New literature teacher Barber brings fresh eyes

Susan+Barber+teaches+an+AP+Literature+class+to+Grady+seniors.+

Anna Tischer

Susan Barber teaches an AP Literature class to Grady seniors.

Susan Barber, the new Advanced Placement Literature teacher is settling in and learning the ropes at Grady while incorporating her experiences from previously teaching at Northgate High School.

“So far, I love working at Grady,” Barber said, “I loved working at my old school too. There are some things that are the same and some things that are different. One thing that’s different here is there’s more diversity, and I like that. I like that there’s a lot of different types of people, so that’s been fun.”

Barber decided to teach at Grady for an assortment of reasons, beginning with the need for change. After working at Northgate in Coweta County for 10 years, she believed it would be worthwhile for a change in pace in teaching staff, students and atmosphere.

“My youngest daughter just graduated,” Barber said. “I felt like I left on good terms. I had kind of done all I could do in that district. I was department chair at my other school, and I had a lot of responsibility. It had become comfortable for me, and I want to keep growing as a teacher. I felt like I needed to put myself in a different environment to do that, so that’s why I moved.”

Because Barber was the Literature department chair at Northgate, she had the ability at Grady to choose which classes she wanted to teach, spanning from senior AP Lit to freshmen English classes and as a result has experience teaching students of all grade levels and writing abilities.

“I really like teaching the lower end students and high end students,” Barber said. “I think it’s good to have both perspectives, and they’re different. Both those students present different challenges in different ways, so I kind of like doing both of those.”

Barber also has years of experience “under her belt” from both attending AP Literature workshops and  teaching them, which can benefit Grady’s staff by exposing them to different methods of teaching.

“I’m definitely thrilled to work with her,” Gary Hardy, British Literature and freshmen English teacher, said. “Just the idea of getting a different perspective and any new information on different ways of presenting text and working with students in a way that I may not have considered before especially with the standards, and maybe just a fresh approach can help to enhance the learning environment here at Grady.”

Barber is an involved teacher. She is connected with AP Lit teachers across the nation whether it be attending the National Council of Teachers of English conference every year or holding AP Lit workshops for teachers and students all over through NMSI and the Georgia Department of Education. Although Barber finds glee in teaching new techniques and methods to others who teach AP Lit, her main joy comes from spending personal time in the classroom with a group of students.

“I don’t ever want to be the teacher at teacher workshops that says ‘well I was in the classroom 10 years ago’,” Barber said. “In my mind I’m like I don’t want to hear it. I like teachers who are doing the work still. My work is in the classroom. I’ve had an opportunity to be an administrator. I said no to that many times. I just like the classroom.”

With her free time, Barber is still caught doing “homework.”  She uploads her AP Lit lesson plans, gives recommendations on readings, and provides tips on how she has been successful in teaching her students different analysis strategies. Mrs. Barber is the chief editor for her site but has assistance from other AP Lit teachers across the nation that help write the posts.

“AP Lit is kinda my thing,” Mrs. Barber said. “I have a personal website and a professional website where I run a professional non profit site called AP Lit help, and we have about 20,000 hits on this website per month. We post twice a week activities, and now people read the website and say oh this is what I’ll do.”

Not only are teachers benefiting from Mrs. Barber’s extensive insight into teaching literature, senior students at Grady are also at an advantage over teens from other schools when it comes to applying to college because one of Mrs. Barbers’ first assignments includes a portfolio asking for a college essay and other application requirements.

“She’s [Mrs. Barber] very helpful and kind and patient already,” senior Paris Whitney said. “She gave us this college project which is very helpful because I had no motivation to do college stuff on my own, so having a portfolio project with a due date in the beginning of the school year is helping me to not put it off until November. We have to get two recommendation letters or at least confirmation from teachers that they’ll write it for us, our SAT scores or at least proof that we registered for it, and then we have to research colleges and write a college essay and a quote about ourselves.”

Although Mrs. Barber’s future at Grady looks bright because of the ample amount of experience she brings with her, adapting and adjusting to Grady’s unique schedule and diverse population may pose difficulties and unfamiliarity.

“At my last school I had my students all year long 90 minutes a day for AP,” Mrs. Barber said. “So now I have classes every other day and I’m organizationally challenged to begin with, so it’s hard. It’s hard too because I felt like I had so much time at my former school. I’m trying to figure out how we can cover everything that’s most important but still do fun stuff which is kind of challenging. This whole year is going to be a big experiment.”

 

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