Category Archives: Just an idea

Merit Pay: My hard work doesn’t PAY off as an educator

I’m on my 7th year as a teacher and my 14th as a Mom. Time is something I ponder quite often nowadays. I can feel the time I have with my own children passing too quickly. I think about Lily starting high school next year, and it hits my feels a bit. 

It’s all too easy to lose yourself to teaching. Any given year teachers teach, love, and mentor 20-100+ students. The emotional labor is real, and it’s needed. Students aren’t robots; they deserve teachers that invest in them as human beings. 

I love teaching. I think teaching is fun. I’ve had moments when school politics have pushed me to the brink, but ultimately my love of teaching was strong enough draw me back to the classroom. 

So the context for this post, I’m a mom, my kids are growing up too fast, I love teaching, but I’m pondering the value of my time. 

Well, it’s contract signing time. As I’m signing my contract for this year, I can feel my thoughts whizzing around my head, and the discontent sink into the pit of my stomach. 

  • 6 years teaching experience 
  • Great test scores 
  • Great classroom management skills
  • Innovative teacher
  • Highly effective on evaluations 

I don’t like tooting my own horn, but I’m a great teacher. I care, work hard, and make a difference. 

Guess what I’m getting paid?
The state minimum teacher salary – $33,900

Here’s the kicker guys, my hard work doesn’t PAY off as an educator.  
I can pour my heart and soul into teaching and, in most districts, earn the same salary as an awful teacher. That bothers me. 

I could LITERALLY be the best teacher in the world and have the same salary as the LEAST competent teacher in the world. A system that operates without rewarding hard work just might have problems attracting hard working, bright individuals, right? 

The work hasn’t worn me down. I like what I do, but I am sick of my compensation not being linked to my performance.  I don’t mean just test scores either, but heck I’d even take that! 

I want to be in a profession that rewards hard work, intelligence, critical thinking, and all of the soft skills that an effective teacher must possess to be effective. I’ll be fair and say analyze student data and throw that in the mix too. 

My time is valuable, my skills are valuable, and it’s time that effective educators are rewarded for the value they bring to the classroom and communities.  Maybe, just maybe, that will help attract and retain the motivated and intelligent individuals that our youth deserve. 


What are your strengths? Which are you most grateful for? #reflectiveteacher

Hello and welcome to my second blog post for the “Teaching with an Attitude of Gratitude” blogging challenge.
I think I could correctly identify some of my strengths as an individual and as a teacher, but I thought it would be fun to see what others believed to be my strengths to be. So I’m going to turn my blog over to a few students for a moment.

“One of the qualities that makes up a good teacher is teaching to where people can understand and relate to the subject. This is especially hard when teaching teenagers, but Mrs. Barnes does just that.”
-Jerry, super competitive noveling superstar

“Mrs Barnes has a great connection with teenagers. She is always compassionate and excited to be a positive influence in students’ lives. Plus she has super awesome Curley hair!”
-Ms. Wasson, current intern soon-to-be kick butt teacher forced blog contributor

I’m pretty sure “Curley” is a reference to Of Mice and Men…I see what you did there Ms. Wasson. (Either that or my phone auto corrected.)

I am most grateful for my ability to keep a sense of humor and cool head in the classroom. I enjoy my job and I believe that is what keeps me centered and effective.


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Revamping Lesson Plan Templates and Design

I am determined to find a way/program/app/site for designing and storing my lesson/unit/project plans this year.
I just haven’t found one that I like so far in my teaching career. It isn’t for lack of trying or available resources. I just haven’t found one that’s “just right” (channeling the three little bears over here) for me.

Last year I used the school’s online gradebook. While there isn’t anything that I specifically dislike about using the online gradebook, it just feels clunky (yes, tech sometimes feels clunky to me…trust me it makes complete sense in my head).

I’m trying something new this year. I figure now is the perfect time for me to find a system with which I feel compatible since I’m expecting a slightly more rigorous and in depth evaluation with newly adopted TLE model. I want to be confident that I’m documenting my lesson/unit/project plans effectively and efficiently with technology tools.

Here’s my model for this year. I’m going to use as my daily “keeping myself on track” planner, and I’ve developed a  google form to record detailed lesson, unit, and/or project plans. The google form marries resources from, LoTi HEAT, and a few look fors from the TULSA TLE model that GV will be adopting.

