first few weeks of the semester! And keep in contact with people you met at orientation.

Odds are that you had to attend some kind of orientation for new students – whether it was virtually or in-person. Try to keep in contact with these people and meet up with them once school starts. You can go to a coffee shop, Welcome Week event, or have a Zoom call – whatever you feel is safe for you!

Many dorms and apartment complexes will host “Back to School” bashes where you can meet new people too. If you see someone in the hallway make sure to say hi and introduce yourself! The people on my floor were so much fun and all had really cool stories.

Try to attend some of the Welcome Week events that your school hosts. I’ve noticed nowadays that colleges and universities are hosting in-person and virtual events! So try to attend one however you safely can 🙂

4. Make sure that you have completed all of your paperwork and have copies of all the important documents you might need.

Make sure that you have completed all of the paperwork before move-in day at your school! Some of this is done online, while other papers might need to be printed out and signed.

BONUS TIP: If you plan on working a job while going to school (part-time or full-time) make sure to have copies of all documents you need to fill out employment paperwork. This includes your license, social security card, and voided checks. I had friends who had to travel home and get their paperwork and it was a mess. So save yourself the trouble!

5. Know that moving to college can be a big transition. It is okay to be nervous and to make time for yourself.

Moving to college can be a big adjustment – give yourself grace and time to create a new routine and make new friends. Make sure to have time for yourself somewhere quiet. You can talk to your roommate about setting boundaries about quiet times.

I also recommend walking around campus and finding some of the quiet spots. My university was pretty large so there were quite a few quiet spots to study if you knew where to find them. Try studying in different locations too. And you don’t always have to be studying – you can go somewhere quiet just to breathe and think!

Concluding Thoughts

Congratulations on moving to college or university! I am so proud of you and know that you’re going to do great things! Remember it is okay to be nervous about this transition, but don’t let it get you down because everyone is nervous. If you are having problems when you get to college make sure to talk to your parents and find a mentor on campus that can help you with the transition. I hope this helps!

Good luck! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂

10 Tips for College Freshmen

Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today we’re talking about 10 tips to help college students be successful in their first semester of school. I spent 6 years in school and am gearing up to teach my own classes this fall – so I think I can help you! Let’s go ahead and hop right in with 10 Tips for College Freshmen!

1. Look at the syllabus before you go to class.

The Professor will typically go over the syllabus on the first day of class, but it makes things goes much more smoothly if you’ve already glanced at it. You can have your questions ready to ask on the first day!

2. Make a friend in all of your classes within the first week.

College can be a scary experience for some people, but having a friend in the class can definitely make it less daunting. I had at least 1 person who I swapped notes with in every class that I took. You can even form small study groups!

You could even study together via Zoom or Skype so that everyone can participate in the projects or study sessions. I remember it was always difficult trying to coordinate schedules and trying to get everyone together on campus at the same time… Video chatting makes things so much easier!

Halloween Party on Campus

3. Do the readings for class and watch the supplemental videos.

Teachers assign readings for a class for a reason. Try to read the material before class, but skim it if you have too. Looking at the materials can at least give you an idea about what the lectures will be over that week.

4. Talk to your professors, Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA’s), mentors, and other people.

Talking with your professor before class, after class, or during their office hours is a great way to build a strong relationship. Your professors will be the people who know your work and can possibly write you letters of recommendation for future job/college applications. Plus they’re super smart and you’ll learn something new every time you talk to them! I spent a lot of time visiting professor’s office hours and was always given solid advice on how to be successful. Professors will also make appointments if you can’t make their office hours so don’t be afraid to ask! Just talk to them 🙂

Undergrad students, GTA’s, and Professors at the 2020 Oklahoma Phi Alpha Theta Conference

Go visit your Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA’s or TA’s) if you’re enrolled in a large class. These people are the graduate students from the whatever department your class is in. Personally, I was a GTA for the history department. Often, the GTA’s are the ones who will be grading your papers. You will want to visit with them before class, after class, or during their office hours to go over assignments or to discuss your grades. GTA’s will also make appointments if you can’t make their office hours so don’t be afraid to ask! Just talk to them 🙂

GTA’s at the Oklahoma Phi Alpha Theta Conference 2019

Make sure to talk to other mentors on campus when applicable. You can be involved in leadership classes or an Honors Programs which can lead to having more mentors on campus. Additionally, you will want to regularly meet with your academic advisor at least once a semester to ensure you are on the right track to graduate.

Finally, just talk to anyone on campus who is willing to talk back to you. I worked on campus my entire college journey and met so many cool people! I knew people all across campus and loved running into them. These connections can help you later on in life as well!

5. Make time to study, but also make time to relax.

This was one that I struggled with while in school. I worked all of the time either at my job or on my school work. It was really hard for me to relax and take a break. Looking back I can see where this hurt me, but I know how to take breaks when needed now.

