What I Learned from the Class of 2019

The best part of this blog is after my reflection and musings because I’ve included pics of my seniors and where they’re going to school. So if you want to be encouraged about the next generation and don’t want to read a blog, just scroll to the pictures at the end. 

Today is graduation day. This year was a huge transition for me in many ways, and the Class of 2019 was instrumental in helping me navigating uncharted territory in my move from a suburban to an urban school. I continually told them that they were my guinea pigs because of the pacing of a different schedule, but they encouraged and cheered me on all year. Here are the top five things I learned from the Class of 2019:

Focus on what has been accomplished rather than what we were not able to do. 

I transitioned from a 4×4 block where I had students for 90 minutes every day to a modified block teaching students every other day for 90 minutes. Basically, my instructional time was cut in half. That’s essentially half of the novels, half of the poetry, half of the lessons, and half of the pancakes. I knew this year would be a big experiment with curriculum. Halfway through the year instead of focusing on the quality work we did in the classroom, I instead focused and often verbalized about what we did not have time to do instead of the good work we were doing daily. Time and time again my students reassured me that they were learning and gaining ground in reading and writing. In fact, they said I could just show movies after spring break because they had learned so much – isn’t that so thoughtful?

Speak up and act our for issues that matter to you.

Teaching in the city versus teaching in the suburbs has several differences – helicopters overhead all of the time, walkability for lunch, and walks in Piedmont park when I need to clear my mind. The biggest difference I have noticed, however, is students in the city seem to be not only in the know about the news but also very eager to jump in to help make a difference. Perhaps that’s because 2018 was a gubernatorial election year in GA, but my students were very active in the election from volunteering time in campaigns to researching the issues. Adults – take note. Instead of complaining, get out there and do something.

Invest emotionally in the next generation.

I know – you walked to school uphill, both ways, in the snow (even though you were raised in Alabama). These “coddled snowflakes” need to “toughen up and quit being so sensitive.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t say these things sometimes, and sometimes they’re true. However, students today are growing up in an entirely different world than adults, and while we can argue about the causes ranging from social media to helicopter parenting (or the more current lawnmower parenting) to volitale homes, students are under stress for a variety of reasons. My school roommate and I have cried buckets of tears over then we dry our eyes and spend a lot of our days listening, encouraging, and loving on these kids because they need all of the support they can get. And even if you’re not a teacher, the next generation needs and deserves your time and attention. Find a way to invest in the future.

Keep teaching your heart out.

Students complain about reading. Students complain about writing. Students were tired of playing my reindeer games long before the end of December. BUT students also thanked me for pushing them, teaching them, and not giving up on them. One day in class the topic of teacher pay came up (most likely to try to get me off topic so they could take a break from reading and writing), and one student said, “I’m pretty sure that people in professions x, y, and z make double what teacher do (or triple in my opinion), but I also know Mrs. Barber works harder than any of them.” And then I said, “Let’s take the day off and talk about how hard teachers work and how they should be paid more.” Just kidding. My students (and their parents) consistently thanked me (some on a daily basis) for my efforts and what they were learning. Just like adults, students don’t want to waste time and at the end of the day (most) appreciate teachers who provide meaningful lessons. I don’t get this right all of the time, but I – and so many passionate teachers I know – are trying our best. Keep up the good work, teachers – students see and know. 

Balancing life at any age is difficult.

Grady has a very wide range of activities for students including the traditional school extracurriculars but also things programs such as an award winning school newspaper, nationally ranked ultimate frisbee teams, a national award winning debate team, an apiary club which sells bee balm, a sign language club, and the list goes on and on. My role at Grady is not only to teach English but to help students navigate the skill of balancing all of the opportunities that life has to offer. Watching my students participate in events outside of the classroom reminds me that they have full lives and like adults are trying to manage it all. And while I’m often critical of them doing too much or trying to have it all when I know that’s just not possible, I remind myself that I too still struggle with saying YES to too much.

Now here are my kiddos and their letters of where they’re going to school – 

Georgia State, Eastman School of Music, Georgia State

Fashion Institute of Technology: NY, UAB, Berklee School of Music, Georgia Tech, Florida State

Georgia State, Agnes Scott, Wright State University, University of Georgia, Harvard

Georgia State, University of Georgia, Furman, Georgia State



George Washington University (Posse Scholar), Syracuse, Tulane, University of Virginia

SCAD, University of Southern California

Penn State, University of Southern California

UGA, University of South Carolina

Georgia Tech, Emory, Radford (soccer)

Georgia State, Wooster (Posse Scholar), Tulane, UGA, University of North Carolina

University of Vermont, University of South Carolina, University of Kentucky (soccer)

Georgia State, University of South Carolina

Purdue, University of Minnesota, Georgia Tech

NYU, UGA, Boston College (Posse Scholar)

Georgia Tech, Dartmouth, Georgia State

Kenyon, University of Vermont, University of Southern California, UGA

Agnes Scott, Brandeis University (Possee Scholar), Agnes Scott

Colorado State, Fashion Institute Chicago, University of Oklahoma, Georgia State, North Carolina A&T

UGA, Layfette, Belmont

LSU, Georgia State, UGA, Case Western Reserve



Clemson, UGA, UGA, Bard University

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“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! 

Congratulations and a big  Thank You to the Class of 2019! I’m so proud of you!

And now I am going to take a nap – wake me up in August.

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