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A Day In the Life of an Ag Teacher

238 Posts
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!

Matt Eddy

What is good teaching?

Posted by Matt Eddy May 6, 2014

Tao - When the student is ready, the teacher will appear

 

Are you a good teacher?  Why would you say that?

 

And before you throw something at me, I completely believe there might be as many varied answers as people reading this post --- all 4 or 5 of you.

 

Can anyone teach?  We all know there is much difference in the theory of education and the practice of education.  "If it were easy, everyone would do it".  Listening to the talking head pundits of education, it should be easy to quantify and box up all neat and tidy. Right?


The Dagget model would have us understand that the application of knowledge is key to highly rigerous education.

 

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I think that the easy part of learning is the transfer of knowledge.  Information. Facts. Certainties. Knowledge / Remembering --  Anyone can do that.

 

What I think is the hard part is sustaining the learners thirst for more, and furthering the growth from the gathering of facts. Level B and hopefully D --  and I'm not sure that everyone can do that... without help.

 

So how do we do that hard part?  And notice I asked about good teaching earlier... not good learning.  Teaching implies what we do as educators to create the environment where a student can learn.  Learning implies what the student does.  We will never have a model so good that the teacher is removed from the equation.

 

Teaching is an art.  An art that is based in science and sound methodologies.  How do we go about perfecting our teaching?

 

  • How much time really goes into reflection? of our teaching?
  • Do we challenge the process we used?
  • Does the inquisitiveness of the learner matter?
  • How much self-actualization are we capable of as teachers?
  • Can we put our ego's aside as we reflect on our shortcomings?

 

Sometimes we need a change of venue to make us reflect upon what our practices really are.

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As Ag teachers, some of our most important reflective time needs to be put into teaching.  Honing our craft.  Studying the pedagogy that is being used and tried in the current educational profession at-large. Time spent not creating new materials, but considering new methodology.  I find the variety in Agriculture Education across the country to contain a certain beauty.  But the thorns on that rose give me concern.   Can we be sustainable?  Is it transferable? Can we make system wide adjustments easily to continue to follow best practices or are we stuck with trickle down (or up) to implement changes to our current practices?

 

Aristotle wrote: "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."


How should you best teach?  I don't know and I sure can't tell you.  I DO think that you should teach the best way you know how - including constantly considering the HOW.  Continuing to perfect your art for the benefit of your students.

 

Artists don't perfect their art without improving their techniques. Even Jackson Pollock

 

To quote Jay Bilas: "I gotta go to work"

Tiffany Morey

Springing Into Action

Posted by Tiffany Morey Apr 25, 2014

While the lack of a spring break may have deprived my students of sleep and time off to relax, it has not dampened their spirits when it comes to FFA. Spring has brought many great things to our FFA chapter, and it is nice to see the members being rewarded for their hard work and effort that they have been putting in all year. In the years before I arrived at South, their advisors had not always allowed them to compete in CDEs and attend events that they had prepared for or wanted to try. This year, they were able to expand their horizons and experience the success they deserve.

 

CDEs

The officers tried their hand at the Winter Online CDEs for the first time this year. I had also never had students participate in this either, so it was a new experience for all of us. Our Farm Business Management team took home 3rd place in the state, and we had the 2nd placed individual. The members used this event as a chance to gain new insight into the business of ag since we don't offer it as part of our curriculum, and it will be a great addition to their resumes.

 

Hort Expo was also a great morale booster for the members. Almost every entry (from both middle and high school members) received a ribbon, and both of our senior floral design students received first place in their division for their arrangements. This was their first year involved in FFA, and it is nice that they got a taste of success in a very competitive event and will remember their FFA experience as a positive one.

