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A Day In the Life of an Ag Teacher

269 Posts
Wes Crawford

Lost and Found

Posted by Wes Crawford Jun 17, 2016

Greetings Ag Teachers.  After a few...years...of build up, I have finally had time at the end of the school year to conduct a deep(ish) clean of the SHS Ag Room.  As such, a number of items have been discovered amongst the layers, file cabinets, desk drawers, countertops, etc - mainly around/in my desk.  Please review to see if any of these items below belong to you.  What's that?  It wouldn't make sense for you to have lost items in my room?  Well, it doesn't make sense for several of these items to be in my classroom, but here we are. 


For your yard sale shopping pleasure:


  • One Christmas Tree Stand.
  • Twelve inch carving knife.  I think my TAs borrowed it from somewhere else in the school.  I am not sure why.  And now I am wondering from where...
  • One red prom dress, in a Loft bag.  Not making this stuff up folks.
  • Two travel coffee cups, used.  I don't drink coffee, so...
  • Cardboard box containing 74 individual packages of Sun Chips.
  • Nine commemorative water bottles.  All take-home items from various events.
  • Five really important required Professional Development binders.  Contents: unknown.  But pristine condition.
  • Four cell phone charger cords.  I'm guessing some kids are missing those.
  • Algebra I textbook, US History textbook, Civics textbook.  Because that makes sense.
  • Lesson planners, 2005-2007.  Owner:  Veril Nelson...my predecessor.
  • One tape dispenser, labeled 'High School Office'.  Except it's not my high school office's.  Pleading the Fifth.
  • Training spur, left boot.
  • Pair of black Romeos.  Not the same size.
  • Two wall chargers for rechargeable batteries.  Batteries not included.  Seriously, don't know where they are.
  • SHS End of Year Teacher Check Out Sheet, 2013-2014.  Wait, never mind.  That's mine.


Feel free to inquiry if you wish to claim one of these items.  I am rather curious as to where the prom dress came from.


Enjoy the summer!  Make it count.


Tiffany Morey

Who Are You?

Posted by Tiffany Morey Apr 29, 2016

We all know that ag teachers wear many hats  in their classroom, school, and community. We also know that ag teachers are superheroes, because what other types of teachers juggle so many different classes, topics, SAE projects, community commitments, and everything that comes along with an FFA chapter? Ag teachers spend a tremendous amount of time with their students, and in doing so, have the potential to impact them and influence them in many ways. This leads to the students seeing many different sides of ag educators and all of the different roles they play to do their job. The question is, as an ag teacher, who are you as you assume those roles?

 

Are you a leader or a boss?

Leaders lead by example. They aren't afraid to step in when work needs to be done, or to step up when they need to. They delegate instead of telling people what to do. As ag teachers, we lead our our classrooms and our students on adventures in learning. Sometimes, it may mean explaining or demonstrating the same thing over and over, or pitching in to get a big project done on time. People respect and listen to leaders, and are more likely to work with and for them. In the classroom, teachers who are leaders have the power to impact their students the most. Be a leader, not a boss.

 

Are you an empowerer or an enabler?

When things get tough or we are on a tight deadline, it is easy to just do things for our students instead of waiting for them to do it themselves. But, if we enable our students, they will never learn the life lessons we actually want to teach them. By empowering our students to take risks, keep going when things get difficult, and assisting them in finding solutions to their problems, we are teaching them valuable life skills that they need to be successful adults. Empowering students is difficult, frustrating, and time consuming but it is far more valuable to students than enabling them and doing everything for them.

 

Are you a cheerleader or a fair weather fan?

Cheerleaders support and are there for their teams no matter what. Whether their team wins or loses, they never stop cheering them on. Fair weather fans only support their team when they are winning. If ag teachers were like these fans, their programs would quickly lose students and support. Instead, they must strive to keep cheering for their students and advocating for what they believe in. From preserving ag programs to inspiring others to pursue opportunities like CASE, ag teachers must never stop supporting their home team.

 

Are you a Susie Sunshine or a Debbie Downer?

It's hard to stay positive all the time, but at the same time, it's hard to be around someone who is constantly negative. When things get rough or we get stressed, it's easy to become a Debbie Downer and focus on everything that is going wrong. However, if we stay in this frame of mind, it will become difficult for us to inspire others to pursue a future in agriculture or to convince students to sign up for our classes. Focusing on the positive inspires others to do the same, and creates a healthy classroom and educational environment for our students. They are way more likely to want to work with and learn from Susie Sunshine over Debbie Downer.

