National Poetry Month: Educator Barnes Reads – Mommies

In my home, I have a book called Poetry Speaks to Children.  I will be highlighting a couple poems from this book during National Poetry Month.  The poem I selected from this book today is called “Mommies” and I thought I would ask a guest reader to read and discuss the poem with me.

Check out the video to hear my guest reader and our discussion.




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National Poetry Month: Educator Barnes Reads – I May, I Might, I Must

I came across the poem “I May, I Might, I Must” by Marianne Moore in the book the Best Poems Ever – a collection of poetry’s greatest voices.   This short book contains 71 pages of poems by well known poets such as:  Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Edgar Allen Poe, Carl Sandburg, William Shakespeare, and Phillis Wheatley.  This would be a great book to use in an English class with students to analyze the various poems and learn about the poetic devices used by each author.

Check out the video to hear the poem.




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National Poetry Month: Educator Barnes Reads – How Do I Love Thee?





My husband and I are parents to seven-year-old identical twin boys.  When they are misbehaving or just being goofballs, we call them Thing 1 and Thing 2.  Sometimes my husband jokes and says he is Thing 3.  This isn’t in reference to him misbehaving; it is because he feels like he is the last one on my list on some days.  I know this won’t make up for those days when he has felt like that, but he knows he is my rock, my confidant, and my friend.

Today, during National Poetry Month, I rededicate a poem read at our wedding,  Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s poem, “How Do I Love Thee?  Let Me Count the Ways.”

Check out the video and tribute to my husband Jermaine Barnes.




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National Poetry Month: Educator Barnes Reads – Progress

On August 25, 2016, Words Dance Publishing published my poem “Progress.” It was a poem I wrote to express my frustration with our current political climate.  Just because life is better for minorities in America when compared to previous generations, it does not mean people should use that progress as a way to dismiss the killings and mistreatment of minorities in our society today.

Check out the video to hear the poem and my additional thoughts.




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Monday Musings: Knowing When to Take a Break


For the last five years, I have taught X470 Psycholinguistics for Teachers of Reading K-12/L502 Socio-Psycholingusistic Applications for Reading Instruction at Indianapolis University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).  It is a hybrid course where 20 seats (X470) are allotted for undergraduate students and five seats (L502) are allotted for graduate students.  For the last three years I have taught this course, it has also been hybrid in another sense – some class sessions are face-to-face and some class sessions are online.  I absolutely love teaching this course, so why am I walking away at the end of this semester?

Let me go back to how I ended up teaching a college course in the evening in the first place.

When the 2012-2013 school year began I had earned my master’s at IUPUI in Language Education that August and added English as a New Language to my teaching license.  Mid-way through the school year, my students were struggling with reading comprehension and I remembered some activities we did in X470; it was a class I took for my master’s.  I reached out to the professor of the course, who was also my academic advisor, for the resource she shared when I took the course because I couldn’t find my copy anywhere.  When she sent the resource, she asked what I thought about teaching the EDUC X470/L502 course in the future.  I laughed when I saw that question included in the return email with the resource.  I thought, “I cannot teach a college course.  You realize I am reaching out to you because I’m trying to find a better way to help my middle school students with reading comprehension.”  I nicely told her I didn’t know if I could do it.  She told me I would just need to interview with the associate dean and if the interview went well, she would help me prepare to teach the course.

I reluctantly agreed to the interview.  I thought, “The dean will spot my incompetence and say thanks, but no thanks and that will be that.”  Well, my plan was foiled.  I was recommended to teach the course.  I prepared for the course and decided I would only teach one semester.  I thought, “The students will think I suck as a professor and IUPUI will have no choice, but to kick me to the curve.”  That didn’t happen.  My first semester was not my best semester, in my opinion, but the students loved how I incorporated how I was using the strategies and applying the theory in my classroom.  A few students even wanted to become my student teacher.  One semester turned into a five-year commitment, so again, you are probably wondering why I am walking away from this course.

I am walking away because it is time for a break and time for a change.  Although I love teaching this course and I have been able to keep up with some of the students I have taught, I’m ready to teach a new course, but not at the moment.  This is a break for now until I’m ready to return and teach a different course.  I like a challenge and I like to learn.  One way to learn is by teaching.  I want to expand my education knowledge by adding another course under my belt.  My former academic advisor, who I consider my mentor now, would love for me to continue teaching the course, but she supports my decision.

Tomorrow will be hard.  It the second to last class of the course, but it is the last face-to-face class with students.  I woke up around 2 a.m. this morning and was thinking about it.  Even though I’m sad to go, I know it is time for a break.  Some of the students I have taught now teach in the district where I work and maybe one day one of my former students will teach my children.  I will miss teaching at IUPUI, but it’s not goodbye forever; it’s just so long for now.




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National Poetry Month: Educator Barnes Reads – Snowflakes


Spring Break 2018 in Indiana

Earlier this week, I was greeted in the morning with a snow covered lawn.  Granted it wasn’t as much snow as we received on spring break, but nonetheless it is spring in Indiana, but you wouldn’t know it from the weather.  As I drove to work, one of the local radio station played the song, “Schizophrindiana.”   This song describes what weather is like for us Hoosiers during the “spring.”

Since Mother Nature enjoys surprising us with snow during spring in Indiana, I thought I would share this short, but vivid poem, “Snowflakes” by Howard Nemerov.