But I’m not saying that you should avoid your readings or homework. Make sure to get those done before you do anything else. But don’t let the assignments consume you – reach out to your professor or GTA when you need help.

6. Try a new club, intramural sport, or activity. You never know what might happen!

College is the time to try new things and to get outside of your comfort zone! Many college and university campuses will have websites with lists of clubs and activities. Make sure to look at the wellness page to find intramural activities too!

Try anything that piques your interest! I tried tennis and water polo while I was in college – had I ever played them before? No… I had not, but I had fun learning! I also participated in a swim club, history club, geography club, Phi Alpha Theta, and the list goes on and on, but I think you get the point. There are tons of organizations that you can take part in.


Oklahoma State University Swim Club at Wichita State University

7. Ask Questions.

Ask the question in class. Odds are that most people didn’t understand and won’t ask for clarification. If you ask the professor to clarify they are usually happy too. You have to remember that your professor has been studying the topic they’re lecturing on for years and sometimes might not explain things well.

Don’t be afraid of what other people might think either. You are brave for asking the questions. You will be better off for it too because you will better understand the topic.

8. Visit the library, wellness center, student union, health services, and any other building on campus with student resources.

Make sure to check out all of the places that have student resources on campus. This includes the library, wellness center, student union, dinging halls, residential buildings, etc. Each of these buildings will have different resources.

Many college and university campuses will also have counseling services, Veterans services, student disability services, transfer student resources, and resources for non-traditional students. If you don’t know where to find the resource that you need, make sure to reach out to a professor that you trust and they will help point you in the right direction.

9. Make sure to keep your living space clean, do you laundry, and look after your nutrition.

Moving to college or university can be a huge adjustment for some people and that is very understandable. But you’ll want to make sure that you’re taking care of your health and your space. I recommend trying to set up a schedule that will help make chores a part of your regular weekly routine.

Try to make sure that you’re eating somewhat healthy and making good choices too. You’ll probably want to invest in a good water bottle – especially for the hot summer months. Drinking enough water is an important thing to do!

10. Try something outside of your comfort zone at least once a semester.

I know it’s easy to get into a habit or a routine, but I recommend trying something new and outside of your comfort zone at least once a semester if not more frequently. This can include trying new foods, trying new clubs, or activities. Just try new things!

Personally, I tried two-stepping lessons, tried inner tube water polo, and went to sporting events that I had never been to before! Every experience was different and so fun! I am so glad that I went! 🙂

Two-Stepping Night at one of the Dorms on campus!

Concluding Thoughts

Alright y’all, those are my 10 tips for college freshmen! I hope you have a fantastic semester and that this college experience is a great one for you! For more college tips and tricks check out the Student Resources page on my website!

If you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask someone on your campus for help! And if you have a more general question feel free to send me a message via my contact page! I will get back to you ASAP.

Happy studying and trying new things! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂

Where to Find Digitized Secondary Sources

Hey there, Friend! Welcome! Today we’re talking about where to find Digitized Secondary Sources for research papers, projects, and more. If you need primary sources for your project – I encourage you to check out this article next: The Best Places to Find Digitized Primary Sources.

Now you might be wondering what a secondary source is, well, it’s secondhand account of an event, person, movement, or thing. Secondary sources include articles, books, encyclopedias, etc. They are useful in summarizing events and for broad learning! Personally, I love reading secondary sources to see how other historians have written about certain topics. Let’s get started!


JSTOR is a great platform for research articles. You can make a free account and read 100 articles per month. If you are a college/university student or faculty member you will have access to more articles.

Bonus Tip: Make sure to check out what other databases your institution has access to! There are a lot of cool databases for all kinds of degrees!

Public Library Systems

The public library is one of the most under-utilized community assets in my opinion. Many public libraries now have digital and audio book platforms where you can rent books for FREE.

Seriously, go check out the public library! It’s also a great place to work on your project because they’re usually quiet.

Scribd or Audible

Scribd and Audible are both apps that you will have to pay for. Personally, I use Scribd and love it! There are hundreds of books, articles, audiobooks, PDFs, and more on a number of topics. I love listening to the audiobooks during workouts or while cleaning the house.


Archive.org is another one of those websites that is a treasure trove! There are primary and secondary sources here. All you have to do is create an account and you can access books for free! You have different options for how long you can rent the book, but if you run out of time and don’t get it all read then all you have to do is check the book out again (This can be done instantly).

Bonus Tip: I was able to find some of the books I needed for graduate seminars on this website which saved me $$$.

Google Play

Google Play has several books that you can read! You can read some of them for free, but there are also others that you have to pay for. It’s worth checking out!

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a great place to find scholarly articles in hundreds of fields! Check it out!

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is a website full of public domain material. There are lots of books!

Hathi Trust – Digital Library

Hathi Trust is great for finding out of print and public domain books! Check it out!