 

Are you a rockstar or a one hit wonder?

One hit wonders live on their one success story, while rockstars build on that story to continue to be successful and innovative. It's easy to keep doing the same thing over and over again each year in our classrooms, but as agriculture changes, so must ag teachers. Ag teachers are constantly having to adapt to changes in the field, new technologies, and new demands for what their students need for a career in the field. From incorporating innovative curriculums like CASE, to adding iPads and 1:1 computers in the classroom, they have to keep finding new ways to keep their programs current and interesting to students. Like rockstars, they never stop looking for new ways to be successful and attract new fans.

 

So, who are you? How do you see yourself, and more importantly, how do you students see you? We are all already super heroes just for our choice in profession, so let's strive to become positive empowering cheerleader ag teacher rockstars!


-TM

Tiffany Morey

The 20/20 Experience

Posted by Tiffany Morey Mar 21, 2016

They say that hindsight is 20/20. As the end of my 6th year of teaching looms closer and closer, I've been taking some time to reflect on all of the things I know now that I wish I could go back and tell my new teacher self. While some of the things I've learned had to come with time, there are a few things that make life and teaching so much easier that I would have loved to have been practicing and doing all along. Turning time would be great, albeit impossible, so I've decided to share them in hopes that a new ag teacher or two will read this and find them helpful as they begin their career. (Please excuse the orientation of some of the photos-despite my best attempt. I could not get them to upload correctly)

 

1. Organize your teaching materials

From cabinets to for each class to labeled files and folders, being organized will save you from wasting time trying to find things.

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2. Provide a designated space for students to submit and keep their work

This will save you (and them) a lot of headaches when it comes to finding assignments that need to be graded. It also helps your students from losing things!

 

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3. Make commonly used items easily accessible and easy to find

This majorly cuts down on the commonly asked question of "where is the (insert item here)?"

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4. Label cabinets for students

Another way to make it easier for the students to find things they need.I like to do it using posters with words on them (ie. the positivity cabinet).

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5. Motivational posters

Totally cheesy, but the students like them for some reason. (Fun fact: I got these 1980s gems from my mom when she retired from teaching.)

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6. Get a class pet

It will make your students happy and the popularity rating of your classes go up.

 

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7. Student bulletin boards

Students like to show off their work. I even let them decorate their board (hence the tie-dye border).

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8. Have your own "personal space" to share info

This is a great way for you to be able to keep track of your teaching schedule, hang things that students make/give you, and post pertinent info like the bell schedule and safety drill protocols.

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9. Hall Passes

Each of my students get 2 of these each marking period to use for anything except the nurse. At the end of the year, they can cash in unused passes for prizes. This has totally reduced the number of students leaving class on a daily basis.

 

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10. Stickers

It doesn't matter how old they are, there is something about getting a sticker that makes students happy.

 

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Hope you all enjoy/are enjoying/have enjoyed your spring break!

 

-TM

Disclaimer: What follows below is one-side of a provocative coin:  Wes and Matt have taken a topic and then divvied up the ‘Point’ side and the ‘Counter-Point’ side.  Neither article necessarily reflects the personal or professional opinions of either Wes Crawford or Matthew Eddy.  Rather, the goal is to generate some professional dialog about what a day looks like in the 21st Century to be an Agriculture Educator. Catch Matt’s flip side here.



Topic: Is Working at McDonalds an SAE project?



And why wouldn’t it be?


How could you think it should be?


Odds are good you fall in one of the two camps above.  For as obvious at it would seem to you, I have no doubt you could quickly find an opponent who is as equally resolute.


Of course, for 11 months of the year, this hardly matters.  We quietly go about our mild business of lesson plans, CDEs, banquets, conferences, meetings, accommodations, state reports, grants, professional development, shop repairs, bus trainings, webinars, and such.  And then degree season hits.


Granted, as we have already taught our students how to keep proper records, and we stressed the importance of regularly documenting the activities associated with their Supervised Agricultural Experiences, it is such a simple thing to generate a State Degree application and hit print, and it’s done.  Right?


I’ll let you wipe the tears (from laughter...or crushing realization) before continuing.