Imputing components of plans should happen with ease via the google form, BUT I’m concerned about the final product being stored as a spreadsheet. My plan is to share the spreadsheet with my administrators and peers, and in a perfect world, since it is a collaborative document,  they could offer feedback via the spreadsheet.

Eager for feedback. How do you or teachers you work with use technology in documenting lesson plans. Have you found a model that you love. Have you spotted a crucial MISSING component from my proposed model?

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What do we want? CHANGE! When do we want it? YESTERDAY! What do we get? DISAPPOINTED?

Keep Your Coins, i Want CHANGE Pictures, Images and Photos

This evening I came across a lifehacker article on my Facebook feed (hyperlinked in the quote) regarding passion and career choices. The article closed with:
“Choosing something you love shouldn’t be so much about looking for a good feeling, but more about how you handle the bad ones.”

This line is bouncing around my mind. I’m relatively new to education. I embarked on my formal education career ( I say formal because I consider my 7 years as a stay at home mom as valuable ‘teaching’ years too.) 4 years ago. As an alternatively certified teacher, I sometimes look at educational issues, policies, and procedures from an outsider’s perspective and, at times, find the system perplexing.

However, my passion remains…almost to fault. I believe in pushing myself and pushing for our school to be its best- pedagogy, methodology, PBL, PLN, CCSS, LoTi, and who knows how many other scholarly acronyms!

The “good feelings” abound. Watching students that are truly engaged by relevant projects and rigorous learning experiences facilitated by skilled teachers in a 1:1 environment- Good Gravy, it truly is amazing! I leave the campus feeling beyond lucky to have talented peers, amazing students, and phenomenal technology resources almost everyday. Wait…almost?

There are bad moments too. I can honestly say that my “bad moments” aren’t caused by students or classroom management issues. Perhaps students provide some challenging moments, but not bad moments.
Because I see the power of PBL and routine technology integration on a daily basis throughout the school year, sometimes I become discouraged by the rate of change in educational institutions. I want everyone to integrate technology (not necessarily my way but in some way), I want everyone to be reading educational blogs. I want everyone to love their students and find joy in teaching. I want every teacher to be effective. I want everyone to be engaged in dialogues to improve professionally. I want schools to be positive environments for students and teachers. Since I’m confessing here…ya, I want a lot of things and I know they may not all be reasonable or realistic- I’m a dreamer with high standards.

So how do I handle those moments when my educational fantasies and day dreams come crashing down around my ears? When my passion for education turns into disappointment, anger, or tears pooling in my eyes? How do I overcome the bad moments?

As a teacher, I literally do some deep breathing then close my door and dive into learning and teaching with my students. Or the year that I acted solely as a edtech coach, I went into a teacher’s room that inspired me and observed the power of an awesome learning environment.

It works for me.

How do you cope with the bad moments?

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Superb Teachers, What makes you tick?

I originally created/shared this post on June 18th via Wes Fryer’s blog. Just thought I’d share/archive it here too.

I work in a small, rural PK-8 district, Grand View. Grand View consists of an early childhood center, elementary, and middle school all close and comfy with one another on one site just north of Tahlequah city limits in Northeastern Oklahoma.
Recently, our superintendent announced that he’d be interviewing applicants for a few different teaching positions. Two positions are in 1:1 classrooms. (I’d be glad to share details with anyone who wants to join the crazy, BUT awesome, Grand View 1:1 team!)

Lately, I’ve found myself pondering what ingredients make for an amazing, high quality teacher? These new teachers to the Grand View district will be responsible for teaching students that I love. My own children may wind up in these classrooms too. As a parent, district patron, and employee of the district I want the very best for this little country school, but what qualities do you look for in an amazing teacher?

I wonder what students would list as their ‘must haves” for new GV teachers?

What attributes should potential, AWESOME teammates possess? Let me give this a go:

    Teachers that I respect treat students with respect and take the time to develop positive relationships.
    People with passion for education teach with gusto.
    Schools need to be places that foster CREATIVITY- lets start with creative teachers! (If all the textbooks vanished tomorrow would you freak?)
  4. DEDICATION to continue to learn and grow
    Dedication to learn isn’t demonstrated by attending a few PD days a year. Are you having ongoing conversations with your team mates? Planning projects together? Do you attend conferences? Are you connected with folks in your building and beyond to push yourself to learn and grow?
  5. NOT a control freak!!
    True student/learner-centered instruction means you have to let students have ownership of their education. Are you cool with that?

