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A Day In the Life of an Ag Teacher

250 Posts
Tiffany Morey

Changing the Statistics

Posted by Tiffany Morey Mar 26, 2015

We've all seen the statistical evidence showing that ag teachers have a fairly high rate of leaving the profession early on in their career. Burning out is more common than leaders in agricultural education would like it to be, and many never teachers succumb to the pressures and demands of the job and quit. What can we do to reverse the statistics and keep more people in the profession? What have you done personally to keep yourself teaching ag?

 

Let's face it, being an ag teacher and FFA advisor is an EXTREMELY demanding job! We often teach many different courses throughout the day or school year, and most of them require more prep time than your traditional classroom subjects do. FFA also requires a significant amount of time outside of school, as do coaching positions. but unlike sports which have seasons of only a few months of the school year, FFA is year round. FFA also comes with it's own set of paperwork to complete and review, which must also be done outside of school hours, and can be an exhausting process.

 

Our jobs often carry over into our personal lives. Besides just the time commitment of the job, teaching ag and being an FFA advisor are very much a part of our daily home lives. Many ag teachers are involved in their local agricultural communities and serve as members of other organizations. We often live near our students, and see them while doing our normal everyday things. The job carries a high emotional commitment as well, and that can sometimes affect our relationships with our families, friends, and significant others. In addition, the demands of the job also may not leave as much time as one may like for exercise, socializing, travel, and other fun activities that we enjoy.

 

The recent trends in education where a greater emphasis is placed on standardized testing and an increased amount paperwork/documentation, cracks down on the amount of time that any teacher has prepare lessons, grade assignments, and even just teach in general. Ag teachers really feel this for the aforementioned reasons. We are faced with the challenge of getting the same amount of work done, in a lesser amount of time. At times, it may seem very overwhelming.

 

However, despite the challenges and demands of the job, teaching ag is truly a wonderful and one-of-a-kind profession. We get to work with amazing students and teach a subject with real, real world applications. The lessons that we teach have legitimate value and significance, as well as being engaging and fun for students. Agriculture is something that every single American relies on for their basic needs. We are tasked with the very important task of teaching the fundamentals of this field and getting young people to get involved and stay involved with it. The future of a safe and secure food supply starts with us. Not many teachers can say that they teach something that is is critically important to our country's future as we ag teachers can.

 

Besides just teaching something so meaningful and worthwhile, we also get the pleasure of working with the fine young people that are FFA members. We help to shape and develop the future leaders of not only the agricultural industry, but also of many other industries and even government. Being tasked with the challenge of helping students develop into proficient and successful leaders and team players is rewarding and refreshing. Teaching life lessons, as well as educational lessons, is an added perk of this job.

 

So how do we convince students to even enter the field of agricultural education? Better yet, how do we convince them to stay once they start? The demands and realities this job are daunting, but the rewards and positive aspects, are something that make it worthwhile. However, it takes time for teachers to be able to understand this.

 

The future of agriculture needs ag teachers. We need people to become and ag teachers and stay ag teachers. Let's work together to change the statistics and keep people in this great profession. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

 

-TM

Matt Eddy

You Can't Handle the Truth

Posted by Matt Eddy Mar 23, 2015

After reading several articles lately in my state and a neighboring state - the battle we are waging to educate the public about agriculture and it's production methods is very real.  Sometimes I wonder what the trial of 'the farmer' would look like... (Creative liberties were taken)


Farmer: I'll answer the question!

[to Kaffee]

Farmer: You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I'm entitled to.

Farmer: *You want answers?*

Kaffee: *I want the truth!*

Farmer: *You can't handle the truth!*

[pauses]

Farmer: Son, we live in a world that has farms, and those farms have to be worked by men (and women) with plows. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg?

I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for the environment, and you curse the Farmer. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know.

That producing food in abundance, while tragic to you, probably saved lives. (Billions actually) And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, provides food. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that farm, you need me on that farm. We use words like honor, work ethic, commitment. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent creating an abundant, safe food supply. You use them as a punchline.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a person who rises and eats under the smorgasbord of the very food that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a plow, and farm a plot of land.


Either way, I don't give a dern what you think you are entitled to.


Kaffee: Did you produce the most food you could?

Farmer: I did the job I...

Kaffee: *Did you produce the most food for the least cost of any nation on this planet?*

Farmer: *You're Gol' Dern right I did!*

`

`

`

Well -- maybe i'm just over caffeinated and not getting enough rest...

Keep teaching everyone you can about the story of Agriculture... and tell Rob Reiner I'm sorry.

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Wes Crawford

Telling Our Story

Posted by Wes Crawford Mar 15, 2015

The other day I had the chance to spend time with the newest members of our profession, all attending the Early Career Teacher Workshop hosted by Oregon State University.  While I'd like to think I'm not far removed from said demographic, I'm afraid reality and my hairline suggest otherwise. Nonetheless, being there with other OVATA members by the invitation of Dr Lambert & Co was greatly appreciated and enjoyed.