Concluding Thoughts

Hey friend, thank you so much for reading. I hope you found a secondary source database that will help you complete that research paper or project. Good luck and happy reading/writing!

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂

Tips for College Transfer Students

Hey there, friend! Today I am going to talk about my experience as a transfer student and give you some practical advice that will help make the transition to another school much easier. This article will also give you some tips on how to be a successful transfer student! Let’s get started! 

I began my education at a community college and had an amazing experience. I loved my classes, professors, and clubs that I was involved in. My community college allowed me to have smaller classes and more one on one help. I completed an associate degree before transferring so I’ll be speaking from that perspective. 

Community College

I LOVED my community college experience. Not only did I save a lot of money, but I also met some great friends there. I still talk to several of them today! *I actually set up a coffee date with one of my friends from my community college as I wrote this piece!

Transitioning from high school to college can be tough for some students so make sure to get involved on campus. I was fortunate to have an on-campus job and to be involved in several clubs. But make sure to put your studies first! Always finish your homework, do the projects, readings, and study for your exams before you go to a club meeting. If you do these things, you will most likely be successful! 🙂

As you take all the required classes on your degree plan you will want to talk to your advisor about the next step. You will have to decide when you want to transfer to a four year university. Your advisor can help make sure that you take ALL of the classes you need. You can also reach out and speak to the department that you are transferring to in order to make sure that you have all of the classes you need.

You will want to look up the application deadlines for the university you want to attend and make sure that it is filled out and turned in. You’ll need to gather materials, write an essay, and have official transcripts. After submitting the application, you have to wait. Once you’re accepted you can begin the next steps! 

Take time and enjoy the accomplishment of finishing an associate degree. That’s a big deal! Congratulations! I am so proud of you, friend!!! 🙂 

After, graduation you can attend the summer camp at your university for transfer students. Make sure that you’ve signed up because you’ll make friends who are in the same position as you!


Alright, now that you’ve had the summer to celebrate your associate degree it’s time to begin life at university in the fall (this also applies to students who begin university in the spring too!) 

Typically, universities in the United States have something called “welcome week” for students in the fall. There are a lot of events, activities, and free food to be found all across campus. Try to attend a few events that are interesting to you – this is where you’ll meet people with similar interests. If you live in the dorms, make sure to introduce yourself to the people on your floor and in the common areas. These people will be great to have as study buddies!

Personally, transferring with an associate degree meant that I was a third year student at my university. I met with my university advisor and we made a plan for my final two years of my undergrad degree. You can also ask your advisor what clubs are in your department. (My department had the History Club and Phi Alpha Theta!)

Make sure to find the Transfer Office on campus for your university. This office will have a lot of resources and will be able to connect you with the mentors you need. I think it is important for universities to be learn how to support transfer students and this is a good place to start. 

Another great place to look for campus resources is the library! Often, there are community bulletin boards posted throughout the building with flyers about events and helpful resources. Personally, my university had these bulletin boards throughout all of the buildings on campus so make sure to take a second to read them! 

My university also had an online platform for clubs and organizations that you could browse. This was super helpful in finding organizations to join. This was also a great place to look for community service opportunities! 

Also, I loved participating in intramural sports. My favorite was inner-tube water polo! So much fun! This is another great way to meet people from all across campus.

Spend some time trying things that are outside of your comfort zone! I hope your university experience is a good one and that you meet a bunch of awesome people!

Concluding Thoughts

Community colleges and universities are crucial to education. Make sure to enjoy your experience, meet lots of new people, and try a bunch of new things. I loved both my community college and university experiences. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the people who helped shape me along the way in both places.

Good luck in your next endeavor! I am cheering for you!

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

How to Write a Good Story

Hey there friend! Today, we’re going to talk about some of the elements that make a good story. These principles can be applied to both fiction and nonfiction writing. 

As a historian and freelance writer, it is my job to tell stories – some stories have a happy ending and some just don’t. That’s just the reality that comes with writing about real people who lived complex lives. I consider writing the stories of people from the past one of my greatest privileges. Their lives can teach us something new every day. 

I’m going to break this into 7 steps! 

1. Start with something that grabs the reader’s attention. 

The first thing you want to do in any story is grab the reader’s attention. The reader has to want to know more about what is going on. 

2. Add some background to the story.

Context is very important to the progression of the story. You can start in the action, but then you’ll want to zoom out and give the reader the big picture. (i.e. family, local, national, or international scales) 

3. Show the reader around the scene.

Give the reader all of the details! You want to show the reader the scene not just summarize it. Transport the reader into the world that the story takes place in. 

4. Present the problem or conflict of the story.

After establishing the scene and the context, present the conflict of the story. What is the problem? Why is it a problem? How will the character solve the problem? 