Rather,it is highly likely the ol’ Ag Experience Tracker (AET) servers require twice the electricity during degree/proficiency season than the rest of the year combined, as students scramble to enter all the cattle feed, fair hours, and long-forgotten speaking CDEs that should have been religiously recorded along the way, but somehow the teenage mind overlooked.  That Google Map of active chapters lights up like a Griswold Christmas tree during the month of December.


But I bet those are just my students. Surely not yours.


So at any rate the end of 2015 was like the end of 2014 and the end of 2013, with some gentle/not-so-gentle prodding from their advisor drove my students to submit a slew of delinquent diary entries and get those recordbooks shipshape and crank out their FFA State Degree applications.  Then it’s off to the state degree application review with the fellow advisors in the district.  And then the question comes up:


“We’re going to count working at McDonald’s as an SAE for State Degree?”


Let’s skip the discussion on the suburban-ness of our school particular school district.  I could point out that I have exactly two of 135+ students yearly who have parents who are engaged, full-time, in production agriculture.  Or the fact that the school district boundaries end at the city limits in three directions.  We could pine under the guise of validation that “Well gosh darn it, what else can they do?”  But that is not the point, nor is it the basis of the point of view being defended.


Our traditional view of Supervised Agricultural Experience can be summed up by simply looking at the list of nationally-sanctioned proficiency awards.  Of the 47 awards offered in 2016, a full 27 of them are production agriculture based.  To be fair, this is an improvement over a decade ago.  But for an industry that boasts 25% of the jobs in the US while only a generous 2% of the workforce is involved in production agriculture, then by our own Intro to AFNR PowerPoint statistics we are highlighting the fact that less than one in ten of the future career positions we are dedicated to filling is in production and yet our largest, best defined incentive area for SAE is nearly 60% production based.


Let’s go back to the question - is McDonald’s a legitimate SAE?  I’d propose that we decide by looking at what the experience entails.  A McDonald’s employee has to 1) acquire a food handler’s license, 2) learn procedures for food handling and preparation, 3) work with a variety of other employees, 4) handle and interact with customers, 5) handle money and orders under pressure, and 6) general employability skills.


Let’s compare to a couple other, more ‘acceptable’ SAEs.  If the same student is working at a local farm store as a cashier, it is entirely possible that the only task they may have is retail check out.  Their responsibilities will be 1) handle money, 2) handle customers, 3) demonstrate telephone skills, 4) and general employability skills.  They may never have to have actually know anything technical about the products in the store, but just hand questions to the ones who do.  Or maybe they just carry out feed.  Or maybe they just sweep the floors.  But we would see the job title on the Placement page, and move right along without another thought.  At least the McDonald’s employee had to have a certification to get the job.


The end goal of the ‘fast food’ SAE - or this AST student - is not to enter a lifelong career into fast food work.  But it is hard to argue idea that this student is not currently engaged in a segment of agriculture; it is a bit hypocritical to campaign that agriculture affects everyone who eats if we aren’t willing to be inclusive to those preparing the food, regardless of what the billboard on the building is.


I can’t speak to what happens in your state.  In ours we changed the name to the State FFA Degree from the State Farmer degree some time ago.  That doesn’t demean production agriculture.  But looking at a bigger picture - of preparing students for a diverse array of important careers in a future agriculture industry - can be done many different ways now, as we guide them and motivate them to develop themselves with something as a high school job experience that asks “Would you like fries with that?”.



READER RESPONSE:  Is working at a fast food restaurant worthy of the most prestigious FFA degree earned in high school?  For that matter, does the load out job at the farm store count too?  Make your case in the comments.

Disclaimer: What follows below is one-side of a provocative coin:  Wes and Matt have taken a topic and then divvied up the "Point" side and the "Counter-Point" side.  Neither article necessarily reflects the personal or professional opinions of either Wes Crawford or Matt Eddy  Rather, the goal is to generate some professional dialog about what a day looks like in the 21st Century to be an Agriculture Educator.  Catch Wes's flip side here http://communities.naae.org/blogs/dayinthelife/2016/02/07/would-you-like-fries-with-that-state-degree-pin.


Topic: Is Working at McDonalds an SAE project?