 

It's easy to overlook (read: block out) and misremember those first years for all of us, where every day could be a day you've never taught before, or a CDE you've never brought students to, or the new experience of wrangling students in an airport, or the first time you've had to utilize 911 after a lab, or whatever it may be.

 

And it isn't like we are making it any easier these days.  We have all three rings of this circus to worry about, and then we pile on other concepts - like advocacy.  It's clear how important it is - it can literally be the difference between agricultural education existing in your school, or being cut.  At a greater level, it is the difference between being a part of setting the direction for experiential education and college and career preparation, or being an afterthought.

 

So how do we advocate while doing the rest of the 1,252 items on the to-do list?  As part of a workshop on advocacy at the Early Career Teacher weekend, we came up with the following manageable yet impactful ways we could all advocate:

 

1 - The Power of the Press:  does your Reporter send out results from FFA CDE's, Community service activities, or other news?  If this isn't working, take the charge on.  It's an easy email to forward or write yourself, and tons of people will see it.

2 - Who's Judging You?  Who do you get for speaking judges?  Public speaking CDEs are an excellent way to showcase our best.  Most people are blown away by the poise of our young people.  You have to get judges anyway, so make them people who matter - school administrators, counselors, local community leaders, partners, etc.

3 - Records, Students, Records - How up-to-date are your students' SAE records? The ability of AET to amass data on the economic impact of Supervised Agricultural Experience is powerful - as long as the data is accurate.  By making sure your students know how to record their SAE and holding them accountable is a powerful tool in advocating for the importance of Agricultural Education.

4 - Records, Teachers?  - Speaking of students, how are your records, Teacher?  Do you document the hours you put into supervising FFA and SAE?  Can you justify your current extended-duty contract - or the need for a larger one? This is important data.  I have gotten lazy about it the longer I teach, but the data would not only serve me but other ag teachers as well.

5 - #agedu365 - I'll steal this one from Matt Eddy, and it is a good one.  You can read about it here, and I challenge you to not only use it and Social Media, but are your students using it too?  And if you haven't caught on yet, Facebook is to them what MySpace is to you.  So where can they use it?

 

We are not going to get everything we need to do done tomorrow.  And that's okay.  We will continue to do little things to improve our ability to make our case about the importance of agricultural education.  Teachers, keep teaching. Do the best you can for your students. And find a couple simple yet effective ways that can communicate the great things your program is doing.  And that is advocacy.

 

See you on the road.  And then tell someone about it.

 

How do you tell your story?

Matt Eddy

#agedu365

Posted by Matt Eddy Jan 27, 2015

Maybe your twitter-less or maybe you hung the moon online.  Either way -- maybe you have heard about the hastag - #farm365.

 

If not - quick synopsis -- started with the idea of posting about farm life all year round -- a great thing.  Hijacked (for lack of a better term) by those who would be listed as not being as interested in farming life year round.  (Activists) -- and so it begins.

 

The way I look at it -- any publicity is good publicity and the opportunity to tell our story is too good to pass up and too important to be lost in the noise.

 

So -- my new years resolution ( a little late, but better late than never) is to post once a day about the life of an Ag teacher on twitter -- all year around. Hence --  #agedu365

 

I would invite the 3 of you (maybe more, if I include my parents) that read these blog posts regularly to join with me in sharing our profession as 'the Ag Ed world turns'.

 

Today we went to the FFA Legislative Symposium and had a great day advocating for our profession.  Maybe that's what jarred my thinking.

 

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“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.

In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

One of the trending topics on social media has been links to pages with various "life hacks". A "life hack" is simply a way to doing something more simply or a way to make it easier. As ag teachers, we are often doing a whole bunch of things at once, and many of us face similar challenges on how to get certain things done in a timely manner.  To help us help each other, I thought it might be interestung for us to share some of our "Teach Ag life hacks". See below for some of my favorites.


1. Let Them Eat Cake

For the longest time, I had trouble getting my students to want to water the greenhouse and take care of the plants. It was a constant struggle to get anyone besides myself to want to do anything with the plants. Then, we got the green wall and planted food crops in it. Suddenly, every student in Plant Science wanted to be caring for the plants that they would someday be able to eat. They got a great sense of pride out of being able to harvest their food crops, give it to the cafeteria or culinary classes to prepare, and then be able to say to their friends "I grew the food you are eating." Now, we no longer have trouble getting students to water the plants and they will even come in during breaks to check the greenhouse. As long as they can snack on a leaf of lettuce or some other type of green while they water, they are happy campers. It might not look or taste like cake, but it sure is sweet to them!


