Jon Barber, Career and Technical Education Teacher, Walton Middle School
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
As a CTE (Career and Technical Education) exploratory teacher at a small middle school, I teach Engineer/Technology classes, Programming and Coding classes, Media classes, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation, Careers/Academies classes, and Mechatronics. It sounds trite, but the most formidable obstacle is not enough time with each class. I get to teach such engaging subjects with so many students but only get them for 39 minutes every other day. They have so much fun coding, creating films, building things out of wood, or building robots that it’s difficult to force them them to clean up two minutes before the bell, and I have to do it to twelve different classes every two days! And I didn’t even mention my über-talented homeroom, who create our Walton’s Daily TV show, WLHW, our modern day morning announcements!
What is the most common misconception about your job?
Most people think that it just can’t be done. My subjects involve an excessive amount of learning, and it’s simply too difficult to prepare and learn what I have to teach. Learning how to use microcontrollers or program in various computer languages seems scary or arduous to parents or other teachers. I’ve learned best by sitting down with the students and poring over problems right alongside them, and because we problem-solve together, students are less apt to sit there and wait for me to furnish “the answer.” Particularly when I don’t know what the next step is!
Where do you see the teaching field in five years?
I hope that we continue to see more fabricating, designing, constructing, having real-world experiences, and making portfolios as we move away from assessments, resumes, and test preparation. The more each child can “get their hands dirty” figuring something out (particularly that they want to know about) and the less that they are only answering an assigned problem, the more successful and ready for life they’ll be.
What outside experience best prepared you to become an educator?
I think my best preparation for my current subject was merely growing up with my father as my example. Buck Barber was Radar Technician in the Air Force and after that, he worked for local telephone companies, from Centel all the way up to Century Link while helping raise my sister and me. Since my dad has retired and therefore stopped fixing other people’s Internet or phone service for a living, he can still be depended on to repair electrical, wood-working, and even automobile problems for my family, for friends, and even just for some people getting older in his church. I think it’s this kind of giving and can-do attitude that I’ve tried to bring to my classroom and shop at school. Certainly helping him fix and build things growing up stands out in my mind.