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A Day In the Life of an Ag Teacher

243 Posts
Tiffany Morey

Blue Light Special

Posted by Tiffany Morey Oct 22, 2014

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


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


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


The DNA Dance

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


Pumpkin Flowers

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


Perfect Plates

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


Lettuce Rejoice

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


Chroming Out

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


The Blue Light is On

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


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


Until next time,


-TM

Matt Eddy

What do you do?

Posted by Matt Eddy Oct 8, 2014

Sometimes I wonder about things...

 

What do you do when it all becomes too much? 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

[he makes the shot and the spectators applaud]

Fast Eddie: How can I lose?

What's your favorite way to recharge?

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

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Leave doors open afterwards.


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

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


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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

Happy fall all.  See you in Louisville!

 

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

Tiffany Morey

Star Quality

Posted by Tiffany Morey Sep 7, 2014

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Shining like stars at our FFA Car Wash!

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

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The FFA Star Chart

 

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

 

-TM

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

 

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


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


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


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

 

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

 

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

Matt Eddy

Holy Summertime Batman!

Posted by Matt Eddy Jun 30, 2014

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

 

Aside from various Career Development events --

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

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another for Horse Judging, Floriculture and Nursery Landscape

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-- and Officer Retreats and DLCCO training,

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Tiffany Morey

The Balancing Act

Posted by Tiffany Morey Jun 12, 2014

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

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


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

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

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State Convention 2014

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


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


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Hard work paying off


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

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


-TM

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


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




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

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#adorablegoatinasweater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We fostered kittens! Simba was a class favorite.

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

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

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

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

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

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