Jim Handy looked with disapproval at the weather report. SNOW -- BLIZZARD -- Lots of it.  He sighed -- A day off is exactly what he needed but not this week.  Proficiencies and State Degrees, contests and officer books were due in 4 days.  And Mr. Handy was going to need every one of them to wrangle those kids and get their record books put into order.  It really should have been done last fall, but in-between homecoming parade floats and preparing for National FFA convention (then dealing with the fall-out when Timmy Timmerson skipped curfew to meet some girls from Nebraska - his father was the head of the Flat Broke Savings and Loan as luck would have it - and it was a long conversation and a long fall for Mr. Handy).  After those red hot coals were put out, it was the end of the semester and grading multiple choice tests took all of Mr. Handy's free time.


Most of the impending degrees were pretty straight forward.  Mr. Handy had lots of kids who showed livestock or worked at the Heartache Co-op - loading customer trucks with bags of feed and fertilizer. Heartache hired them by the handful and paid a whopping $5.25 an hour - good pay for a youngster and this had kept Mr. Handy's students in SAE projects for years. But now students were getting ideas -- and he was having trouble keeping them focused on good Agriculture projects.


Take Elias - he was a nice kid, Handy mused, but not coming from a farm, he was certainly disadvantaged in class. Just last week when they were ear notching paper cut-outs of pigs ears, he asked - "Mr. Handy, why is this important??" -- "Well,..." puffed Handy, "it just is. We've been notching pigs since before I taught this class and we will be notching pigs long after I retire in a few years" -- that Elias was a regular wise-apple sometimes Handy thought.  Even his SAE was an exercise in tolerance.  Elias worked at the new McDonald's that cropped up at the junction of the Interstate bypass and Highway 218.  It was the talk of the town, since otherwise you had to drive 30 miles to have a good meal. Elias was one of two students of Mr. Handy who worked there.  $8.25 an hour! Handy didn't know how they could stand to pay such exorbitant wages to youngsters.  And how was he supposed to explain this SAE to the State Degree board?? Why - it's never been done.  And to compound matters, Elias was the son of old Mrs. Winklefelter who taught college-prep calculus.  And the last time she had caught Handy in the teacher's lounge she had scurried over to him to talk about how excited Elias was to earn his State Degree next year along with his classmates.  Shoot, how was he supposed to work with those kind of expectations?? It's downright uncivil.  He had muttered about looking forward to 'helping' and after grabbing his new "Livestock Showman Monthly" magazine, he made a hasty exit.


As Handy made his way back into the ag room, he noticed a light on the phone - Agh, messages.  He hated that phone.  If he wasn't in, then just call back later... He reluctantly redialed the number and searched his desk for the slip of paper with the code to unlock it. "Dang, fangled nabber flabber's"... he muttered.


When the message finally cued up, it was Farmer Jones, the octogenarian who had a small dairy down by the Old Creek Road.  Turned out the last worker he hired from the local community college wasn't coming back (4th one this month Handy reflected) and Farmer Jones was wondering if he knew of any kids who might want to help around the place a bit. Handy reflected on his classes -- maybe what Farmer Jones needed was some new blood  that he could train the right way to do things around his farm.  Handy made a note to call Farmer Jones back and also wrote down to talk with Elias tomorrow about his SAE -- maybe he could get two crows with the same stone....



As our shortage of agriculture producers continues and the average age of the American Farmer becomes more geriatric - shouldn't agriculture education programs focus on producing more producers?? The entire industry and mankind depends on the few, the proud, the Farmer. 


We don't have a shortage of fast food workers, co-op employees, and the like -- but we do have a shortage of farmers.  Mr. Handy may have agricultures best interests at heart...

Tiffany Morey

The X Factor

Posted by Tiffany Morey Feb 2, 2016

The X factor: something all possessed by all educators, especially ag teachers. It comes in many forms, most notably positive and negative. It can be a wonderful surprise filled with warm fuzzies, or a harsh reality check that makes one question their abilities. The X factor is something that is continually developed throughout one's life and teaching career, and remains with them forever. It shapes the person and professional they become, and has the power to permanently change their life for the good or the bad. The X factor is free, and is something that never expires or runs out.


Wondering what the X factor represents? It is experience. According to Randy Pausch, the author of the phenomenal book The Last Lecture: "Experience is what we get when we didn't get what we wanted."  This quote applies perfectly to teaching agriculture. Oftentimes, we learn our most memorable and life-changing lessons when things don't do the way we plan. Whether we choose to use these things to help us improve, or ignore them only  to keep having the same experience over and over, is up to us.


