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A Day In the Life of an Ag Teacher

255 Posts
Tiffany Morey

The Long Day Is Over

Posted by Tiffany Morey Jun 15, 2015

Graduation is tonight and caps off the end of a very long year. While there were many successes, there are still many things that need to be improved for the program. However, I made it through the most difficult year of my teaching career thus far, and things are looking bright for next year. When things get tough, it is hard to remember that teaching ag really is a rewarding and important job, and although it might not feel like it at times, we really are planting the seeds of the future and inspiring others to pursue a future in agriculture.

 

The Successes

  • Seniors going into ag-Of the 7 FFA seniors graduating this year, 6 are going on to study agriculture in college! This is very exciting for them and the future of our field, and we wish them the best of luck as they pursue careers in animal science, dairy science, livestock management, landscaping, and veterinary medicine.
  • 1st State Officer-At this year's State Convention, our chapter had it's first member EVER in it's history (60+years) be elected to state office! We are extremely proud of her accomplishments and she is going to do a great job as the 2015-2016 New Jersey FFA State Treasurer!
  • Garden State Stars-This year we had a whopping 7 members receive their Garden State FFA Degrees. We also had members take home the awards for Star State Farmer and Star State in Agribusiness, and both of them will be continuing on to the Big E in September to earn more recognition for their hard work and outstanding SAEs.
  • Winning CDEs-For the first time in many years, South FFA had a winning CDE team. The Ag Mechanics team took first in their event at the state level, and while they won't be going on to represent NJ at nationals, we are still proud of them! We also had the individual winner of 2 different CDEs as well.

 

The Improvements

  • New classroom facility-Goodbye ag shop and hello ag science lab! After years of making it work in the outdated, overcrowded, and messy ag shop, the walls are coming down this summer as it gets renovated and turned into a state of the art ag science laboratory and classroom. Gone are the days of shop tables, clutter, and teaching in the school furniture and equipment storage room. Come September, the room will be outfitted with new desks, lab tables, sinks, cabinets, counters, and technology, and will be the facility we need to continue to offer CASE. I can't wait!
  • CASE Food Science and Safety-Floral Design has been officially removed from the curriculum, and is being replaced by CASE Food Science and Safety. Student interest in this class is high, as we have filled not one, but two sections of this new course! Close to 30 students have already enrolled and numbers continue to increase. I'm headed to MN in July for training, and am looking forward to teaching this exciting new class.
  • Grants-Thanks to grants from the NJOAE/NJDA and a county scholarship foundation, we were able to order everything needed for our CASE classes next year and to outfit and furnish the new classroom. It is good to know that next year's students will have the tools and equipment that they need to succeed.

 

This year may not have been the best ever, but it was a good learning experience. I'm glad it's over, and am looking forward to the summer to relax and reflect. Have a fun and safe summer!

 

-TM

Matt Eddy

Grading - Part Deux

Posted by Matt Eddy May 21, 2015

Maybe you caught the last time I was talking about my grading 'walk-about' -- if not - here -> My kid got a what??

 

I had been studying, researching, reading, contemplating for a couple years prior to Fall of 2013 -- so don't think this was a whim.  No one forced it upon me (see below) and I felt it was necessary part of my getting better at my craft.

 

I thought I would report back some of my findings:

  1. Doing something because you want to, as opposed to a school mandate, is way more fun. (Crazy, I know)  My reflection into my grading practices was something I wanted to do, not something that was pushed down from on high -- I suppose that makes all the difference.  I'm probably ahead of the curve.  SBG is coming - it's just a matter of time.
  2. What do you do with Tommy/Sally when they don't learn -- are all students able to learn?  Should they?  If they don't - what do we do then as educators?  Can a student get more than one try at demonstrating their learning?? Can a student demonstrate their learning in a different manor? How does this affect the 'assembly line' approach to education?  Paradigms might need to be shifted and re-aligned.  How can education be more effective for EVERY student.
  3. The Game of School -- If you are like me (and let's hope you aren't) I've been playing this game of school for a while.  The grading part was just the encore.  I wonder to myself now - did I really learn all that much in school or was I just good at parrotting the answer the teacher wanted?
  4. Who moved the cheese? -- Kids are very willing to go with it - parents, not so much.  We have really put a lot of emphasis on GPA.  Maybe more than I am willing to be comfortable with.
  5. Research - Ken O'Conner (@kenoc7) and Rick Wormeli (@rickWormeli2) will certainly give you something to think about. I suppose someone with more letters behind their name than I can give an educated opinion on the research, but the best stuff I have found is from practitioners. It certainly takes some time to ground the theory in your day-to-day practice. I'm still working on it.
  6. Doing What We Have Always Done -- why do we grade the way we do? Ever wonder to yourself??  Is it because it is what we know from being student?? Changing a thought process on something so ingrained in education could be defined as kicking a sacred cow.  But it might be one that needs it.  Does our grades accurately reflect what a student has learned? Or are they clouded with a multitude of confusing issues.
  7. Get rid of -- zero's, late points being docked, extra credit, extra credit for bringing in kleenex, weighting, averages, group grades et al -- the list goes on.  I am ashamed to say I used to do some very bad practices.
    1. Who do you want packing your parachute? The kid with an 83% average, the one who got 100% proficient by the end of training, or the one who got an A because they mopped the floor every Friday after class for extra credit??
  8. Do you have a grading culture or learning culture? -- are kids more interested in learning for it's own sake or doing whatever it is we deem them to do to get the grade they want.  It kinda makes you think a bit about the culture we have created in school.  I would much rather teach in a learning culture.  Maybe that's why I am so intrigued with the SBG grading systems.

 

What a long strange trip it's been.  After some re-tooling this summer, I hope to be almost fully immersed in a SBG system.  There are lots of schools you can look to for examples and help.

 

Maybe this summer is a good time to engage in professional discussion around grading practices.  C'mon in - the water is fine.

Tiffany Morey

By Choice

Posted by Tiffany Morey May 5, 2015

In a former blog post, I described how I became an ag teacher by chance. Getting into the profession happened by chance. Staying in the profession was a choice.

 

This year was the most difficult of my career thus far, and I seriously considered leaving the profession. I know this isn't something that a Teach Ag blogger should say, but it's something that every ag teacher considers at least once in their career. Ag teachers lead very busy and stressful lives, and the burnout rate is high. I came very close to being a part of that statistic.

 

I thought last year would be the hardest one I faced here in my new job. I was teaching in a new school, living in a new place, was very different from the former teachers, I needed to form a rapport with a whole new group of students, the curriculum I taught was more rigorous, the FFA chapters hadn't been active in past years, and the classroom I inherited was a mess. Every day was a struggle and fraught will new challenges. It couldn't possibly get any worse, right? Wrong.

 

This year dawned with its own new set of challenges and difficulties. While the FFA chapters had shown great improvement, the students and I had developed great rapport, I was no longer new to the school and the area, and students enjoyed CASE, I was still teaching in the ag garage and did not have a proper facility for what I was teaching. Teaching in a small school made it pertinent to constantly market my classes and find students to take them. While they were interested, they only had so many openings in their schedules and many, many choices of classes to take. My new, more modern way of teaching (CASE) and managing the FFA chapter (AET) also did not sit well with members of the community. They constantly compared me to the old teacher, and criticized the job I was doing. It made me doubt myself and my abilities as a teacher, and scramble to find ways to try and please them. I also was not getting much help when it came to being an FFA advisor, and the stress of managing 2 chapters began to take its toll. Every molehill and small problem began to feel like a mountain, and I became overwhelmed. I was devoting all of my time to my job, and very little to myself. It seemed as if there was nobody to help, and there was no way I could ever get everything done by myself. I was stressed to the max and it started to affect my health and well-being. The only solution seemed to be quitting teaching ag and finding a new job.