2. Ask Grant

Running an ag program is expensive. The supplies and equipment we need to teach our innovative and fun classes and lessons aren't cheap, and sometimes we don't get budgets big enough to cover the cost of everything. During my first year of teaching, I was introduced to a good friend named Grant. Grant comes in all different forms and sizes and requires some time and effort to get to know, but can be a very rewarding individual to know. Grant has helped me attend CASE institutes, purchase classroom supplies, fund FFA trips and community service activities, and obtain needed equipment for my classroom and greenhouse. I strongly encourage every ag teacher (old and new) to explore Grant's opportunities!


3. Delegation Nation

As ag teachers, we are responsible for paperwork-A LOT of paperwork. In addition to our grading and administrative/school paperwork responsibilities, we are also tasked with all of the paperwork associated with running an FFA chapter. For years I spent countless hours trying to get it all done and completed correctly. Finally, I realized I could delegate some of it to my officers. SAE hours are logged online and members are responsible for submitting reports for their hours. The chapter treasurer handles all banking paperwork and maintaining the ledger.Chapter award applications are completed by the officer team for me to review, or they don't get submitted. Same goes for individual awards. Members are also responsible for entering all of their own info into AgCN before the roster is updated each year. Not only has this cut down on the amount of paperwork, but the officers have gotten a true sense of running their chapter.


4. Power of Persuasion

For many of us, our ag classes are electives and we have to compete with many other classes when it comes to getting students in our chairs. We have to act like salesmen and "pitch" our classes to make them seem like they are the best thing ever. Sometimes, this can be difficult when we are battling against more "fun" electives like culinary or music or art. However, the best candidates to sell our classes are the students themselves. Their ability to convince their friends to take ag classes is truly amazing. They can make everything sound fun and interesting, even to non ag kids. I used to stress over how to get my classes filled. Now, I just ask my students to tell their friends. While it's not a perfect strategy, it's definitely made life a bit easier!


3. The Key to the Elevator

The school where I teach is one floor with two levels. My biotech class is in a lab on the lower level. To get my cart there, I have to use the elevator. The elevator can only be moved by using the call button from the level it is currently located on. I can't tell you how many times I had to walk down the stairs, send the elevator to the level with my cart, and walk back up the stairs only to ride the elevator with my cart back down to the lower one. One day, I remembered I had a key to the elevator that would allow me to call the elevator to the level where I was without having to go up and down the stairs. It was a simple life hack, but boy does it make me happy that I don't have to keep going up and down the stairs!


What are some of your favorite "Teach Ag life hacks"? Feel free to share them in the comments section.


-TM

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year-Teach Ag Style


It's the most wonderful time of the year

With the FFA members jingle belling

And the ag students telling you "Be of good cheer"

It's the most wonderful time of the year


It's the hap-happiest season of all

With those holiday meetings and sales of wreaths

When centerpieces have to be sold

It's the hap- happiest season of all


There'll be FFA meetings for hosting

Bacterial cultures for toasting

And prayers for no days lost to snow

There'll be pigs for dissecting

Models of flowers being constructed

And making E.Coli glow!


It's the most wonderful time of the year

There'll be many assessments taken

And lab notebooks for grading

When the report card deadline is near

It's the most wonderful time of the year


There'll be fundraisers for hosting

SAE hours for logging

And FFA conventions to attend

There'll be green walls to feed

And hydroponics systems to maintain

And hope that your herbs and lettuce continue to grow!


It's the most wonderful time of the year

There'll be many projects for showing

And the ag shop will be glowing

When the holidays are near

It's the most wonderful time

It's the most wonderful time

It's the most wonderful time of the year.


Happy holidays everyone!


-TM

Tiffany Morey

Giving Thanks

Posted by Tiffany Morey Nov 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! With Turkey Day in just a few days, I thought now might be a time to reflect and give thanks for the things that have made this year great so far.

 

1. New Jersey Farm to School Network

I first got connect with NJ Farm to School when I was in my previous position. It started with a green wall, and the partnership has now morphed into 2 green walls, presenting at conferences, and being a featured school for NJ Farm to School Week. My students are harvesting fresh herbs and greens grown in the original wall for the cafeteria and culinary arts program  on a weekly basis. Our newest green wall arrived last week and I am super excited to use it with the middle school ag classes.

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2.  Thank you notes from students

It is often said that teaching is a thankless job. After 5 years in the profession, I received my first thank you note from a student last week. Although it was signed anonymous, I know who it was from. Thank you, anonymous for letting me know that you enjoy my classes and are having a great experience. It is something that every teacher loves to hear!

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3. Farm to Table Breakfasts

This past weekend, our FFA Alumni held it's first ever Farm to Table Breakfast. We had 20+ donors from 2 different states, and all the food served was locally sourced from the sausage and eggs to the apples that went into the apple sauce and the pumpkin in the pumpkin bread. Even the coffee, juice, and milk were donated by local businesses. The community came out in full force and we served a whopping 349 plates of food! Members from both the middle and HS FFA chapters helped to serve food and keep the dining room clean and our guests happy. Our FFA Alumni did an amazing job coordinating the breakfast, preparing the food, and running the event, and it is an absolute pleasure to get to work with such a supportive group of individuals. Thank you South Hunterdon FFA Alumni for all that you do to support my FFA chapters!

