Imagine all of your hard work, dedication, and dreams finally realised, only to discover that it wasn’t what you bargained for. That was the plight of young hopeful, Julia Barnes.
Her journey is one of ugly truths, authenticity, versatility, determination, and tenacity, bossing up on her endeavours, in order to live her best life. To unlock the code to this story safe, we would have to go from the very beginning.
For as long as she could remember, Barnes wanted to be a teacher. She considered this career choice her calling. And as she grew, so did her passion. It was only fitting that she enrolled in teachers’ college following high school.
“I got my first teaching job at a high school in Mandeville and I hated it. As young as I was, or maybe because I was very young at the time, I could not connect as well with the kids. I knew I wanted to do this, but I really wasn’t enjoying it,” Barnes, who was then 22 years old, confessed to Flair.
To exacerbate her dilemma, during her tenure at May Day High School, she was sick for three months; equivalent to an entire term. Doctors could not explain why she was sick. But according to her, the moment her stint at the school ended, her body miraculously healed itself. She wrote it off as possible stress or anxiety, and took this experience as a sign to try something new.
Her refreshing start came with a move to Kingston. After being unable to obtain a teaching job, she turned to the corporate world. It was there that she learned about early-childhood education. “I had no idea early childhood education existed. Because in my head, the infant teacher is the lady down the road who goes down the school to teach. I wasn’t aware that there was an entire career.”
FINDING A NEW PATH
When she researched and learned that it involved children, she fell in love with teaching all over again. “I love children. I will roll up and down in the dirt with them all day and all night,” she said, beaming with excitement. So, while employed, she enrolled at the St Joseph Teachers’ College to study early childhood education. During her studies, she had the privilege of visiting schools to get experience in the field, and that’s where the love was further ignited. Struggling between her job and studying, Barnes decided to leave the corporate world completely and get herself certified as an educator full-time. She graduated as valedictorian in 2014 for her diploma programme and went straight into pursuing a bachelor’s degree, where she also graduated with honours. She was subsequently hired as a grade-one teacher.
“I think it was that experience that pushed me out at the edge to leave school. I enjoyed teaching. Contact hours between 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. were fabulous! Everything else about the system, I hated it.” To make things worse, she was only being paid J$60,000, one of the highest-paid teachers at the time, due to her degree.
And to rub salt into that wound, she had zero time for herself or her loved ones. “My weekends were filled with lesson planning and marking homework. I saw that my husband was getting less and less of my time. I could squeeze him in after everything was done for school.” She continued, “Then my son was three at the time. Fortunately, he got a chance to be at the school with me so I got the connection with him there. But at home, I always found myself putting him aside, giving him to his daddy just so I could finish schoolwork. That’s when I said to myself, ‘No, I can’t live my life like this’.”
After speaking with colleagues, she noticed that they had similar issues. As such, she began searching for a new path. With a love for technology, she began incorporating the modern way of teaching into her classroom. Then in 2014, she began teaching others what she had learned, creating online courses and showing others how to freelance, creating and publishing online courses, like she did.
PREGNANT PAUSE BECOMES PERMANENT
Still, she grew frustrated and left her job in 2017 to start doing her own thing. It was then that she found out she was pregnant with her second child. It was a difficult process and she was unable to work. So she held off. Three months post-baby, she was faced with the decision of going back into the classroom or teaching online courses. This called for reflection and soul-searching, and led to her marrying her two passions, teaching and technology.
EMPOWERING AND ENCOURAGING EDUCATORS
Barnes launched her Boss Teacher Podcast, interviewing current and former teachers. During that time, she got the strong drive to teach persons how to build online courses. That has been her focus ever since. But she wanted to do more. This gave birth to her very own Boss Teacher Summit last month, created out of the need to expose teachers to how to turn their skills into income-generating activities.
It was her desire to share what she knows, and to help other teachers to be more fulfilled.
“We bawl about salary all the time, and we are going to fight with the Government for years and years to come, but until then, how are you going to supplement that income to ensure that we are meeting our monthly needs?” That’s the concept of the summit. Learning to earn outside of the classroom was an instant hit among eager teachers, who heard from several former and current teachers doing more with their lives. The event also took on a pragmatic approach, with those in attendance walking away with the necessary tools needed to make the most of their lives.
She hopes to go bigger and even better for the next staging. Until then, she continues to do what she loves. And bask in the sheer bliss of being able to balance her schedule and spend quality time with her family.
For more lessons from this passionate and innovative ‘Boss Teacher’, follow her on Instagram: @juliaobarnes or visit her website: www.juliaobarnes.com.
Story by Krysta Anderson
Photos by Ricardo Makyn