5. Take the reader on a journey to solve the problem or conflict. 

After you’ve established the problem, it’s time to present the proposed solution to said problem. This is often where the majority of the story takes place. As the author, you get to decide what the mood for the proposed solution and journey is. 

Bonus Tip: Decide what point of view you are telling the story from, decide whether or not you need a third-party narrator. 

6. Resolve the problem or conflict of the story. 

After your character has completed the journey, it’s time to resolve the conflict or wrap up the story. Not all conflicts can or will be solved. So make sure that the ending suits the story being told. 

Bonus Tip: Decide if you need to reiterate a moral or lesson in your story. Was there a lesson to be learned? Did the character discover a hidden truth? 

7. Finally, end the story.

You get to decide whether or not your story has a happy ending. Always tell the story that needs to be told even if you receive push back.

Concluding Thoughts

Remember, you CAN tell this story and nobody else can. I believe in you! Happy writing, y’all! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂

Where to Find Public Domain Images for Your Next Project

Hey there friend! Have you ever needed a picture for your project, but not known where to find non-copyrighted images? Today, I am going to give you a list of places to find non-copyrighted images that are perfect for any project. I have personally used the websites in this post for my own projects and assignments. 

1). Smithsonian Open Access 

The Smithsonian has released millions of their images into the Public Domain. This collection includes images and objects from across their museum holdings. The home page for this website is linked here. (https://www.si.edu/openaccess

2). Library of Congress 

This applies to some of their collections and images. Make sure to click on the image you want to use and double check that is says CC0 or Public Domain. 

The Library of Congress has curated several sets of free to use images. They can be found here. (https://www.loc.gov/free-to-use/)

3). Flickr

Flickr is another cool platform to search for non copyrighted images. This website contains more stock photos than the previous two. 

There are several more websites out there that offer stock photos, but I haven’t used them so I don’t want to talk about them.

Bonus Tips & Ideas

Many archives will let you use their photos if you email them and ask for permission. You will want to email their contact person – make sure to be extra nice! Some archives will ask for citations, while other may ask you to pay a fee to use their image. Either way, make sure that you comply with their rules! 

Another good option is to take your own photos for your project! Many smart phones today have amazon cameras and you can capture lots of good footage. Make sure that you film in the orientation that is best for your project: portrait or landscape. You can then import the images into an app or download them to your computer to edit them! 

You can also create handwritten, drawn, or digital abstract designs for your project! There are a lot of apps out there so check them out and get creative! 

Concluding Thoughts

*It is important to note that CC0 and Public Domain images are the ones being discussed in this article. There are more copyright laws that get kind of messy, but I will let you look into that route!

Here is a list of places to find primary sources that you can check out next! I hope this helps for your next project!

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

10 Tips for a Virtual Thesis Defense

Congratulations, you’re almost done with your degree! The only thing standing between you and that diploma is your thesis defense… *cue the dramatic music* 

You might be terrified, excited, overwhelmed, or a combination of all of these things! But don’t worry you’ll do great. Relax, read these tips, and get ready to rock your thesis defense presentation. 

1. Make sure you set a time that works for all of your committee members. 

It can be difficult trying to align three to four people’s schedules, but it is crucial that everyone be in attendance. Remember to take time zones into account if you have committee members from different universities or if they are traveling for research purposes. 

2. Ask your roommates or family to be quiet during the meeting. 

Most thesis defenses are scheduled in blocks of a few hours so make sure to ask your family or roommates to be quiet during this time. It’s even better if you could have the house or space to yourself, but I know that’s not always possible. 

Personally, my thesis defense was scheduled in a two hour block. This allowed me to give my thesis presentation and allowed my committee time to ask questions. Thesis defense questions will vary based on your subject and university’s requirements. 

3. Clean up your background!

Make sure that the background of your room is as clean as possible or use a screen filter. This is a professional meeting and you want the background to be neat!

4. Set up good lighting. 

Make sure that the lighting in the room or area you are in is good. You don’t want to have shadows on your face if you can help it.

The best place to sit is in front of a window. This provides great natural light! If you don’t have a window, try using a ring light or a lamp! Always make sure that the light is in front of you and not behind you. 

5. Make sure to dress professionally. 

You want to dress your best for your thesis defense. This is a professional occasion.

Ladies, if you want more tips on professional outfits see this article next: Business Outfit Ideas For Women

Bonus Tip: Make sure that you clothes don’t blend into your background. Also, try to avoid super crazy patterns if you can. 

You can set up your phone to test out different outfits or FaceTime a friend. They can give you an honest opinion on what looks best on the screen. This is important because on screen outfits and in-person outfits are two totally different things… 

6. Have your thesis defense presentation ready to go.

If you use slides or data, upload the presentation ahead of time and ensure it is ready to go Make sure you know how to turn on your video, audio, and how to share your screen with other people. This will help things go much more smoothly on thesis defense day. 