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4. Supportive friends, family, and significant others

From being there for me from afar, listening to me talk about my students/FFA chapters/ag classes, participating in fundraisers,  conducting workshops for my students, and even driving to another state to pick up donations for the aforementioned Farm to Table Breakfast, your support is something I am extremely thankful for. You keep this ag teacher going and sane and happy, and I love you for it!

 

5. Motivated students

This is perhaps what I am most thankful for this year. Last year, I struggled to get students engaged and excited about learning. This year, every class is a new and fun adventure that begins with an enthusiastic "what are we doing today?!". Being it conducting soil textural tests in 8th grade ag, studying pill bugs to learn about animal behavior in Animal Science, making flower models out of Play Doh in Plant Science, or running gel electrophoresis experiments in Animal and Plant Biotechnology, my students are happy and motivated this year! Their enthusiasm is contagious and feel like I am finally teaching the way I've always wanted to teach.

 

Enjoy the holiday!

 

-TM

Tiffany Morey

Blue Light Special

Posted by Tiffany Morey Oct 22, 2014

From time to time, K-Mart has these great sales called blue light specials. While the blue light is flashing, shoppers can get some fabulous item at a fabulous price. These items are first come, first served, and are only available for a limited time. For some shoppers, these blue light specials are a quick burst of excitement and interest in an otherwise long and tiring day.


Lately, I’ve been feeling quite weary and worn out when it comes to teaching. From tons of new paperwork to grading to observations, I feel like I can barely keep up with it all. Throw in unhappy students and FFA members, 2 new classes, and barely any prep time in my classroom and I am pretty beat. Part of the way I’m feeling is due to the usual beginning of the year craziness and the other part of it is learning to adapt to so many new changes in my instructional routine in a short period of time.


To keep myself focused on the positive, I’ve been searching for blue light specials at school every day. From a student mastering a difficult concept to some of the interesting and entertaining responses that I get from my middle schoolers, I’ve been finding them in nearly every class. Even hall duty has its share of blue light specials when I get the chance to see students that are no longer in my classes, connect with ones that I haven’t taught, or chat with co-workers that I don’t usually get to see. On particularly rough days, these blue light specials are priceless and are what keep me going. Below are some of the best blue light specials that the year has had to offer so far.


The DNA Dance

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Who knew that learning about DNA in CASE Animal and Plant Biotechnology could be so exciting? This class is usually quite serious and focused, but asking them to use their bodies to make a DNA molecule brought out the fun and silly side of these students.


Pumpkin Flowers

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Learning that pumpkins are a fruit and technically derived from flowers blew my 8th graders minds. We discussed many different vegetables that come from the flower, but pumpkins were the ones that stuck the most, as 14/19 students drew them for this part of their activity in CASE AFNR.


Perfect Plates

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The sight of bacterial cultures growing on the plates in the incubator was thrilling for some of my students. The fact that they isolated the colonies from a larger plate and cultured them on new agar plates that they made themselves made it that more satisfying. We are looking forward to genetically engineering the colonies to glow in the dark in a few weeks!


Lettuce Rejoice

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Seeing that the seeds that they planted in September had matured into full grown vegetable and herb plants was a great sense of pride for my CASE Plant Science class. Their first harvest from the green wall yielded enough greens for the cafeteria and culinary arts classes to use.


Chroming Out

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At the end of September, my classroom was given 20 Chromebooks to use to go paperless and implement CASEOnline. Having a working computer for every student in all of my classes not only makes instruction easier for me, but makes learning more exciting and engaging for the students.


The Blue Light is On

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After months of not having a working pencil sharpener due to the new one being lost in the mail and backordered, my ag classroom finally has one again. Not only does it sharpen all different sizes of pencils, but when pencils are sharp, the blue light comes on. This blue light special continues to bring momentary joy to my students on a daily basis.


What are some of the blue light specials that keep you going when teaching ag gets tough? Feel free to share in the comments below.


Until next time,


-TM

Matt Eddy

What do you do?

Posted by Matt Eddy Oct 8, 2014

Sometimes I wonder about things...

 

What do you do when it all becomes too much? 

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We all know Ag teaching can be tough - the statistics bear that out without much argument.  Too many wash out before they really get started.

 

Sometimes just making a place in this world where you don't have to be "The Ag Teacher" can be worth more than you might think.

 

For me - it's my passion for the Green Felt Monster. (or blue -- pick your poison).

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And some ornately configured trees. Below is some Buckeye Burl in the handle of my break cue - very pleased with how it turned out.  It's an Bruce Johnson Cue's one of a kind.

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Another one that is in the works -- eagerly anticipated too...

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The only thing I ask is that in the case I pass early -- Dear Lord - don't let my wife sell them for what I told her I paid.

