Name: Barry Omar Brinkley
Current Role: Instructional/Student Support Coach
Length in Current Role: 2 years
What made you choose your career path: I come from a family of educators, though not all are formally trained. My favorite teacher has been my mom. I have learned so much about love, faith, and perseverance from her. She was even my Sunday School teacher growing up. My dad taught me how to be a gentleman and my brother taught me how to learn from my mistakes. My grandmothers taught me how to be strong leaders, even when you are quiet. My uncles all helped to teach me to be the best man I can be. In addition to teaching me about support, three of my other aunts have also worked in daycare centers and schools for years. One the most profound experiences was my time before entering school. My favorite cousin, who was a year older and my next-door neighbor, became my first school teacher. After she went off to Kindergarten, she would come home every day and teach me everything she had learned that day. I truly believe that I was so much more prepared because of what she taught me.
With all of these “educators”, I had no other choice but to choose this path. It is literally in my genes.
Favorite thing about what I get to do everyday: I love to see the ripple effect of my support in schools. It is always so inspiring to see teachers grapple with the concepts and strategies that I present in trainings and then getting to see the impact they have on students when they implement these things in their classrooms.
Person/Place/Thing That Best Exemplifies Me: An iceberg. Because I can be introverted in certain situations, people tend to make assumptions or think they know the full me. At the same time, I can often show up very extroverted, particularly if I am facilitating a session with teachers or just out with close friends. For this reason, those people who get to know me or who already know me pretty well NEVER believe me when I say that I am an introvert. As I grow in my friendships and relationships with people, I think I let more people see that part that is often hidden on surface view.
What’s your superpower: I have been told that I have a way of connecting with people which I find strange because of my introverted tendencies. However, I do believe in creating deep connections. In a place like the District where people network for sport, I want to ensure that everyone walks away feeling like our connection is not simply transactional.
Best lesson learned from a mentor or someone I admire: My mom always reminds me to “always do what’s right”. As a child, I always tried to apply this to my decision-making. Even when I failed or knew I was making the wrong choice, I could hear her in my head.
As an adult and professional, I often apply this to my work. It is my duty to ensure that we “always do what’s right” for students. Sometimes this means doing what is hard and unpopular, but we are required to work hard to ensure our students succeed.
What I do to make lemonade out of lemons on my toughest days: Moments of quiet are some of my favorite times. When things are rough, I try to find somewhere quiet to go to clear my head. When I get home from work, I typically spend about 20-30 minutes sitting somewhere quiet where I can process the events of the day and what may be coming tomorrow.
What education equity means to me: Education equity means meeting the needs of students by meeting them where they are. Equity is not fair and requires us to call out the systemic and structural racism that perpetuates inequity in our schools and community daily.
My favorite thing to do to relax and rejuvenate: Getting a haircut is like my weekly massage. A fresh haircut always makes me feel better and I typically get a nap in the barber’s chair. Driving also relaxes me (when there is little to no traffic – when is that??). When I need to make big decisions, a nice road trip usually helps me sort through my options and make the best decision.
The practices/habits that help keep me grounded and maintain perspective when I’m feeling stressed, overworked, or unmotivated are: Mentoring has been key for keeping me grounded. In my 12 years in DC, I have been able to mentor over a hundred young people. Some of these mentees have grown into adults and still seek me out as a mentor. My conversations with them always motivate me to stay in the fight.
Also, I enjoy sitting in classrooms when I am in a school. There are times when I go into classrooms just to reconnect to the work. Elementary students, in particular, have some of the best conversation starters – “How old are you?”, “Are you 100?”, or “What do you want?”, “Why are you here?”.
Who I turn to for advice or guidance when I need career direction: A good friend recently talked to me about creating a “Board of Directors” for my life. A way to get multiple perspectives from people who know me from different aspects of my life: family, colleagues, mentors, etc. This has been transformational.
The advice I’d give to someone trying to find their career sweet spot:
Don’t be afraid to step out on faith and turn what you love into your career. Always seek growth and understand that your career sweet spot can and will change, so be ye also ready!
Connect with Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn more about him at www.barryobrinkley.com.