Your thesis defense powerpoint presentation is a way for you to showcase your work visually. Make it unique, but professional. Pictures and data charts are great examples of what work well! 

PowerPoint and Canva are great tools to make eye-catching presentations with! I love both of these programs. 

7. Keep a bottle of water next to you during your presentation just in case you need it!

It doesn’t have to be water, it could be coffee, tea, or juice. Just keep something next to you in case your mouth gets dry. 

8. Look at the camera when you are speaking and remember to speak slowly.

Look directly at the camera when talking during your thesis defense. The camera is essentially your committee members and if you were in the same room with them you would make eye contact – so look directly at the camera. 

Remember to speak slowly and enunciate your words. It’s easy to get nervous and start speaking faster than usual. But don’t worry if you catch yourself doing this, simply take a deep breath, smile, and slow down. Your thesis committee wants to hear what you have to say about your topic because you are the expert in the room. 

If you would like to read more tips on how to give a great presentation, check out this article next: 10 Tips to Nail Your Next Presentation 

9. Thank your committee for working with you on your thesis.

Please make sure to thank your thesis committee during your presentation. You couldn’t have done it without their help and guidance along the way. You can decide whether you want to thank them at the beginning or at the end – or you could do both! 🙂 

10. Remember to celebrate when you are done! 

You can celebrate alone or with some of your close friends and family. Researching, writing, and defending a thesis is a BIG DEAL. You deserve to celebrate all of the hard work you accomplished. 

BONUS TIP: Make sure to get some sleep as well! You’ll be tired 🙂 

Concluding Thoughts

I hope these tips for a thesis defense were helpful for you. Good luck! I know you’re going to do great! If this article was helpful – drop a comment below and let me know how your thesis defense went! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

10 Tips to Nail Your Next Presentation

Hey there! I’m assuming you have a presentation to give sometime soon! That’s awesome! Today, I am going to give you several tips to give an engaging presentation. 

I have presented my research at multiple conferences – winning prizes at four of them! I love public speaking and engaging with the audience. My public speaking career began when I spoke in front of my FCA club my freshman year of high school. So, I guess you could say that I have had some time to practice. Let’s go ahead and get started. 

1. Make sure that you are dressed for the occasion.

You want to look professional and put together – no sweat pants or hoodies. Make sure that you’re wearing comfortable shoes too! 

2. Organize your equipment.

Double check that you have all the equipment you need for your presentation. This can include a computer, pointer/clicker, adapter cables, flash drive, hard copy of your presentation, etc.

BONUS TIP: Make sure to take a water bottle with you! 

3. Try to stay relaxed as possible when you’re in front of the room. 

Some conferences have chairs for you to sit in while other places will have you stand behind a podium. Just keep your body relaxed! 

4. Make eye contact with people in the audience. 

Sweep your gaze around the room and make eye contact with people in the audience. If you make eye contact with someone – smile at them! They’ll most likely smile back at you and this will help you feel more relaxed. 

5. Speak with confidence. 

You are the expert in the room once you start talking. Everyone is there to hear what you have to say! You put the hours into this presentation and should feel proud of your work! 

6. Don’t worry if you stumble over your words! 

Nobody is judging you, I promise. Bonus points if you are able to laugh at yourself. This will show other people in the room that you are still human and comfortable with yourself! 

7. Speak slowly and enunciate your words. 

Sometimes it’s easy to get nervous and you might start speaking quicker than usual. This makes it really hard for people to understand you. Just remember to take a deep breath, speak slowly, and enunciate your words. 

8. Make sure that you are projecting your voice. 

This is especially if the room doesn’t have a microphone set up for you to use. You might even start your presentation by asking if the people in the back of the room can hear you. If they can, that’s great! If not, you’ll have to speak louder. 

9. Make sure to thank the audience for their time and attention. 

Depending on the presentation this would be the time to ask if the audience has any questions. Try to answer as many questions as possible. Don’t make up something if you don’t know the answer to an audience member’s question. Simply tell them that it was an excellent question and that you don’t know the answer to it. Make a mental note of the question or write it down quickly! Audience questions can make your presentations better over time. 

10. After the presentation and question time is over, you can ask any friends or colleagues in the audience if they have any critiques of your performance. 

These need to be trusted people that will give you good advice that will make you a better professional speaker. 

Concluding Thoughts

*At conferences or symposiums: Carry a pen and notebook in your bag. You will want to take notes during other talks. I have learned so much from other people’s research. You can also take note of how other people present their research/talks.

I hope these tips help you out on your next presentation. You’re going to do great! I just know it! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

(Left) 2nd place finish for American History Graduate Students. My cohort swept the prizes for US History that year!
(Right) 3rd place finish for American History Graduate Students. Shout out to my friend for snapping the picture of me speaking!