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Spring CDEs were also successful. We sent a team of first timers to Vet Science, and they had a great experience and a solid showing. They will be back for more next year and more competitive than ever. The highlight was our Ag Mechanics team who placed 2nd in the state in what was a very competitive CDE. We also had the 2nd and 5th placed individuals. We do not have ag mechanics as part of our curriculum, so for them to beat out schools that offer ag mechanics classes was a huge achievement. The group of boys who made up the team had a hard time with the transition of the program this year, so it was wonderful to see them feel proud and successful. We were also extremely fortunate to have a great group of parents and community members to coach them and help guide them along. I know nothing about ag mechanics, so their help was greatly appreciated!

 

 

Living to Serve Grant

Our chapter was awarded a Living to Serve Grant this year to do community outreach about our school's rain garden. After months of planning and coordinating, we headed to West Amwell School to work with 4th-6th graders who will attend South in the future. The members taught the younger students about the rain garden, and assisted them in making hummingbird feeders out of recycled water bottles. This fun, yet eco-friendly project, was a wonderful experience for all involved, and we are hoping to continue our partnership with WAS next year. The elementary students showed a strong interest in learning about FFA, and hopefully will join our middle school chapter when they take ag in 7th and 8th grade.

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Have a great weekend and look for S'Morey soon!

 

-TM

Wes Crawford

From Coast to Coast

Posted by Wes Crawford Apr 21, 2014

So in the past two and a half weeks being an ag teacher has taken me through six time zones.  I am not sure I know which way is up right now.

 

First, April began on the East Coast at the National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA) convention in Boston.  I had the great honor of being there with DuPont as part of the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador program and the George Washington Carver AgriSCIENCE teacher program, along with several other ag teachers from across the states and 14,000 of our closest science teacher friends.  Oh and Bill Nye. 

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Although these days with Cosmos on TV, Bill better watch out for Neil deGrasse Tyson taking reign.  Good thing they are apparently friends.

 

The neat thing about this conference is finding resources to bolster the ways we strengthen STEM in our agriscience programs.  There are huge numbers of resources out there from organizations such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Personal Genetics Education Project, and others who can provide us ways to engage our students in instruction such as genetics, engineering, environmental science, and more. Agricultural education is a clear nexus and applicable example of all of these areas of instruction.

 

After a busy conference and a quick stroll down Boston’ Freedom Trail to see major sites of American history (Bunker Hill, The Old North Church, the USS Constitution, and the inspiration for the bar for Cheers), it was back on a plane headed west, a crazy six days back at home, and then another hop on a plane, again headed west to NAAE Region I.  Which if you know what is west of Oregon, you may question where that could be.

 

Aloha O’ahu.

 

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(Yes I really took both those pictures).

 

The Hawai’i agriculture teachers, NAAE Region I Vice President Nick Nelson, and WAAE Executive Director Gary Parkert put together a fantastic regional conference this year. Besides the pretty swank backdrop of the beaches of Waikiki, a great program provided all who came with information, ideas, and curriculum to take back to their schools.  Along with peeling sunburns and floral print shirts.

 

Sometimes we get so focused on our programs and situations that we don’t stop to think about how they do it in other places.  But we had the opportunity to tour Leilehua High School where ag teacher Jackie Tichepco runs two hundred students through hands-on learning by managing several acres of bananas, beans, papaya, hydroponics, livestock, and more.  Oh, and the growing season is 365 days of the year.

 

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The activities Jackie and her students are engaged in are unique and creative.  While the crops and lessons may be different, the concepts of doing to learn in agricultural industries are the same.  The novelty of being in a very different part of the world just adds to the intrigue.

 

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There is no doubt that April is just about the worst possible time to have a professional conference that pulls you out of school for most of a week.  We have three weeks until banquet, five days until plant sale, two weeks of 12 CDEs, and – oh yeah – just a bit of teaching to do.  But the benefits of professional development pays back in spades for your students and community.

 

Enjoy the spring folks. Make plans for how you are going to take advantage of professional development.  Yes, you’re busy.  But it’s important.  You got this.

Matt Eddy

Life is good today

Posted by Matt Eddy Apr 16, 2014

It's been a while here, but I hope your world has been spinning along this spring.  We have had more than normal snow and sprinkled in some 80 degree days... hard to get used to one temperature before it changes.