 

Whether Ambonya Burl or Ebony points makes you no nevermind - it's nice to have someplace to be able to realize that there is more than grading, judging teams, missed assignments, failed tests and eating lunch in under 10 minutes flat.

 

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[in their $3,000 game, after Minnesota Fats breaks, it's Eddie's shot]

Fast Eddie: How should I play that one, Bert? Play it safe? That's the way you always told me to play it: safe... play the percentage.

Well, here we go: fast and loose. One ball, corner pocket.

Yeah, percentage players die broke, too, don't they, Bert?

[he makes the shot and the spectators applaud]

Fast Eddie: How can I lose?

What's your favorite way to recharge?

6:40am - arrive at school early enough to let a girl get into her locker for her black skirt to make the 7am Rotary meeting across town, where six students received great support to attend the National FFA Convention.


6:50am - delete several emails looking for rodeo/session/concert tickets for a certain October week in Kentucky.


6:54am - appreciate emails reminding folks on how to use technology to connect with people needing/selling tickets for national convention.  Then delete those too.


1st period - reset seven passwords to the AET. Because why would we write them down in our notebook last year when we were told to.


2nd period - convince 28 freshmen they want to complete an activity page defining instruments and controls for operation agricultural machinery.  Marginal success.  But they all do it.


3rd period - run over to the next town to pick up a beef digestive track.  Some re-assembly required.


4th period - re-odorize my shop after 32 kids inspect the inner workings of ruminants.  Still re-assembling.  I've never done a full beef tract in class; usually we do sheep but none were available. A couple hundred awful offal pounds later, no problem.

 

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Leave doors open afterwards.


5th period - spend the first 10 minutes advocating for agriculture with 21 juniors and seniors and a hashtag.  Because you cannot let the other side be the only voice. #AgProvides

Then discuss financial credit and credit scores.  #theydontwanttogrowupyet yet #curious


6th period - meet the Oregon Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Mr Rob Saxton in the school office so he can tour our renovated Career & Technical Education programs.  This was possible thanks to a Revitalization grant available last year through the Oregon Legislature and the Department of Education.  Our school was able to receive over $309,000 for our woods, agricultural metals and welding, and technology programs.

 

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Our Revitalization project had over 17 local industry partners sign on to build our CTE programs, and we were excited to have most of them out last week for an Open-House and banquet in the shop facilities (and we even held dinner in the welding shop too ? best dinner they?d ever been to in a shop).  Mr. Saxton wasn't available to attend the dinner but graciously arranged to stop in today and see what our students are doing.

 

Hope the shop smell has cleared up from the digestion dissection lab two hours earlier. #poorplanning


7th period - unpack two pallets of equipment and materials purchased from Lincoln Electric through their education portal.  Have you seen this yet?  Out-of-this-world prices for education.  If you have a shop and haven't checked this out you are MISSING OUT. We will be styling this year. #christmascomesearly

 

3:15pm - schools out, jump in the truck so I can take back the barrel the digestive track came in. #heretherebeflies

 

3:30pm - jump into a conference call for the Search Committee for the Ag Ed department chair at Oregon State.  #GoBeavs

 

4:30pm - Parent Teacher conferences begins.  Conversation breakdowns:  25% = what's his/her grade???   50% = what can they do next in FFA?  20% = what does it take to raise a market steer/pig/lamb/etc?  5% = who is the social studies teacher?

 

7:15pm - conference slows down, 27 students' parents later.  Write a blog post.

 

7:28pm - feel bad about the terribly 'awful offal' pun earlier, but don't edit it.


8:00pm - Not quite there yet.  Stops for a milkshake and gas are likely.  Then go home and chase a little boy as he crawls across the floor.

 

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Always on the move these days.  And easily amused. Must be genetic.

 

Happy fall all.  See you in Louisville!

 

READER RESPONSE:  what's keeping you busy this fall?

Tiffany Morey

Star Quality

Posted by Tiffany Morey Sep 7, 2014

One of the great skills possessed by ag teachers is their ability to see the hidden talents and abilities of their students. One of the greatest challenges that ag teachers face is how to convince the students that those things exist and how to extract it from them. It's hard to keep from getting frustrated when students and ag programs don't live up to their potential, and even harder to learn what to do when you just can't make it happen on your own.

 

The paragraph above describes how I felt last year when I took over the ag program at South. It's potential for growth was clearly visible and the students had the ability to be super stars. The problem was learning how to to make these things become a reality. I needed to learn how to help  develop star quality.

I knew from the moment that I started at South that the FFA members had some serious potential. The officer team had tons of enthusiasm and passion for FFA, but they had never been given the opportunity to develop it to become leaders. While they were excited to participate in more activities at the chapter and state level, it was hard for them to work with me at times. They were very attached to their previous advisor, and it make it difficult for us to gel as a team. Getting them to develop open lines of communication and more responsibility as officers was extremely difficult. The more I asked for them to communicate with me and do things for the chapter, the more they resisted and stayed silent. As such, by the end of the year we had a total communication breakdown and I was at loss at what to do to fix it.