15 Tips for the Student Who Just Got Accepted Into Graduate School

First off, Congratulations on being accepted into the graduate program at your school! That’s an awesome achievement! These 15 tips will help you survive graduate school without going crazy! Let’s jump on in! 

Personally, I was accepted and graduated from a MA Program in History. So this article will probably lean more towards that discipline, but I think many of these tips can be applied to any MA Program. 

1. Make friends in your department. 

Having friends in your department is so, so important. They know what you’re going through and can relate. They’re also there to help if you get stuck or are confused about a concept. 

I had a friend who helped me learn how to write a good historiography paper. We would email back and forth and then meet up to work on projects together. This was a life saver for me. My grades began improving on papers after they explained the process in a different more understandable way to me. 

It is also important to have friends outside of your department! People from different disciplines offer unique perspectives and research ideas. I had friends in English, Physics, Pre-Med, Business, and more! I loved talking with all of these people about their projects! Friends are so valuable! 

It also helps to find an older, more experienced graduate student to look up to. The PhD students in my department were always so kind and willing to offer great advice. Make sure to sit and listen when these people are speaking – you don’t want to miss out on some great wisdom. 

2. Schedule regular meetings with your advisor.

It’s important to check in with your advisor to make sure that you are on the right track for your graduation plan and thesis project. They often have great advice to give and are good people to bounce ideas around with. They can be your biggest advocate in the department which can be important. The meetings with my advisor were always productive! 

3. Make sure to take care of your body, mentally and physically. 

Taking care of yourself must be a priority. This is so important for you! Personally, I liked going to the gym or taking a walk to move my body. This was so good for me to unplug mentally from my work. But you do whatever makes you feel good, mentally and physically. 

4. Schedule time off into your weeks.

This is something that I wish someone would have told me early on. Taking time away from studying, reading, or writing all of the time is so important for you as a human. So take it from me, DO NOT STUDY ALL OF THE TIME. Hang out with friends, explore the city/state that you’re in, and try new things. There are so many things that I wish I would have done differently in hindsight. 

5. Time management is crucial to success in graduate school.

One thing that is crucial to success in graduate school is time management. You will need to schedule time to do your readings, writing assignments, and discussions. You will also need to work on writing your thesis as well. Setting a schedule each semester really helped me to manage my time. Understand, that schedules can change and that is OKAY! 

6. Come up with a note-taking system that works for you. This will save your life while reading hundreds of books, literally. 

You will want to have a good note-taking system figured out by the end of your first semester of graduate school. You can try multiple styles and see what works best for you and your needs. Personally, I liked pen and paper for notes during class! Then while I was reading the books for class or taking notes for my thesis I would type them on a computer. Taking notes on a computer allows you to search the document for key words later on.

7. Start looking at secondary literature for your project as soon as possible. 

Once you identify what topic you want to study – start reading the secondary literature as soon as possible. This allows you to get a solid grounding in the topic area that you want to contribute to. You can even start writing the historiography section of your paper and refine it as you go through the program. 

8. Network, network, network! 

Networking is so, so important in the professional world. You can connect with people through conferences, personal contacts, and social media. Many professionals are now using social media platforms as a way to network with like-minded individuals around the world. Some good websites for networking include LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram! 

*Historians and history lovers should check out the networking post on my Instagram account: @the_active_historian

9. Attend and present at conferences. 

Going to conferences and presenting your work is very important. It helps you build public speaking skills and write clear, concise arguments. The professionals who chair the panels and attend sessions provide valuable feedback on your presentations. This can help you grow as a scholar! I always received great feedback at conferences! 

BONUS TIP: Conferences are great for your CV. Some conferences even have paper prizes you can win which look especially good on your CV! 

10. Build your CV.

Building your CV is an important aspect of the MA Program (especially if you intend to apply for PhD programs). A CV is like your academic resume. Future employers and PhD programs want to see what you did as a MA student to see if you would be a good fit for their position. 

Things to include on your CV: 

  • Conferences
  • Publications
  • Degrees
  • Certifications
  • Languages Spoken/Read
  • Relevant Employment Experience
  • Awards/Scholarships
  • Organizations you are a member of

Make sure to check out this article about CVs next! 

11. Get involved in graduate student organizations on campus. 

Graduate student organizations are a great campus resource for graduate students! There are many professional development opportunities and ways to network with people all around campus. I was involved in two graduate student organizations on campus and learned a lot from both opportunities. Being involved in the Graduate and Professional Student Government Association on my campus taught me many skills that I still use today!

12. Set short-term and long-term goals. Refine these goals regularly. 

Make sure to set goals for your project and professional career. This includes both short-term and long-term goals! Don’t be afraid to refine these goals as time goes on either! 

Having a clear “Why” can help you on the days that you feel down – at least this helped me!