 

Today my FFA members worked to set up the Altoona Community Garden -- a community committee undertook this project and wanted me to participate.  Instead of me, I nominated one of my senior members to be on the committee and represent the FFA.  She did an excellent job, helped create plans for the community garden, secure supplies, found help from fellow FFA members and helped make the FFA an integral part of the event. I was lucky enough to be able to drive the truck today and help where needed.  Made me feel good about their accomplishments and the role Agriculture Education played in preparing them for it.

 

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Speaking of trucks -- the Toyota truck arrived yesterday, just in time to be put to work for our community garden.  BIg thanks to NAAE, Toyota, and National FFA Foundation for making this award possible.  What a great thing for agriculture education -- more people have stopped me in the last 6 months and inquired about Ag Ed than have for the past 15 years. No Joke!  It's a great chance to help people see that Ag Ed is a legitimate educational model and is developing phenomenal kids.  As evidenced above.

 

I think the kids (my kids) had more fun than I did picking up the truck last night. ;-)
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State Convention is in two weeks and a CASE Training in between.  Living la vida loca.

Due to a lack of time and creativity, I decided to allow one of my ag students to take over my blog this month. Meagan aspires to be an ag teacher, and without students like her who have been inspired to follow in our footsteps, the future of our profession would be mighty uncertain. While she is only a sophomore, she is committed to becoming an ag teacher and constantly looks for opportunities to work on her teaching skills. Here is her story about a day in the life of a  current ag student and future ag teacher.

 

From Meagan:

 

There are so many different yet basic fundamentals to being an ag student. We all wake up, we all get dressed, and we all go to school like any other high school student in America. Whether your interests lie in Agriculture programs like the 4H, FFA or any other student organization with ties to agriculture, life is very similar for us ag students.

 

 

For me, I devote my time to the FFA. Since seventh grade the FFA has been my main focus and that will never change.

 

 

My path to agriculture was very different compared to my other fellow chapter members. Our high school pulls from three different townships, two of which have rich farming and agricultural roots. Then, there’s me. I’ve from the urban city with a yard the size of my thumb. I was a fish out of water the minute I stepped into my high school’s ag shop, but that’s what I absolutely love about being an ag student.

 

 

I love that I learn so many new things every day, that I get to experience what it means to be a leader and that being an agriculturist doesn’t just mean being a farmer.

 

 

My time in the classroom learning about agriculture has helped to make me realize my dreams of achieving in the FFA, the field of agriculture, and my goal of growing up to educate future agriculturalists as an agriculture teacher.

 

 

Being a teacher is one of the most honorable professions a person could ever hope to undertake. It takes an inhuman amount of patience as well as a lot of tough love. I’ve witnessed first hand as well as experienced the special bond between a teacher and their student, and the even stronger, unbreakable bond of an FFA advisor and their chapter members.

 

 

I first realized I wanted to be an agriculture teacher the same way I discovered that I wanted to be very successful in the FFA. It was 83rd New Jersey State FFA Convention and I was surrounded by ag teachers. I realized that my little pond with my one advisor and ten chapter members was flowing into a river filled with advisor after advisor and hundreds of like-minded FFA members all across the state. I saw that every advisor had very special bonds with all of their students, just like I had with mine. I saw that just like my advisor doubled as a friend so did theirs and that special connection, that bond between an advisor and their student wasn’t just sacred to my situation but for every ag student and their teacher because they’re the educators, the leaders, the advisors, the mentors and the inspirations.

 

 

I knew that I wanted to be an ag teacher from that to today, three and a half years later. I want to learn from my students just as much as they learn from me, to inspire and ignite a passion in agriculture and help to guide them into their futures.

 

 

Throughout my academic career, I’ve gone through teacher after teacher, grade level after grade level but the steadiest thing I’ve known is agriculture. I know I can always find a friend and confidant in my FFA advisor and ag teacher and I always know that when I feel I’ve lost my way I only need to go to the ag shop to feel at home again.