 

I decided to ask for help. After consulting our FFA Alumni, state FFA leaders, and some fellow ag teachers, I came up with a plan to hold a chapter officer leadership training day during the summer. They helped me plan a day of activities to foster communication and leadership, and New Jersey's National FFA Officer Candidate, Lauren Fillebrown, offered to come and facilitate. The day was a total success. Lauren is one of the most enthusiastic, upbeat, and positive people I have ever met, and she had the officer team pumped up and excited from the moment they walked in. We all participated in her fun and engaging workshops together, and then shared a lunch of pizza and our favorite snacks. We were able to lay out the POA, establish committees, and put together a list of fundraisers. We also came up with a chapter theme and t-shirt design. Every single one of us left the room that day feeling confident and excited for the year ahead. They were starting to shine like the stars I knew they were.

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Posing with their favorite stars George Strait (above) and New Jersey National FFA Officer Candidate Lauren Fillebrown (below)

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The next challenge was to keep them shining. This ended up being easy. After our chapter officer training opened up the lines of communication, the officers contacted me at least once a week with ideas for the chapter. They made a plan to attend NJFFA's LEAD/Chapter Officer Leadership Training  (COLT) Conference in October to continue to develop their leadership and teamwork skills. To help raise money, they organized a car wash for the first weekend of school. At our fair, they put tags on the stalls of their animals to show that they were exhibited by FFA members. They also assisted our FFA Alumni with a fundraiser and took pictures of members showing their animals for our chapter scrapbook.

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Showing off a star quality SAE project at the Hunterdon County Fair

 

Then it was back to school. The officers had a meeting the second day of school to lay out fundraisers, and got them approved by the principal. They also submitted their registration for LEAD/COLT and got the necessary paperwork in. Their car wash was a total success, and they exceeded their fundraising goal. The officers also scheduled practices for the Fall CDE teams, organized a community service project, and met with the FFA Alumni to ask them for assistance with upcoming events. The officer team had finally recognized their star quality!

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Shining like stars at our FFA Car Wash!

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This year is off to a blazing start and I think the FFA chapter and officer team will finally get to become the stars that they deserve to be. There is still hard work to be done, and at times they will need to be reminded that they can shine, but the spark is there. To remind them of this, the FFA Star Chart was created. It hangs on the wall of our ag classroom and has the members' names and a list of chapter events on it. For each activity that they participate in, they get a star. Stars lead to rewards and the opportunity to show off their hard work. The joy that they get from it and putting their stars next to their names is priceless. It also serves as a physical, visual reminder of the fact they are indeed super stars and gives them a sense of pride.

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The FFA Star Chart

 

Although it's tough to remember this at times, know that you as an ag teacher have the ability to help your students recognize their potential and ability to shine. It can be tough to make this happen, but the rewards of seeing students develop into the stars we know they can be is worth it. Have a great start to the school year and remember, you are all super stars for doing what you do!

 

-TM

What a wild summer it's been here for Metro Nashville Public Schools! 6 new agriculture teachers came to our district over June and July. THREE of them came to teach with me! All freshmen in our massive high school of 2,400 now take Agriscience as a science credit! This is my 6th year of teaching, but first ever in a multi-teacher program. I'm excited about what this means for the growth of our program! In the next months, I also want to post pictures from my classroom and lab. I've spent the past year fixing it up and I'd love to share it with my teacher friends and future teachers who love checking out classroom decor.

 

Today a Facebook notification made me think about time. Maybe it's because we're high school teachers, but it seems like we get used to sending students out into the world and just hoping we'll hear back. We accept the inevitable: one day, our beloved students will leave us. We say things like,  "Don't be a stranger." and "Come by and see me sometime." 


If you're like many ag teachers that I know, you send your seniors off with a gift to commemorate all their time and effort into the FFA. 2 years ago, I sent my Class of 2012 seniors off with a mason jar full of blue and yellow paper. Memories, inside jokes and inspirational thoughts all written down and ready to take with them into the world. And then, I forgot that I had done it.


Today during my lunch, I got a Facebook notification and read this.


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What are we doing today that will come back to us years from now?

 

The same Facebook feed that showed me this picture also shows the weary posts of my friends who feel exhausted having to deal with paperwork, overflowing classrooms, and the general stress of the beginning of a new year. To all of my fellow teachers, I just want to remind you - our students NEED us. I guarantee there is a student who will, years from now, will be going through a difficult time and will think back to the kindness and support you showed them. You are doing a great job, even when it may not feel like it. I'm honored to be a part of such an important profession.

 

Until next time, follow me on Instagram (@jhartlelumpkins) and Twitter (@jessiehartle)!

Matt Eddy

Holy Summertime Batman!