I realize that I haven’t included technology integration on my list. That’s on purpose. Technology is never the focus in my classroom although it’s used everyday. Teachers today should strive to develop a comfort level with using technology for their own learning and to create an environment for their students that allows for creativity and critical thinking. Many professionals use technology to complete their work tasks- let your students research and create using technology too- not as a special event but a daily necessity.

These are the characteristics that popped into my head; what ingredients do you think make for a superb teacher?


I originally created/shared this post on June 14th. We still love OKC Thunder at Grand View and in my household…seriously, how could you not? With the OKC trio of  Durant, Harden, and Westbrook making the USA team, I’m still THUNDERSTRUCK!

As a 1:1 educator and educational technology integration specialist, when Wes asked me if I’d like to contribute a #playingwithmedia post for his blog I jumped on the opportunity. I work at Grand View, a rural PK-8 district in Cherokee County, Oklahoma. Our summer camp is in full swing, and we have students working to collect family stories with ipods, planning garden plots, creating community service project proposals, making edible poop and boogers (!), and a slew of electives ranging from website design to line dancing. I pondered, in between mentoring students on their projects and improvisational games in drama class, which project should I highlight? Then a funny thing happened…our students suddenly sprouted beards.
The Grand View students were THUNDERed UP!

Oklahoma City’s NBA team, the Thunder, are in the NBA Finals. Even though we live in northeastern Oklahoma, we support OUR team! The school, and really I think the WHOLE state, is fired up about THUNDER basketball. As a teacher, sometimes you strike while the iron is hot. Grand View’s 6th-8th grade students grabbed a few friends and cameras then started capturing pictures and videos.
We spent about an hour taking photographs and TALKING about how the team has inspired us and taught us about teamwork, and  ultimately we had fun together as a school family.
Game 2 of the NBA Finals is tonight at 8pm CST- Grand View hopes you’ll join us and THUNDER UP!
The amazing songs featured in our video are used with permission and created by Chris Castor. Check him out on YouTube .

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Wonder What I’ll Learn Today?

Yesterday at a family gathering I had an opportunity to visit with my husband’s Great Uncle John. John is on the verge of his 95th birthday. Talking with John is amazing. The man is a treasue trove of information richer than the Foxfire series and  perhaps the wisest man I have the pleasure to know.  As we visited about tree grafting,  wild pig chop suey (he was being funny- he wants me to come up with a recipe- my husband hunts wild hogs…in fact that’s what he’s doing at this very moment), and many other topics.

Hard at Work Making Memories

At one moment we both looked out the kitchen window to see the kids playing outside (and maybe being a bit ornery too), he looked me in the eye and said, “they’re making history. Everyday they’re making history. You never know what’ll they’ll remember from today. Maybe it’ll be something a cousin said to them or something they see, but they’ll learn something today that’ll be with them all their life. You can never stop learning. I learn something everyday.”

John is so right. What are we doing as educators to ensure that our students are making memories and connections?

Now I’m off to make something of today. I’m excited to discover what I’ll learn today!



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Return to blogging…perhaps…?

Jack, one of the many mammals running around this place, my blogging buddy

A couple of years ago (years…gasp…it actually has been that long) I was blogging on a quasi-regular basis to share technology resources with my fellow teachers. Long story short- I stopped. No grand reason.
A few weeks ago Wes Fryer invited me to contribute to his blog while he was unplugged on a backpacking trip.
I really wasn’t sure what I would write about, but I took him up on the invitation. I figured I could come up with something. Long story short-I did. MORE IMPORTANTLY, I had fun writing those posts. So much fun that I’m going to rejoin the blogging world.
I’m a Mama and a teacher/edtech coach. I live on a farm with cows, chickens, mules, and lots and lots of dogs.
I’m sure that the majority of what’s published here will be education related, but a little bit of my personal (non-professional) interests will seep through I’m sure.
Look forward to sharing my ideas, thoughts, and ponderings with you!