So it has been a while since I’ve posted on here. It’s that I haven’t wanted to.  It’s not that it the school year is any busier than any other year (but it’s definitely not slower).  It's not that we've had umpteen speaking events, community service activities, proficiency apps, or other paper work come to pass.  It’s not that state convention is next week.

 

Meet my son.

 

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Paul Wesley Crawford joined us on January 23rd of this year.  It is amazing how such an event can change your life.  This is our first child, and our expectations of a whole new world have been fully met.  Such as how simple tasks like leaving add 30 minutes…apparently as does typing up a blog post.

 

IMG_0448.JPGNeedless to say, a great deal of change has happened in our lives.  This is much more true for my wife than I, who is on maternity leave the rest of the school year.  However, she is still overseeing the FFA chapter of her program, so that means the child gets hauled around a fair amount.

 

But he is a trooper. He’s seven weeks old and has been to both district and sectional leadership career development events, been changed in 1) the greenhouse, 2) the metal shop, 3) both of our classrooms, 4) lambing barn, and 5)  tonight in the car at the land lab.  Next weekend he will attend his first state convention.  Thank goodness for grandmothers who enjoy time with their grandson!

 

I can’t imagine how life will continue to change.  Adapting how I manage the AST program and teach will be a never ending process I am sure. What will summer look like?  How will I leave for professional development trainings?  How can I give time to my students as well as my family?

 

Can I finally commit to getting a dog now?

 

You don’t realize how much a day means until you watch a person develop and change every day.  But for now, it’s another day in the life.

Matt Eddy

Hold on Loosely

Posted by Matt Eddy Mar 7, 2014

(Sang in the style of .38 Special)

Hold on loosely, but don't let go.

If you cling to tightly, you can loose control...

 

Spring Break is here next week and I've got a punchers chance of making it.... but my arms are getting tired.

 

Advanced Animal Sciences Preg Checked Animal Learning Center Cows yesterday. 16 of 21.  Not stellar, but within our window of acceptability.  The kids were excited and you could feel the learning in the air.  Some days I would pay for the privilege of this job....

 

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Looks like a trap...Top head gate crew in the county...
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Doc's AngelsApplication of Permectrin on calves
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Photo-bombSelfie Nation

 

We head to District Contests tomorrow and aside from minor turbulence, we should arrive in fine fashion.  A great day should be had by all.

 

Hope you all have a great Spring (after a tough winter ALL OVER) and that we find our way to the end of the year in good order.

 

(Sung in the style of Autograph)

 

I'm working hard, you're working too

We do it every day

For every minute I have to work

I need a minute of play

Now listen
I wanna shake, I wanna dance
So count it off one, two, three
I hear the beat, I'm in a trance
No better place to be

Daytime, nighttime, anytime
Things go better with rock
I'm goin' twenty four hours a day
I can't seem to stop


Turn up the radio

I need the music, gimme some more

Tiffany Morey

Smell the Roses

Posted by Tiffany Morey Feb 21, 2014

This time of year it is easy to forget about some of the things that make being an ag teacher great. Between applications for degrees and proficiencies to CASE grants to trying to re-work lesson plans due to snow days, its a rough time for us. I know that I am guilty of focusing on the negative of everything I need to get done and less on the positive of how lucky I am to have a job that I love. FFA Week caused me to take a step back and "smell the roses" and appreciate all of the wonderful perks of being an ag teacher and FFA advisor. Below are some of my favorite "roses" growing in my ag teaching garden.

 

Promising new members who make the future of FFA look bright.

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The middle school Discovery Degree recipients at our annual Discovery and Greenhand Degree Banquet.

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The freshmen Greenhand Degree recipients at our annual Discovery and Greenhand Degree Banquet.

 

Great community and FFA Alumni support of the chapter and program.

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We packed the cafeteria with nearly 90 guests for our banquet. The FFA Alumni and parents set and cleaned up and provided all of the food. Talk about amazing supporters!

 

Administrators and co-workers who are behind the program 100% and who are committed to it's success.

