Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Outside Voices from the Inside: Niki Barnes

Niki Barnes is one of the most passionate, enthusiastic educators I have ever met. She was a member of the Nerdy Book Club before there even was a Nerdy Book Club. I had the privilege of visiting her classroom in Dorr, Michigan back in March and it was one of the most memorable days I've ever had as a teacher. Niki's students share her enthusiasm and passion for books and weren't shy at all about sharing that with me. 

Follow Niki on Twitter: @daydreamreader
Read her blog: Daydream Reader

How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for eleven years. I’ve taught 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade. I’ve been teaching at my current school for the last 7 years. I love it at Dorr Elementary! Plus, I get to hang out with awesome teachers like TravisJonker!

What initially drew you to a career in education?
Well, I didn’t always want to be a teacher. My dad is a math teacher so I wanted nothing to do with teaching at first. Then I worked at a day care in college and loved it. So I decided teaching was for me after all.

What motivates you as a teacher?
I love when my students get excited about books! My favorite quote this year from one of my second grade students was, “I’m a book worm because I love Lunch Lady books!”

What has been your best classroom memory thus far?
I love our classroom celebrations around books and literacy. My favorite celebration was our Fake Mustache party. We read Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger as a classroom read aloud. Then we had a party where we all wore fake mustaches. It was a blast! I don’t know who had more fun…my students or me.

What do you want the future of education to look like?
I am so hoping the high stakes testing craze is on the way out! Sadly, I think testing companies and politicians are the only people that are for it. I would love to see the pendulum swing towards developmentally appropriate learning, hands-on activities, choice and much more collaboration time for teachers. I think teachers are the professionals and should be making the decisions in terms of curriculum and what works best for their students.

What makes you stay in the classroom?
My students!! I stand by the 22 reasons I am a teacher. The 22 reasons are my 22 second grade students.

 What do the words “use your outside voice” mean to you?
I think it means standing up for your students and your profession. Right now I believe teachers need to stand up against what they know is wrong in terms of high stakes testing and teaching practices that are not developmentally appropriate for their students. I think it is important to spread the word that you are making a difference as a teacher. When it comes right down to it “using your outside voice” means shouting loudly about your passion for your students and their learning! We need the public to know that learning shouldn’t be about students filling in the right bubble. It needs to be about students being fulfilled when it comes to their learning right now.

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