 

Thankfully, some good friends stepped in and helped me prioritize and seek the help and guidance I needed to persevere and succeed as an ag teacher. The administration approved plans to remodel the classroom for next year into a real lab, and we got a grant to furnish and outfit it properly. Guidance is behind me and has done a great job marketing my classes. While the numbers still aren't fantastic, there is a push to make the CASE classes count for science credit, which will help solve the numbers problem. I got a great final observation from my principal, which reaffirmed my belief that I am an effective ag teacher. And while I may never satisfy the members of the community to expect the program to be "like it used to be", I've learned to grow a thicker skin and know that there are enough good, helpful people who are supportive of me. I've gotten better at asking for help, and not being afraid to seek assistance in solving problems.

 

Choosing to stay in the profession was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. However, I'm glad I did. As much as teaching ag makes me crazy and can be tough, I can't imagine doing anything else or anything as meaningful. I became an ag teacher by chance. I am staying an ag teacher by choice.

 

-TM

Wes Crawford

#PlantSale

Posted by Wes Crawford May 1, 2015

Social media is not really new anymore; I just celebrated a decade of Facebook last year (okay, celebrating's a strong word). So to call it an innovative marketing tool may be a bit behind the times, but it is something neat all the same.  Our Ag Business, Leadership, and Economics (ABLE) class has had a ball with using it to market our plant sale, which is currently in the throes of the event as we write.

 

We've identified hashtags for this year's endeavor - #sutherlinffa and #FFAflowers.  We've even gone so far as to use Facebook post boosting on a very limited basis to see what we can accomplish.  The clever thing is that you can really target your Facebook audience you want with the tools available, which makes it great to apply those theoretical marketing plans.  This means geographics, demographics, interests, and more.  Pictures, videos, posts, reshares and more have led to more than one of my students being unfriended by their peers - but loved by their Facebooking grandmothers - I'm sure.  But we've also cracked 6,000 post views in the past 48 hours within 25 miles of our greenhouse - and Facebook tracks such data for you!

 

With that, here at the end of the process, I feel like you could also use social media to chart the emotional rollercoaster these 20 students have under gone the last few months. Most are not of agricultural origins, so the idea of raising a crop, tending to all its needs, surviving disasters, and more have been all new experiences.  And like other teenagers, they tend to blurt said experiences and feelings to the world.

 

So, while I have no data to back it up, here are the hashtags I predict you might see appended to Tweets and status updates over the course of the past five months to now:

 

https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/11148471_904555759600477_4038066119129324383_n.jpg?oh=d17f1608216993bd1798c5ffc6b9bbbd&oe=55D3F2EC&__gda__=1438738566_9df481a3b62475305d9fe2e63db22927

In January:
#greenhousecleaning
#lookssogood
#ihatespiders

 

In early February:
#plantsarrivingtomorrow
#soexcited
#greenthumb


In late February:
#plantinglikeaboss

#plugsfordays

#plantskeeparriving

#splinterfingers


In March:

#pinchinghurts

#cantfeelmyfingers

#someonehidethesoilbin

#tooshorttohangabasket

#wheresthesoilbin?

#blackthumb

 

https://scontent-lax.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xtp1/v/t1.0-9/11124502_902667286455991_8428207246696784393_n.jpg?oh=4127a447ebab6f29ccadd2bb263397f9&oe=55D9EFFF

In early April:

#wateringneverends

#stillwatering

#hopingtheydrownsoidonthavetowater

#ihateaphids

 

In mid April:

#ladybugqueen

#aphidbusters

#STILLWATERING

#ijustsweptthere

 

In late April:

#plantsaletomorrow

#forgoodnesssake #pleasetakethem

#whowassupposedtowater?

#greenhouseburn

 

In May:

#imissmyflowers

 

Enjoy the spring. Keep on #tagging.