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Our superintendent trying his hand at milking the cow SHR style.

 

An amazing officer team.

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Members who want to improve their leadership skills and represent their chapter with pride.

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Members who truly love FFA and embrace the FFA spirit.

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Thoughtful fellow owls.

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Some legitimate roses (and other flowers) that served as our banquet centerpieces.

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The power of the blue and gold and it's ability to unite students.

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Hope everyone had an enjoyable and fun FFA Week! Try to find some time to "smell the roses" of your own program and appreciate the little things that make what we do the best job in the world.


-TM

President Obama visited McGavock High School last Thursday, January 30. In order to share a very out-of-the-ordinary day in the life of this ag teacher, I'd like to share with you a photo journey of things that happen when the President visits your high school. (If you're interesting in the White House video, you can check it out here - President Obama Speaks on Education from Nashville, TN | The White House)

Lots of media attention is focused on your high school and why they chose you over the school down the road. Be prepared for a mixture of commendation and anger.

(Note: People may give you some undue praise. Because this is my first year at my school, I've only had about 6 months of work put in. The reason for his visit was to congratulation the Academies model and encourage it in other schools. If you are unfamiliar with Academies, they are essentially small learning communities centered around CTE classes. This model is what Mr. Obama said all high schools should be like. I know there are many different political stances to take on the current administration, but I have to say, that's a point in his favor.)

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You will have the privilege of being able to help choose who can attend.

McGavock High School has over 2,000 students, and only 600 could attend. Our 10 officers represented us.

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You will get a snazzy ticket that no one actually looks at or takes from you.

If you're into scrapbooking, you'll probably get really excited about including this.

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Your last class of the day will gawk at protesters outside your classroom window.

This crowd will grow past this point and be audible from your room.

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You could wait outside for an hour and a half in the cold in order to go through security.

You may leave your jacket in your classroom on the other side of the school, because the student council sponsor may mistakenly tell you that jackets aren't allowed inside. The plethora of emergency vehicles and news vans will entertain you.

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You will enter the already packed, freshly-painted gym and see the PE teachers sneaking up to the best spot, and you will follow them.

Your kids will wave to you while you take a picture (they are all turned looking up towards me in this one), but as you will soon find out, they're crafty and won't stay in that spot for long.

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You will start getting texts from folks watching at home who notice your students and their jackets are on TV.

You will be immensely proud of them for being smart enough to back up to the ropes so that can happen. The ladies are even smart enough to pull their hair forward so all of the jacket shows.

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Regardless of your political affiliation, you realize that CTE is getting a huge shout-out from the Commander-in-Chief, and it makes you applaud frequently.

You also get pretty excited when your students are just feet from the President, in OD. They take adorable selfies for Instagram,

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You also take some selfies.

Including a Secret Service selfie. Notice the earpiece and cool pin.

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When it's all over, you will load up some of those students, who at this point had been standing for about 4 hours, and drive them another hour away to compete in the second level of Extemporaneous Speaking, Prepared Speaking, and Job Interview CDEs. They will be so exhausted that they may not be on their A game, but they make you proud regardless. There is no picture of this event because it's a miracle we even made it to the contest. (To the teachers of the Southern Section in Middle TN, especially those at Eagleville and Oakland - thank you for waiting.)

When you get home and have some time to breath, you watch the recorded news footage and  get excited when one of the stations talks about your program for an entire minute.

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If you're like me, you'll end the experience on a nerdy note and use a stopwatch to add up all the time that your students or their jackets were on TV.

Between 4pm and 6pm on the day this happened, on the 3 major networks? 40 minutes, 33 seconds.

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You will think back to all of the people who made fun of you for going to an urban school and joked that they would "see you in the hospital" because you might get shot.


You will then resist the urge to email all of those people a picture of the President in your gym, talking about why your high school and school district rocks.


You will reflect back to August when your students didn't know what FFA was and had never seen a blue jacket, and you will say it was a pretty darn good day.