Bonus: I also included the Schizophrindiana song too…you know you wanted to hear it.




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National Poetry Month: Educator Barnes Reads – The Boy Died in My Alley

Gwendolyn Brooks is one of my favorite black female poets.  She has numerous accolades:  Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1950Illinois poet laureate in 1968, and first black woman poetry consultant to the Library of Congress in 1985, to name a few.

Some poets spend more time dressing up their poems with unnecessary language.  Brooks isn’t that poet.  She is direct and to the point.  This is why I enjoy her poems.  Her poems also gives the reader a window into another person’s life or challenges the reader’s thinking and actions.  Her poem, “The Boy Died in My Alley” makes the reader think about how our passiveness could lead to someone’s demise.

Check out the poem in the video below.



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National Poetry Month: Educator Barnes Reads – Life at My Failing School

I like a challenge.  Some people knit or doodle in their spare time, but I enjoying writing poetry.  Not only do I enjoy writing free verse poems, but I also like writing in specific poetic forms such as the villanelle. The poem I wrote, “A Villanelle – Life in My Failing School” was published in Whirlwind Magazine in August 2016.

In the video, I explain the components of the villanelle and I read my villanelle.

I have included a villanelle template below just in case you would like to write one in your spare time too.

Villanelle Example and Template



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Monday Musings: It’s Not about the Activity

IMG-2222Saturday, my boys and I spent time at Newfields (formerly known as the IMA).   The first Saturday of the month, Newfields has the Cereal Cinema where you can watch a family friendly film while enjoying a bowl of cereal.  This past Saturday, my boys and I watched The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  Admittedly, I was more excited than my boys.  This was my childhood.  I enjoyed waking up each Saturday morning and watching Winnie the Pooh to kick off my Saturday morning cartoon binge.  My boys had not seen Winnie the Pooh before and was disappointed when they realized this was a movie about a hunny (as spelled in the movie) obsessed bear and not an action cartoon.  JB said, “This will probably be boring; how long is this movie?”

Once the movie began, I heard my boys cracking up laughing at the mishaps of Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, and the other characters in the Hundred Acre Wood.  This is when I realized I hadn’t finished my online grocery shopping.  My husband and I have been using Kroger ClickList for a couple of months.  I hadn’t finished putting every item into the cart.  I knew our food supply was low.  I pulled out my phone and started shopping.  Ten minutes later, JB nudged my arm and said, “Mommy, did you see that?”  I replied, “What?”  JB crossed his arms and said, “Never mind; you’re not even paying attention.”  

The whole point of taking my boys to Cereal Cinema was to spend quality time with them on my own.  My husband had to work this Saturday and I thought this would be the perfect time for bonding.  I put my phone away and decided I was going to stay off of my phone, be in the moment, and only pull it out to take a few pictures.  Once the movie ended, we stayed at Newfields to participate in Family Day:  International Day of Flowers.  We stopped at different stations, but my boys were not interested in having their picture taken in front of a wall of flowers, making a flower coronet, or most of the other activities.  I was getting frustrated because this wonderful bonding wasn’t going well.  My boys have some different interests than me, so I have tried to be intentional about spending time with them to grow closer because I felt like we have been drifting in different directions lately.


Since they didn’t like the last few stations we walked by, I wasn’t even going to stop by the next one, until JJ told me to stop.  It was a DIY Essential Oil Mixing station.  He recognized the basil leaves on the table because we grow basil.  We went to the station and we all made a small essential oil mix.  JJ’s was just basil and James and I mixed basil, orange, and lavender in our bottles.   Then, we went upstairs to watch Indy Hula perform.  After that, they were hungry and we ate in the cafe.  Since they didn’t seem interested in the activities, I was going to take them home after lunch.  Once JB realized this he said, “Mom, I don’t want to go back yet.  Can’t we just walk around outside with you?”


IMG-2218That’s when I realized it was not about the activities.  Even though some of their current interests are not the same as my interests, all they wanted was my undivided attention while walking the Newfields grounds.   We walked to the greenhouse and discussed the plants that were growing and our favorites.  We walked by the Lilly House which spurred an interesting conversation about where my boys would live as adults in the future.  They both said they would live together.  JJ wants to live in an apartment because he wants to meet all the people who live there.  JB wants two houses, one that’s small and one that’s big and one of those houses would be close to people and the other house would be away from people.  Of course, I asked the obvious question, “How are you two going to live together as adults if JJ wants to live in an apartment and JB wants to live in a house?”  JB told me, “JJ is just going to live with me in our two houses.”  JJ said, “Well, JB can live with me in the apartment.”  They are just seven now, so they will have years to think this over.  I even threw out this crazy idea that they might not even want to live together as adults which sent them into hysterical laughter.

We talked about so many other topics.  When I arrived home, I asked them what they liked most about the day and they both told me they liked walking and talking with me.  I wasted so much time trying to find a fun family activity for us that I missed what they really wanted and needed.  They needed me off of my phone and focused on them and their ideas whether they were my interests or not.  I leave you with this:  Plan less and be there more.


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National Poetry Month: Educator Barnes Reads – The Desert is My Mother

The Desert is My Mother/El desierto es mi madre” by Pat Mora is a poem, written in both English and Spanish, that describes the desert beautifully.  Prize winning painter Daniel Lechon created beautiful illustrations to bring the poem to life in this children’s book. There is also a lesson plan to accompany the book on the author’s website.

Check out the poem in the video.



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