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Teaching ag can be filled with many negative experiences. First, there those faced by teachers of any subject such as lack of engagement from students, difficulty with classroom management, dealing with tough parents/students, and observations that don’t go as planned. Then, are are those related specifically to what we do: CDE teams not doing as well as expected, FFA officers and members not preparing or fulfilling their commitments, teaching a bunch of different classes all with their own prep, the difficult student clientele put in ag classes, and seeds or plants for the plant sale failing to grow. The list of negative experiences is endless if that is what you focus on.


However, teaching and teaching ag can be filled with endless positive experiences if one simply decides to see them. From a lesson going better than expected to a student mastering a difficult concept when they didn’t think they could to a group of students pulling together to accomplish a task, those great experiences are easily visible.We also are lucky enough to see our FFA members and teams pull off surprise wins and placings, watch officers conquer their fears of public speaking, witness sick animals and plants make miraculous recoveries, and see the looks on our students faces when the lightbulb goes on and they truly become passionate about ag.


The experiences that we choose to focus on can be a tough decision to make and it has the power to either make or break us as ag teachers. While it would be great if all of the good stuff could happen to us right away, sometimes they take time for us to be able to see and appreciate. It’s easy to focus on not getting what we want, but that is also what can cause us to give up and leave our wonderful profession before we find our true talent for it. Like the Rolling Stones said: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might just find, you get what you need.”


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We all have the X factor. We all have the power to use the X factor for great things in teaching ag. How we choose to express it is entirely up to us. Hopefully you will choose to use your X factor to achieve greatness in your classroom and your life.


-TM

Many of you are familiar with the movie Mary Poppins. In one iconic scene, Mary Poppins shows the children her magic carpet bag and much to their amazement, begins pulling out all kinds of crazy items such as as lamp and a plant that they never thought could possibly fit in there. As ag teachers, we aren't all that different from Mary Poppins at times and we often amaze our students with our resourcefulness and our ability to make things happen. We too, possess our own magic bags that contain the necessary items our students need to succeed, whether they be real bags with actual items or our toolkits of knowledge and information.

 

The real Mary Poppins with her magical carpet bag

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I'd like to share the story of my own Mary Poppins bag. While it may not be magical, it is special because it was given to me on the last day of student teaching by my cooperating teacher with the message "every young ag teacher needs a bag to carry all of the important stuff". Over the years, my bag has gotten A LOT of use from being trucked to school everyday and also to FFA events like CDEs and State Convention. It's straps have become frayed, and its print may not be as bright as it was, but it still continues to carry any and all of the things I need to teach ag each day. On CDE days it does double duty and serves as a survival kit for my members with a sewing kit, extra CDE materials, clipboards, calculators, and a place for them to stow their stuff while they are competing. Many of the items in it are mundane and ordinary: lunchbox, wallet, cell phone, chapstick, hair brush, coat/sweater/umbrella etc., but it does have its share of unique things that can be found in it. Please see below for a few of my favorites.

 

 

My Mary Poppins bag

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The keys to everything ag: classroom, school, supply cabinets, Gator, tractor, golf cart etc.

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When accidents happen, ag teachers are prepared.

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You never know when you will need your PPE (not pictured: the ear plugs that are hiding somewhere in the bag)

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A nostalgic reminder of the place where my ag ed journey began.

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For the student (or teacher) that needs a writing utensil at an FFA event: my bag has you covered.

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Sometimes, you just need a reminder.

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If you have the time, please share what is in your Mary Poppins bag for teaching ag. Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday! Keep being the magical and awesome ag teachers that you are!

 

-TM

Do you ever snap into the realization, maybe randomly while you’re in the middle of doing something, that you’re an adult?

 

It happened most recently to me at National FFA Convention. It was 7:00am, I was looking over the wheel of a 12-passenger van, staring at the road, driving into the city with 9 sleepy FFA members in Official Dress in the my rear-view mirror. And it hit me.

I’m in charge.

I’m the adult.

When did that happen?

Does anyone see me over here adult-ing all over the place?

 

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Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being an adult. I plowed through college classes because I was *THAT* ready to graduate, start teaching, and doing “adult” things.