Today I took a field trip with my middle schoolers, and it occurred to me that I haven't really talked about my adventures in teaching this younger age group of ag students. Robin McLean told me for years how much fun it was, and I always thought it would be something I'd like to try. Now that I've had the chance to teach them for several months now, I've realized that she is exactly right and they are tons of fun to work with!

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Some of my marvelous middle school ag students.

 

Prior to my becoming a 7th-12th grade ag teacher in September, I had very little experience with middle schoolers. In fact, the last time I had spent any amount of time with middle schoolers was when I was a student in middle school. Sure, I had spent time with Robin and her students at FFA events, but I had never taught or even observed a middle school ag class. However, instead of being nervous about teaching an unfamiliar age group, I looked at it as a fun challenge.

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My attitude on teaching middle schoolers for the first time.

 

From the moment I met my first rotations of 7th and 8th grade ag, I knew I was hooked on teaching middle school ag. Their eagerness to learn and try new things was a refreshing change from the attitudes that high school students sometimes have. They loved learning about ag and FFA, and were always eager to please. The middle school FFA chapter quickly gained 10 new members, and we had a great showing at our first CDE.

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Trying out a cool new soil data app on the iPads.

 

Now that I've been at this for a few months and am in my 2nd and 3rd rotations of my classes, my love for teaching middle school ag has only grown. While not every student is a delight all the time, overall they are a very rewarding group of students to work with. They ask great (and sometimes not so great) questions, and seem to take pride in their work. I've been challenging them with activities from CASE AFNR and every time I think that it might be too hard for them, they amaze me and do something fantastic with the lab or project they are working on. I regularly have students from former rotations stop in to say "hi" and I make it a point to visit them during lunch at least once a week.

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Getting the "dirt" on what's in soil.

 

To me, offering middle school ag is critically important to the future of ag education. By "hooking" them young, and giving them a firm foundation of ag and FFA concepts, they are better prepared to be stellar ag students and FFA members in high school. They learn the importance of teamwork and leadership at an early age, and are able to spend more years learning the ag science skills needed for a future career in agriculture. They also have more time to develop an SAE and their resumes, which can lead to them finding internships and scholarships in high school. But, the most important thing about middle school ag is that it serves as a type of "Insurance" for getting students in high school ag classes and keeping programs open. As long as we can get them interested in ag education and FFA at the middle school level, it is more likely that they will continue their studies in high school. They help keep the numbers in ag classes up and make it more likely that our programs will be around for years to come.

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Future ag scientist in the making!

 

Even though teaching middle school is awesome, I still LOVE teaching high school ag the most. However, teaching middle school has given me new purpose to when it comes to being a better ag teacher. It's reinvigorated my desire to continually provide high quality ag education to my students and to make what I teach as innovative and relevant to the real world as possible. If I can do these things, my students will have the opportunity to have a wonderful ag ed and FFA experience from day 1. Hope everyone is have a great new year so far. Make it the best one yet, and be the best ag teacher you can be! Look for S'Morey soon!

 

-TM

Wes Crawford

How Many Chances Left?

Posted by Wes Crawford Jan 7, 2014

http://www.40chances.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/40-chances-cover.pngSo I read that book that came in the mail the other month.

 

I'll be honest, when I received an email last fall from National FFA at the tail end of my prep period saying a free copy was being sent to every chapter regarding the fight against hunger, without paying much attention to who the book was written by, as the electronic note added to the 14,997 other ones stockpiled in my inbox (don't tell my technology director), I didn't give it much thought.

 

And when my copy of '40 Chances' arrived, it looked reminiscent of a trendy Malcolm Gladwell cover, with a nice-short-catchy-title-on-a-stark-white background, and an author's name under the author's name - a sure sign they needed a person recognizable on book to sell it, and a name under that to actually write it, right?

 

But it had actually only sat a couple days when I saw a mention here on CoP about the meaning behind the title - a farmer only has forty chances in their lifetime to get it 'right;' only forty tries of planting, growing, managing and harvesting crops to achieve their best result.  And I was intrigued.