Posted by Matt Eddy Jun 30, 2014

Well, June is sure a fun month -- a busy month -- but a fun month.

 

Aside from various Career Development events --

one day for Agronomy, Food Science, and Ag Mechanics;

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another for Horse Judging, Floriculture and Nursery Landscape

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-- and Officer Retreats and DLCCO training,

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helping present with Daniel Foster & Christopher Zane Sheehan on "Leveraging Social Media for Program Success: Preparing your students for the Digital World!  #TeachAgSM14 for the Indiana Association of Agriculture Educators (IAAE) Conference -- incidentally, which is not the Iowa Association of Agriculture Educators (IAAE) -- which can be confusing.

 

We sold off one of our cull cows from the ALC herd -- a good market for cattle continues -- at the site of the 2014 National Auctioneers Championships in Knoxville, Iowa.

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I wanted to talk about the great time had by all at the Region III Conference hosted by Wisconsin Association of Agriculture Educators in Middleton Wisconsin. IF you have not attended a Regional conference -- GO!  Regional Conferences are one of the best times and have certainly helped me grow in the profession.  Besides helping craft the future of our professional organization - there are usually great tours of the areas agriculture.  Not only do you get to become more familiar with the teachers from your state, but also from your region.  Our profession is tough enough as it is -- getting to know other educators with your same situations (even regionally) makes it a little bit easier.  I'm not sure if my goal of attending more regional conferences than Bob (and Barb) Leonard from Iowa is possible -- but I do know that the years that I miss Region III are a bit duller by comparision.

 

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Next year -- Region III in Poplar Bluff, NE  - I hope we can lay in enough supplies to make it out there.

 

Now to put the Tundra to use and start getting ready for the Iowa State Fair - a scant 35 days away. A CASE workshop in-between and a short family vacation.  Time sure flies when you are having fun.

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Remember to sharpen the saw this summer at a Regional Conference -- it's a marathon, not a sprint.

Tiffany Morey

The Balancing Act

Posted by Tiffany Morey Jun 12, 2014

With the last day of school in one week and one day (not that I'm counting ), now seems like an opportune time to take a few minutes to reflect on my first year as the ag teacher here at South. The past 12 months have most certainly brought about huge changes: I switched schools, moved to a new place, inherited and spent a lot of time fixing a very broken ag program, became the advisor of 2 FFA chapters, taught middle school for the first time, joined the FFA Alumni, and became connected with some great people in the local community who have been very supportive in helping both myself and the program.

While the changes have been mostly positive, at times the responsibilities and stress of being the lone ag teacher of a 7-12 program and the advisor of 2 chapters (middle and high school), has caused a disruption of the careful balancing act that we ag teachers try to maintain in order to keep our sanity. We're all familiar with the daily struggle of trying to balance our professional lives and our personal lives. It's hard to find time for everything we need to do at school and with FFA and for our families, significant others, and ourselves.


I've always worked hard to keep the balance in check, and this year I found my professional life taking precedence over my personal one far more than I would like. I'm fortunate to have wonderful and understanding people in my personal life who were supportive of my job taking my time away from them, and who were there to listen and offer advice when I needed it. There have been numerous successes with the program itself and the FFA chapter, but it was a long, hard year that I am glad to see come to an end. The situation I walked into with my program required much more time and attention than I anticipated, and while the extra work put in was more than worth it, and now that the end is in sight, I'm downright exhausted am looking forward to taking some time this summer to relax, re-charge, and de-stress.

Next year looks to be better though, as the CASE courses will be taught in the science labs, and plans are in place to remodel the "ag garage" of a classroom into a modern ag science learning lab. All of the traditional high school ag classes (CASE ASA, CASE ASP, and Floral Design) have filled for next year, and a new course (CASE APB) is being added. The "ag garage" itself is finally clean and organized, and I think the days of finding unpleasant surprises such as the moldy ice cream maker and petrified dead fish, have come to an end. The program has acquired the needed supplies for all of the classes taught, and all of the junk is gone. Articulation agreements were established with 2 4-year colleges and one is in the works with another 4-year college as well. The administration is happy with the new direction of the program, and is supportive with the program continuing to grow and expand. On the FFA front, we are no longer in the red and actually are going into the summer with funds for next year, needed documents, resources, and supplies for chapter operations are in place, and student interest in participating at the local and state levels seems to be increasing. We had a great showing at State Convention with many students receiving awards and recognition for their participation in CDEs, and our chapter received its first Superior Chapter Award as well its first National Chapter Award with a Bronze Ranking.

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State Convention 2014

However, there are still things that need to be improved. The students still are resistant to the change of having more rigorous ag courses, actually having to do real work in class, and not being able to have the free for all that the ag classes were in the past. There is still an apparent lack of respect (the phrases "please stop talking" and "put away your cell phones" are used far too often ), and while the work gets done and done correctly, there is a lack of effort or desire to do it. I didn't expect these things to improve much this year, but I think next year the students will be more cooperative. My style of structured teaching is very different from the laid back approach of my predecessors, but now the students know what to expect in terms of behavior and work-load when they take one of my classes. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was the feat of gaining the respect of students and having them want to work with you and for you.


