Barbara Fields knows kids.
Not only does she have six children of her own, but she also has been teaching for the last 14 years — grades 2-5 and college. To date, she has taught in West Virginia, Virginia and South Carolina, and currently, she is in her first year of teaching fourth grade at Tommie Barfield Elementary.
She has two bachelors degrees: one in education and one in recreation. She also has a masters degree in education/administration leadership.
“People are fascinating, and teaching children is motivating and energizing!” says Fields. “I get to work with the most unique and interesting people on the planet, all under the age of 12, who make me laugh every day!”
In addition to knowing kids, Fields also has a keen awareness of the impact a teacher can have on his or her students. She credits two educators in her life for guiding her to the teaching profession — one who provided positive experiences and one who whose harsh criticism turned into the greatest motivation of all.
“I loved my kindergarten teacher!” remembers Fields. “I can vividly remember her in the rocking chair, sitting at her feet as she read ‘Ralph and the Motorcycle’ every day right before bus call.”
Then there is her grade school guidance counselor: “Right after our end of the year test, I was called into the office to discuss my test scores. Mine were not what the school expected of me and what I heard the counselor (whom I had never met up until that point) say was that I was not smart naturally but book smart and that I should look at careers in the beauty industry because I was a pretty girl. I wanted to be a Doctor!
“I took this news from this ‘test’ quite seriously and spent many years taking paths I did not want to take but felt I should because the ‘test’ said so. It took me many years to find my calling and realize that I love people and my gift is working with people. It was such a heartbreaking moment in time for me to have to go through, however, I am so very grateful to have had the experience. It has taught me to look within and be my own person, to not take to heart what a ‘test’ or what someone says as the roadmap to my success, to blaze my own trail and to believe in me!”
She passes this lesson on to her students everyday. “This experience has taught me to be ever so gentle with a child’s heart, to be their number one cheerleader. Don’t just tell them you believe in them, but show them every day,” she notes.
Coastal Breeze News sat down with Fields to find out more about her and her adventures in teaching:
Q: What three words best describe your teaching style, and why?
A: I am a whole brain teacher, meaning that I use whole body movement and voice to teach. Students in my class lead, discuss and facilitate their learning in small groups. Everyone has a voice in my room, and we explore the answers and teach each other. We all have something to teach and contribute to the class.
Q: How did you come to TBE?
A: My husband and I made the choice to move here. We wanted to retire to Florida, plus our parents are here. Each time we visited we loved the area even more and decided not to wait. We packed our bags and moved down in August. I smile ear to ear EVERY morning that I cross the bridge to Marco Island. It is possibly the most gorgeous scenery on the planet! Who could be unhappy when you work on an island?
Q: What was the first thing you noticed about TBE that told you this elementary school may be different from others?
A: This summer, I met Dr. Westbury and spent time speaking to her about TBE. I was drawn to her passion for her students and her school. She took time to show me around the campus, and I marveled over its beautiful fruit trees and greenery. I thought to myself, ‘If this woman is the captain and so full of passion, her staff must be equally as special! I want to be on board!’ I was not disappointed. TBE has some of the most passionate and hardworking teachers I have ever had the privilege to work with.
Q: What are your goals for your first year at TBE?
A: I want to ensure that my students know I care and believe in them. I want them to have a fun time while learning what they need to know to be successful citizens. This is the time to instill in our youth self-worth. It is an opportunity for students to take control of their own learning and push themselves towards rigorous and obtainable goals that they set.
Q: If you could have dinner with any five people in history, who would you have dinner with and why?
A: I think I would pick past students so that I could see where they are and how they are doing, to catch up with them.
Q: What three words best describe you, and why?
A: Positive, enthusiastic and giving. Life is too short to be upset, down and selfish. Life is about the experiences you have and people. What would a life be without interaction with people? Things happen to you and you can either ‘waller’ (a West Virginia throw back word) in misery or do something about it. I chose to smile and move on.
Q: What one personal achievement are you most proud?
A: I am most proud of the positive influence — no matter how small — I have made on each and every person I have had the opportunity to cross paths with from the waiter at Chili’s to the student sitting in my class to the driver next to me in the parking lot. You never know who may need a kind gesture on any given day. Your ‘thank you’ or compliment might be the only positive in that person’s day. Pay it forward!
Q: Ann Frank once said that in spite of everything, she believed people were basically good. Do you agree? Disagree? Why?
A: Of course, I believe that all people are good. I believe circumstance and experiences make us who we are. This is why my job, teachers’ jobs, our job as people on this planet is to make the load lighter for everyone. You just don’t know what burden other’s carry.