13. Understand that criticism makes you a better scholar and is a part of the process. Failure is a part of graduate school and it is OKAY TO FAIL as long as you make sure to get back up. 

It’s important to understand that constructive criticism will make you a better scholar. Sometimes you might feel like a failure, but just know that learning, editing, and re-writing are all just a part of the process. It’s not always fun in the moment, but you will look back on it later and be thankful for the process. If you fall down, just remember to get back up or ask for help to get back up. 

14. Learn that finished is good, and that anything you write will never be perfect. 

It is important to learn early that perfection is not achievable. I have often heard that a finished paper/project is a good paper/project. In hindsight, I totally believe that this is true. I would spend days agonizing over a paper trying with all my might to make it perfect, but it would just never get there… A finished paper is a good paper! 

15. Reach out for help when you need it!

Most importantly – Please, reach out for help when you need it. It doesn’t matter what the problem is – just ask for help. Sometimes meeting up with friends to have a vent session can really help. 

Please, don’t ever try to struggle through it alone. You don’t have to. There are so many great resources for mental and physical health on college/university campuses so please utilize them! People want to help you! 

Concluding Thoughts

There you have it, Y’all! These are 15 tips to surviving graduate school. Make sure to take care of yourself and surround yourself with a loving community! Also, get ready to celebrate big time when you finish that degree or program! You deserve it! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

How to Make an A+ on History Exams

Hey there friend! Today we are discussing how to make an A+ on a History Exam. As a former student and Graduate Teaching Assistant I have got a few tips and tricks to help you out! Make sure that you read all the way to the end! 

First, I am going to tell you what I did as a student to prepare for exams. Second, I will tell you some of the things that I was required to grade for as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. I hope that having both of these perspectives will help you to make a great grade on your next test! 

Tips from my time as a student

  • Always take notes in class.
    • Underline the headings so that things are easier to read. 
  • Take notes during discussion groups too! 
    • The readings and points talked about in discussion groups can and will appear on exams. 
  • Take notes when you do the readings for class. 
    • This makes it easier for you to remember what each one was about! 
  • Utilize the glossary in the back of the book for definitions! 
    • Who?
    • What? 
    • When?
    • Where?
    • Why it was significant? (Historical Significance)
  • Always read the directions on the exam. Make sure that you answer all parts of the question. 

Tips from my time as a Graduate Teaching Assistant 

  • ALWAYS! ALWAYS! ALWAYS! Answer these 5 questions. 
    • Who?
    • What? 
    • When?
    • Where?
    • Why it was significant? (Historical Significance. This one is the most important and often worth the most points.)
  • Go to your GTA’s office hours to ask questions about your study guide and materials. I loved it when students brought their study guides in early and asked questions. It gave me a chance to clarify things and they often earned better grades because they fixed their study materials and filled in that gaps they were missing! 
  • Go to study sessions hosted by the GTA or other sources on campus. My first semester as a GTA we held review sessions before the exams and gave students an opportunity to ask us questions. 
  • Read the exam questions carefully and make sure that you answer all parts of the question.
  • If you don’t know the answer give it your best educated guess. Most professors/GTAs will give you at least a point or two for trying. If you leave it blank then you get zero points. The couple of points you get for guessing can sometimes make the difference between letter grades! 

Concluding Thoughts

There you have it! My best tips for passing history test. I hope this helps you with regular exams, midterm exams, and your final exam for history class.

Happy studying! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂

Things to Include in Your CV

Hey there friend! So you need to write a CV? What even is a CV? Well – a CV is similar to a resume, but you list all of your academic and professional experiences. Unfortunately there isn’t really a set template on what to include and what not to include in your CV. I suggest looking on your university’s website to see if your professor’s CV is online. You can always make your document look similar to theirs.

Here is a list of the things I noticed most people included in their CVs. I hope it helps you! 🙂

Things to Include in Your CV

1. Education 

2. Relevant Work Experience in the Field 

3. Scholarships, Grants, & Awards

4. Conferences, Research Presentations, & Invited Lectures

5. Articles: peer reviewed & non-peer reviewed 

6. Media Appearances: interviews, radio, podcasts, television, documentaries, etc. 

7. Department, Professional, & Community Service

8. Professional Memberships & Organizations 

9. Languages: spoken, written, & reading knowledge 

10. Publications: books, essays, etc.

Concluding Thoughts

I hope this is helpful! Now go make a CV that will wow everyone! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

How to Write A Research Paper In 8 Easy Steps

So you’ve been assigned a research paper for class… When I received the prompt for my first research paper I was so lost and didn’t know what to do. I began looking for resources (kind of like how you found this article!) and was hoping for some guidance. By the end of this article you will be ready to tackle that research paper with confidence! Grab your pencil and get ready to jot down a few notes! 

8 Steps to Writing a Great Research Paper

1). Read the prompt and pick out a topic that addresses all of the key points in the directions. 

