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.