 

So in December, I read it. Quickly.  And you should to.

 

A closer inspection revealed this is truly Howard G. Buffett's book - and the name under his name in his son Howard W. Buffett, not an assisting nameless author.  And quite frankly, these gentlemen know what they are talking about.  Beyond the simple and brilliant premise of 'forty chances' and how it applies to the great work he and his family are engaged in with their lives, the even more engaging and complex concept of sustainable agriculture is examined at length, and how we can indeed feed the world.

 

It is clear that Mr. Buffett is an agriculturalist and has the heart and influence of an agricultural educator on a grand scale - passionate about his industry and intent to help others realize the purposes and practices in which we can truly and sustainably feed the world.  The more I read the more I appreciated the great work his foundation and others are doing in realistically accepting the hunger challenge on a global scale - while recognizing our own challenges at home - with practical and tested methods.

 

There are a hundred lesson plans in this book, wrapped up in the Buffetts' forty stories.  From the global challenges to differing cultures, around inquiry-based approaches to solutions and problem solving or the concepts of organic and genetically modified crops, or the leadership lessons found in his journeys, the applications to our agricultural science classrooms and FFA chapters from this collection of valuable experiences seemed to be written for our profession.  While I'm sure every person would gain great insight from reading this, as an ag teacher I was continually blown away by how many times I realized how perfectly it fit with what we try to do every day.

 

How are you using your chances?  As educators, we have forty at best and most likely less to make the most of it.  I'm already into number seven - the perspective I've gained about what I'm doing this year, this month, or even this week really emphasizes the importance of the today.  And just like that one pass on the tractor through the field in that one day affects the whole year's crop - and that farmer' chance - the lesson we taught this morning was our one chance to create knowledge, understanding, and application in our students' minds this year; we may not teach that lesson or unit again until 12 months from now.  And for those students in our class today - maybe they will experience it never again. Now how well are you using your chances?  No pressure.

 

I hope Mr. Buffett uses every chance to get another person to take a ride in his combine, understand the importance and complexity of today's agriculture, and become another advocate to help in the virtuous and vital mission of feeding the world.  I am hopeful of our chances, and I didn't even need to make a pass around the field to be on board.  But that is one combine ride I most certainly wouldn't pass up.

 

May your rows be straight and the rains timely, sir.  And let us all continue to help every person understand the importance and purpose of agriculture.

 

 

READER RESPONSE:  How are you using your chances to best influence the public and your students?

I rarely make resolutions. I tried last year while I was engaged and not even the prospect of being shoved into white dress in front of all of my friends and family and taking hundreds of pictures could persuade me from going to the gym or putting down the Dr. Pepper. But since I love my job, I think this year I can manage to keep some ag teacher resolutions. Enjoy them, hold me accountable to them, make some of your own.


Just don't judge my

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addiction.


Resolution Number 1:

Tone down the perfectionism.

This is my planner...I can only write in my planner using the designated planner pen...

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Being a perfectionist may very well be an unwritten prerequisite for entering an agriculture classroom. I could have showed a better video clip for that lesson intro... My classroom could have better wall decorations... the FFA bulletin board hasn't been changed in 3 months... My CDE team needs more work... The lab is in rough shape... I could have handled that issue on the officer team better... I need to hear that speech one more time...

 

I've often heard the quote, "Comparison is the thief of joy", but for me, the culprit here is perfectionism. It's ok to leave the shop in a mess sometimes, or submit a student-written Ag Issues portfolio that isn't going to win any major awards. Going home and worrying about something can't magically change it, so I resolve to sometimes take a deep breath, step away and be content with imperfection. Even imperfection in myself, which transitions well into...

Resolution Number 2:

Suck at something and embrace it.

This is me struggling with chemistry,

another something that I suck at.