 

 

But sometimes, I look around my classroom and realize that everything that happens within the four walls is completely up to me. Me, someone who considers one of the greatest joys in life to be changing into lounge pants when I get home. Someone who considers pizza a food group. Someone who actively utilized words like “fam, turn up, and totes.” Someone who knows why the Hotline Blings. Someone who thinks 1990 was still 10 years ago. Someone who can’t believe that she’s too old now to apply for MTV’s Real World. I’m kinda like a cat. I’m independent enough to take care of myself but someone should still probably do it for me.

 

 

Sarcasm aside, teaching high school students is really the best of both worlds. I get the wisdom of being a few years older, and the experiences that keep me young. In some cases, they also help me gain perspective.

 

 

*Story time!* Let me tell you what I was doing on the very first day of 2015.

 

 

Over winter break, someone was breaking into our farm and animal lab. Long story short, they were people who were uneducated about agriculture and thought they were doing the right thing, even though they weren’t.  At the time, some locks and other security measures weren’t up to par and it was too easy for someone to jump the chain-link fence and do whatever they wanted in my classroom.

After I discovered their break-in, I was enraged. I decided that I am the adult in the situation, I will take control. So…in a very un-adult fashion, I went a little crazy. I had a feeling these criminals were coming back and I was determined to catch them.

 

 

I switched my SUV out for my husband’s black truck. I put on all black, charged my cell phone, bought a hot cup of coffee, and drove up to school once it had gotten dark. I parked in a side lot that faced our farm but was far enough away to avoid detection (I’m so covert, I’m essentially already in the Special Forces). I turned the engine off and put my hood up over my head in a feeble attempt at making the truck look empty. This couldn’t be a stupid idea because I’m the adult and adults are the ones who make good decisions.

 

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I had been waiting for about 30 minutes when a member of the regional FFA officer team called. They were in Nashville and asked if I was free to meet up for dinner. As their regional advisor, I had gotten really close to them and wanted to catch up, but I explained I was in the middle of a covert operation. I couldn’t abandon my post. They understood.

 

 

I waited… and waited, stewing in my frustration. The area is pretty urban so cars are constantly passing on the road that was to my right. I watched every time someone turned down the road to the school, only to continue past it to the local park.

 

 

UNTIL, a Suburban slowly pulled into the school lot and past my truck. They accelerated until they were directly in front of our farm gates. My adrenaline was pumping as I watched a young male fling open passenger door, jump out, and begin to climb the fence. At this point it was basically Def Con 1. I was thinking I might need to moonlight as a police officer because hot darn, I just caught myself a criminal.

 

 

My hands were shaking as I turned on the engine. My lights hit the perps and they fled, but I pulled up to block the only exit from the parking lot. What now, thugs? My face was bright red with anger as their car got closer. I was about to come face to face with these jokers. What in the world would they look like? Did I scare them, or were they going to confront me??  What gives someone the right to just come into MY classroom and do whatever they wanted?!

 

 

And then the faces in the front seat came into view… the smiling faces of my regional officers.

 


After hearing about my secret mission, they wanted to give me a laugh (and a heart attack) by coming up to school on their way to dinner. Of course, they weren’t really the ones breaking into the lab. But in that moment, teenagers gave me a reality check and snapped me back into being a rational adult. My frustration melted with the massive amount of laughter that echoed off the brick walls of my school building. The anger was replaced with validation and love of some of the best students I’ve ever known. I ended my mission and warmed up back home.



(Don't they look like trouble? I took this picture after I recovered.)

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Soon after, a security camera was installed and locks were changed. Moreover, our community began to embrace our urban farm and we haven’t had any incidents since.

 

 

Whenever I lose perspective, I think back to my covert mission and those awesome kids that remind me that I do what I love, and love what I do.

 

 

Now ... where’s my adult-ing award?

Tiffany Morey

Home Sweet Home

Posted by Tiffany Morey Oct 20, 2015

Last spring, it was announced that the ag classroom would be undergoing a full renovation to make it more ideal for teaching the current course offerings. The classroom hadn't been changed since the school was built back in the 1950s and was still set up for a program specializing in landscaping and ag mechanics/farm machinery maintenance. It was comprised of a large shop area and small classroom outfitted with a random assortment of furniture and equipment that had been recycled from other classrooms.