I'm also working on improving the lines of communication within the FFA chapter, especially with the officer team. They were very attached to their previous advisor and co-advisor, and are hesitant about coming to me to talk about what they want and need for themselves and our chapter. At times, this hurts my feelings, but I?m working on establishing ways for us to have more open communication with one another. In addition, improving officer and members involvement in the integral planning and carrying out of events is another priority for next year. Having them take more ownership in the actual running of the chapter will not only save me the stress of trying to do it all myself, but will help to eliminate the sense of "it's not my job its insert officer title/member name here]'s job" and build a greater sense of being a team.


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Hard work paying off


As the end of the year inches every closer, I'm working hard to reestablish the balance in my life. While at times disruption of the balance of personal and professional is necessary and unavoidable, it's important to keep things in perspective and not let one take too much of a priority over the other for too long of a period of time. The temporary imbalance of this year was stressful and tiring, but worth it because the goals I set out to accomplish with the new FFA chapters, job, and ag program were met. Next year will still be hard and I'm sure professional will win out over personal more than I'd like, but the experience and wisdom I gained over the past 12 months will help me keep it manageable. As time goes on, I will continue to improve my ability to maintain the balance of life and not get so upset and stressed when it gets off kilter.

I hope everyone has a safe and relaxing summer, and tries to regain the balance in their own life. As ag teachers and FFA advisors it's hard because many of us have summer contracts, and everyone knows that FFA is pretty much s year-round job, but we all need to make sure that we find some time for our personal lives. Look for S'Morey in the fall.


-TM

Do you Instagram? My students have gotten me into “Insta” as they call it, and I’m kind of #addicted. I originally was a picture taker because I have aspirations of one day actually putting scissors to paper and scrapbooking my life. But our students today think more digitally than ever, and Instagram is essentially how they scrapbook.


Because I know it will be years before I’d actually scrapbook the things that happened this spring, (seriously, I still have things from high school graduation in 2005 I want to put in an album…feel free to pass judgment), I’m thinking that to best share my experiences this spring with my ag teacher friends and potential ag teachers, I’ll just share the highlights of my phone's camera roll… my spring semester Inst-ag-grams!




2014-02-06 14.07.44.jpg We've amassed tons of animals! Nubs the Nubian goat is now the unofficial school mascot. Jackson our mini horse is teaching the students about how to recover from a horse bite. #ouch

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#adorablegoatinasweater

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Created our FFA Famous wall so that competitors in CDEs can be recognized for their hard work. Since this pic we've added more team pics! #careersuccess

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My students and I experienced holding an owl at the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention in February! Moments after this picture was taken, *somehow* the owl escaped and landed in the rafters. It was many hours until he was recovered. #mybad

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This picture is actually on my real Instagram - State Secretary and National Secretary! Nick (Mitch's brother) was one of my regional officers this year and I cried when he, Shelby, Amy and Kevin were elected state officers! #theynamedmeJLump

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Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, called Nubs precious so basically he's the most famous goat in the world. #celeblivestock

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Two new goats, Billy and Beau, came to live at the McGavock Farm Lab. Nubs greeted his caprine brethren timidly. They have since proven to be...destructive and pushy. On a completely unrelated note, anyone want two Alpine goats?

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We now have 4 bunnies, including Bonnie and Clyde the achingly cute dwarf satins.

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We took 12 students to State FFA Convention in Gatlinburg! First time our chapter attended in about 20 years. Because I'm sticking to camera pics only for this post, this is the only group pic I had on my phone and isn't the best quality. However, it is one of the best memories... Anna (the student at the end of the table) celebrated her birthday at this restaurant and rode the mechanical donkey shortly after our meal. I would have gotten a photo of that but her ride was about .8 seconds instead of 8! #getbackonthedonkey

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An outtake of our yearbook photo shows that 56 of our 61 members made it to the picture.

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New officer team elections! Zoey opens his envelope to find he is the new chapter historian and his friends watch in anticipation! I normally wait until banquet to announce the results, but I decided to mix it up this year with the envelope system. As much as I loved the reactions from them the day they opened their envelopes, I think next year we'll go back to the banquet announcement.

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We fostered kittens! Simba was a class favorite.

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Students who pass the large window right before my classroom door can check out our new ducklings. We'd been waiting since the fall for Momma Duck to have some babies!

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Senior officers after graduation! Even though we only had this year together, they left a legacy for our underclassmen that will ensure the chapter remains active. Proud of these kiddos!

Next on the horizon ... CASE, FFA Camp, officer retreats and maybe some summer fun somewhere

Follow me (@jhartlelumpkins) and my chapter (@mcgavockffa) so I can check our your Inst-ag-grams!

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