 

 

What would your students tag?  What would YOU tag your posts with?  #youcanleadastudentowater #butyoucantmakethemwaterlongenough

Have you ever eaten salad off of a pipette? Have you ever met the Blues Brothers during a fancy dinner in the middle of a museum? Have you ever listened to bagpipes in the lobby of a beautiful old hotel? Let me explain...

 

The summer of 2013 was awesome for a lot of reasons, and my week in Maryland at the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy was one of them. This program single-handedly saved my teaching career and I'm thankful every day that I was part of it. Because of the Ambassador program, a few weeks ago I found myself lucky enough to be presenting at the National Science Teachers Association Convention in Chicago with some of my fellow ambassadors. During my flight, during my taxi ride to the hotel, and essentially during the entire trip I just kept reflecting on how amazingly blessed I was to be there. There had been a domino effect that lead me to being in an amazing hotel in downtown Chicago surrounded by fantastic people, and it was not lost on me... what if I had not applied for NATAA at all? Or had just forgotten? Or applied a year later?

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Forgive my country girl rambling, but Chicago is the biggest city I've ever been to and it kind of blew my mind. While Jeana and Christa shopped for shoes on Thursday, I just stood on the sidewalk and took in how tall the buildings were. (I also must be approachable and/or friendly-looking, because during that time, more than one person asked for directions.) It was pretty exciting to eat real Chicago-style deep dish pizza, since I basically consider pizza a food group.


After lunch the group walked around downtown and I got to talk more with Jessica Jones (who is the 2015 George Washington Carver Agriscience Teacher Award winner!). We talked about the fancy shopping in Chicago and I mentioned that I had never seen a pair of Louboutin shoes in person (the expensive ones with red on the bottom of the sole). A little while later, Jessica insisted we check out Neiman Marcus, but never mentioned why. Since I knew I wouldn't be able to afford anything, I was eager to just get in and get out. As we glided up the escalator, she led me to a corner of the third floor and... tons of beautiful Louboutin shoes! I had met Jessica just hours before and she had already helped me check something off my bucket list. Ag teachers are probably the friendliest people in the country.


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That night we were treated to an amazing dinner in the middle of the Museum of Science and Industry, where we enjoyed salad appetizers on a pipette (the dressing had to be squeezed from the pipette, how cool is that?) We also were able to celebrate the careers of Phyllis Buchanan and Peggy Vavalla, two women from DuPont who love teachers. (And the famous PJ of course, but luckily she isn't retiring soon!)


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The next day I was able to witness some of the other ambassadors in action, walk around the expo, and work the DuPont Challenge Booth with Jeana. I can't count how many times I said, "Have you heard of the DuPont Challenge?" (By the way, have you? ) It was refreshing to connect with so many science teachers who were eager for opportunities for their students. 


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I already mentioned that ag teachers are the friendliest people, but I also think they're the most fun. On Friday night we checked out a piano lounge, something I wouldn't have thought to do on my own. Loved it!


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On Saturday, I had the pleasure of helping David Black present a workshop on DuPont's Food Security Index and how teachers can utilize the information in their classroom. Coming from an agriculture perspective meant that my views could have clashed with the room of science teachers, but I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and walked away with some new contacts who were interested in agriculture-based lessons focused on food security.


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That Saturday was St. Patrick's Day, and Chicago is well-known for their celebration. The river was turned green, the streets were filled with people wearing green, and there were even live bagpipe players in our hotel. On the way home, I was able to eat lunch with David, who was one of my Ambassador Lead Teachers. I have such a great admiration for him, and it was nice to get to know him even better. Also, thank goodness he was kind enough to wait 40 minutes in airport security while TSA kept checking me for some kind of chemical substance on my clothes (maybe I had gotten too close to the river and whatever they use to turn it green? )


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When I first set out to be an agriculture teacher, I never knew it would take me to places beyond the normal conventions and camps. Even during some busy weeks here back home preparing for state convention and a busy April, that trip to Chicago reminds me that I truly, 100%, without a doubt... do what I love, and love what I do.

 

Find me on Twitter and Instagram - @jlumpffa

 

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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?

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