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The English teacher may call me about a plant issue and I have to admit that I had maybe 2 plant classes during my entire educational career. I know enough to expose my students to it (aka the "knowing a little about a lot" syndrome), but I will finally shout it from the mountaintop: I am not a plant person.  I dreaded teaching Greenhouse Management. I had two houseplants in my dorm in college and they died slow and painful deaths. I just like animals. They're cuddly and/or tasty.  So when the English teacher is disappointed because I had little insight into why that bug won't stop messing with her Azaleas, I will try not to feel shame and direct her to some good websites for help.

 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must also admit... I'm bad at SAEs. FFA is my passion but every time I introduce freshman to SAEs I die a little inside because it isn't a perfect presentation (but like I said, I'm working on that, too). When you look at the list of accomplishments I've coached my students to, there is only one SAE-related one in 5 years of teaching. It's hard to talk about that when I'm a perfectionist because I wouldn't want my fellow teachers to think, heaven forbid!, I'm not the quintessential ag teacher. But refreshing things happen when you suck at something and embrace it. In admitting your area of weakness to another teacher, you may be surprised to hear, "Really? I actually love SAEs. I have some stuff to help you. I suck at teaching soils, do you have anything cool for that?" Which leads to my next point...


Resolution Number 3:

Share and share alike.

Don't know if this better illustrates the perfectionism or the sharing - my CDE files where I keep good stuff.

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An inherent part of our job is competition. But is there a reason that we can't have some cooperation in there, too? Many of my fellow teachers have been exceedingly kind in sharing things with me, and I happily share anything I have, but...


More than a few times, there have been teachers who mention being awesome at something and in the same breath uttering, "But I can't share that with ya."  Let's just remember that our ultimate purpose to bring success, not necessarily a championship, to students. All students. My students, your students. So if that could happen from me emailing you my top-secret, high-tech, one-of-a-kind study guide for Parliamentary Procedure, then check your inbox.

Resolution Number 4:

Be purposeful about being grateful.

Owl thank you notes are a good way to go.

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This one is simple but possibly the most measurable. I work with so many helpful, enthusiastic people that I often hear myself thinking, "Thank goodness for my Principal." But do I ever actually say that TO her? Probably not enough. I like mail and cards, so I often write thank you notes. I love baking, so cookies are good too. Sometimes an email just to say, "I really appreciated the way you stood up for the agriculture department during our meeting today." could mean the world. I typed that in about 5 seconds so... I have no reason not to be purposeful with my gratitude this year.


Resolution Number 5:

Professional Development is my friend.

Apply in December of 2014 for NATAA. You won't regret it!

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Last year I submitted my application to the DuPont Agriscience Ambassador Program and completely forgot all about it. I was accepted and as I packed up for my trip last June, I started getting anxious. I could stay home and get things done, what if I don't make friends with anyone this week, will this PD even be worth it? Going through that week in June changed my outlook on teaching forever. It should be the training every agriculture teacher receives before they're in the classroom. I am now a less anxious, happier teacher because of it. So let's resolve to broaden our horizons and remember that PD is a two letter abbreviation, not a four letter word.

Resolution Number 6:
Slow down and enjoy the little things.

Go ahead and pretend like you didn't cry when you watched this movie.

Enjoy the small things!

This is important, even if it's the last one. I talk about this the most with my fellow teachers. How will I have children and still teach? How do I spend enough time with my husband if 50% of my Saturdays are busy with FFA?  How can I enjoy doing something totally unrelated from work when the deadline for State Degree applications is in two weeks and they are still in rough shape?


Back away from the computer slowly and just say no.The emails can wait. The applications will get done. They always get done every year even though we always panic, right?  But children are not young forever. When I finally have one or two, they are only going to have a few years to wear a massively oversized soccer jersey and run clumsily down the field only to make exactly 0 goals. That movie my husband wants to see? It's only in the theater for a few weeks, and it's just not the same when you aren't shoving extremely over-priced popcorn into your mouth in public.


For all the other perfectionist, type A agriculture teachers who suck at something and spend lots of time stressing out over our jobs because we love it so much...


Let's enjoy the little things both in the classroom and at home in 2014.

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