2). Do a basic google search and see if there is information on this topic already out there. You can also search in the your school library’s databases. Make a list of the sources that you want to use to write your paper. Make sure to cite the information in the correct citation style for your class. Always include a bibliography at the end of the paper. 

DO NOT PLAGIARIZE EVER! You will get caught and you will be in big trouble. Please don’t ever take someone’s ideas and try to submit them as your own. ALWAYS include citations from where you got your materials. 

3). Create a thesis statement for your paper. What will you argue in the paper? A good thesis statement will be included in the introduction and conclusion of your research paper. 

4). Create an outline for your paper. I like to separate research papers into the following categories: introduction, body paragraph 1, body paragraph 2, body paragraph 3, and conclusion. This is the most basic outline you can create. There can be more body paragraphs or additional literature reviews if needed. Always write your thesis statement at the top of your outline. Connect all supporting paragraphs back to the thesis statement. 

5). Write a rough draft of your paper. Take all of the ideas you wrote in the outline and develop them into sentences. You can move the ideas and paragraphs around to make your argument stronger. 

Make sure that each paragraph has a topic sentence. The topic sentence will help organize the paper and give it structure. 

6). After writing a rough draft of your paper you can ask your professor or TA to look at it. You can then incorporate their feedback into your paper to make it stronger and get a better grade! 

BONUS TIP: Many universities have writing centers that you can visit as well. You schedule an appointment and they help you fix grammar, style, and clarity issues. The writing center at my university was so helpful – I took several papers there. 

7). Write a final draft of your paper incorporating all of the feedback you received from the professor and writing center. Read and reread the paper before submitting it! 

8). Upload your paper to the dropbox or turn it in to your professor! 

Concluding Thoughts

I hope these research writing paper tips were helpful! Stay tuned for more helpful tips!

Happy Writing! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

13 Tips for Passing History Class

History class… Boring, right? WRONG! I can’t tell you how many times students would come to office hours and complain about how dry the subject was. Many of the students were freshmen and didn’t know how to engage the materials. College courses are different from high school courses and the students would become overwhelmed. As a GTA, it was my job to teach the students how to engage the materials given to them by the professor. As a GTA, I created a list of helpful tools and gave it to my students to help make college less daunting. This blog post is a summation of that list!

*Disclaimer: These are tips that I utilized and observed as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA). Check with your GTA to see how the class will work at your school! 

Kaitlyn’s Helpful Tips For Passing College Courses

1). Download and read the syllabus before going to your first class. The professor will most likely go over the syllabus, but you want to be able to ask questions when they are done. 

2). Make a friend or two in class on the first day. Swap emails or phone numbers so that way if you miss class you can get notes from them. You can also study together for exams or work on writing assignments.

3). Buy a planner, download a free calendar app, or set reminders on your phone for important assignment dates during the first week of class. You don’t want to turn things in late because you’ll either get a point deduction or the professor might not accept it at all. 

4). Use different colored folders, spirals, highlighters, and pens to keep your thoughts, notes, and classes organized. 

5). Ask your professor or GTA if they have any tips to be successful in the class (i.e. note taking strategies, library resources, study sessions, etc.). 

6). Figure out when your professor’s and your GTA’s office hours are. You will want to visit office hours as frequently as you can. You can ask questions, discuss the material, and learn more about the topic. (Bonus: Some professors even offer bonus points for bringing in early assignment drafts to office hours.) 

7). Do the readings for class! You will learn so much and some professors require class participation in discussions as a part of your grade. 

8). Engage with the materials for class. Look for other sources online that compliment the topic if you aren’t understanding it. There are hundreds of YouTube videos, podcasts, social media accounts, and online resources that make history easy to understand! 

9). Always go to lecture (unless you are sick or have extreme circumstances). Some classes have attendance grades! Don’t skip class for fun or because you think you know all of the material already.

10). Always take notes in class. It doesn’t matter if you use a spiral or a laptop. Write down what the professor is saying because not all of the information will be on the slides – if they even use slides – you will want to reference this material when studying. (Bonus: Always write down the name of a slide because those words could wind up being the vocab words on the test. 

11). When completing a writing assignment start with an outline and then write a rough draft. Have your professor or GTA give you feedback on the rough draft. Incorporate the feedback into the final drafts of your paper! 

12). History exams are typically an essay test. Make sure to answer the following questions for every ID term: 





Why is this ID term significant

Giving the significance of a term is the most important thing you can do in a history class. The professor will tell you why it is significant in the lecture so make sure to write it down! 

13). Spend time in the library. There are so many amazing free resources in university libraries! They have free computers to rent, books on every topic you can imagine, archive collections, digital databases, workshops, and more. 

Concluding Thoughts

These are my 13 tips for passing history class! Thank you for reading! Here’s another helpful article on How to Write a Research Paper!  

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