Get to know this week’s host Naomi Barnes

 Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

I initially decided to become involved in education because at High School. I loved the Humanities and wanted to have a job where I could earn money for studying them. After a few rough years teaching compulsory History, Geography and Citizen’s Education to junior high schoolers, I realised that my love for the discipline would not sustain my career. I realised that the students had to be the main motivation for being involved in education. The immensity of the responsibility of education hit me very hard and I switched my point of view. Teaching became inspiring from that point. 

I have worked as a curriculum leader in government, Catholic and the independent systems. I enjoy problem solving the curriculum and the timetable. I get satisfaction out of designing learning experiences which take into account the diverse needs of my students but also adhere to the external pressures.

When I was on maternity leave with my first child I worked on my PhD and for Education Queensland developing resources for the Australian Curriculum. I have recently had my doctorate awarded and I am now an initial teacher educator. I currently teach in Primary Humanities Curriculum and Inclusive and Diverse Education for Primary and Secondary beginning teachers. I also work on projects for a tertiary curriculum committee and a sociology of education special interest group.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
I believe that education is in a dark place at the moment. I believe that the wrong questions are being asked and I believe that many educators feel powerless. I want to make a difference. I want work towards changing the public rhetoric to empower all educators to stand against the mediated political onslaught we experience as a profession.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

I know it’s a cliche but the “lightbulb moment” is a definite reward. That moment is not just about working with students but also about working with each other. It is difficult to have a collaborative frame of mind in a profession where performance is often away from the eyes of peers and managers. But one of the greatest rewards can be satisfying collaboration. 

Collaboration comes with a community and a lack of community, I think, is education’s biggest challenge.

I think educators can be their own worst enemy. Many educators become caught up in a “us Vs them” conversation about other education systems. High school teachers often blame primary school teachers for low low literacy skills in their classes. Tertiary institutions often blame high schools for not adequately preparing students for university. Teacher education programs are often criticised by mentor teachers for being too theoretical and not practical enough outside prac. What we don’t realise is that this rhetoric doesn’t do us any favours in the public conversation about education. 

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

I would get rid of the disciplines as subject areas and have all educators and students collaborate in a learning community to solve real problems. Utopian, I know, but one step at a time.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

I see EduTweetOz as one of the few Twitter accounts that transcends the constructed boundaries of education. Early years educators are engaging in conversations with professors, principals are engaging with adult educators, History teachers are talking to Maths teachers. The account is building an education community that has no boundaries.

While hosting EduTweetOz, I would like to foreground these conversations. I want to ask educators what can be done to improve how we talk to and about each other. We cannot change how the media and politicians talk about us until we are united. Without a united front, we will fall one by one into the the “data, education only for training” quicksand and no one will be standing handy with a branch to rescue us.

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