 

Over the years the maintenance department had taken over much of the shop area to use for storage of supplies and broken furniture, and it was very cluttered and crammed. On occasion, it was also used to store vehicles and it wasn't uncommon to come in in the morning to find John Deere Gators, golf carts, tractors, and even mini vans parked in the middle of my classroom. These vehicular surprises led us to lovingly nickname the room "the ag garage" and led the school to refer to it simply as the ag shop. Thanks to a wonderfully committed administrative team who truly believes in the benefits of agricultural education, and a generous grant from a local donor, the classroom has been completely transformed from the ag shop into the ag classroom. We even have a sign for the door to signify the transformation.

 

However, the move into the new room wasn't without it's share of complications. Renovations were supposed to be completed by August 1st to allow for a month to install the furniture, get the CO, and give me a chance to unpack and move. In a perfect world, this would have allowed for us to start school in our brand new room. The world is not perfect, and the room wasn't even close to being done until the end of September. After several crazy and difficult weeks without a classroom, desk, or computer and having to teach CASE/ag on a cart in a variety of different classrooms, we finally moved in at the beginning of October. The new facility is everything we could have wanted and then some. The students love their new home and having everything they need to learn in a space where they have lots of freedom and flexibility. They were also given a rabbit for a classroom pet from a local family as a "housewarming" present. Gus has quickly become a fabulous addition to our classroom and the students love taking care of him and snuggling with him.  As for me, I am thrilled to finally have a classroom that is outfitted for CASE and not for storing mini vans!


Food Science and Safety students utilizing their new lab facilities

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The view of the new classroom

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The newest member of the classroom-Gus the rabbit!

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Have fun at National Convention to all those who are attending!

 

-TM

NATIONAL CONVENTION TIME!

 

What?  Were you thinking Christmas??

 

As I work through the late night of Conferences, I have been reminiscing on National Convention Trips of the past.  Indulge me.

 

National Convention

1999-2003 -- PRE-digital cameras,

phones and selfies.

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2004

Not my first group, but my first at Southeast Polk.  A great group to travel and learn with.

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2005

Somehow they talked me into stopping at White Castle. Great kids, but the food wasn't up to their level.

I still don't understand Herold and Kumar's rush to get to this place.

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2006

I should have seen this selfie thing

coming a long way off.

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2007

It's the ties that bind us.

Kids always love seeing the National Officer do the Opening Ceremonies -- and saying their part along with them.

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2008

The first and only year (to date) I have missed National Convention and it was to stay home with my sick family. It was surreal to see the bus pull away that morning and not be on it.

I learned a couple things though:

 

1. Sub Plans are made to be used. :-)

 

2. The benefits to a bus trip with multiple chapters are underrated until mayhem rears its ugly head.

 

3. The parent/teacher who went in my place still describes it as one of the best educational experiences he has had in his career.

It left an indelible mark with him.

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2009

When you are 850 miles from home, you make new discoveries.

FFAmily

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2011

The first American Degree since the inception of Southeast Polk in 1964 - and incidentally the first Star over America.

I look forward to the big things that Vivian will accomplish.

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2012

They taught the presenter how to do the 'Proud to be a RAM' sign that they made up.

'Cause... you know... that's how we roll.

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2013

#4 and #5 American Degrees -- I will let them argue about which one was which.

This year Brett (right) will take her own FFA members to their first National Convention.

I hope hers will go as well as mine have.

 

It's a magical time of the year -- harvest is in full swing, the school year is into a groove and it's time to head home -- to see my FFAmily.

 

Stop and say hi -- I'd love to hear from you.

It sometimes takes bad things to make you realize the good things.

 

It is no secret ag programs are community programs.  More so than most teachers, we all have stakeholders engaged in our classrooms, FFA chapters, and SAEs.  It goes the other way as well - we become part of community organizations, leadership, activities, and our neighboring schools.  And colleges.

 

But we don't always give credit to the community-building ag programs can do.  This is more than adding the Alumni, Rotary or Lions clubs, donors, or others who contribute to your program.  It is creating that sense of community in our students.

 

It is opening their eyes to what is possible when a group has common purpose. 

It is connecting your youngest leaders to the most experienced in your town.

It is teaching youth how they can invest and contribute to the world closest around them.

It is living up to the fourth line of the FFA motto.

It is opening doors to opportunities not for personal success, but for the common good.

It is creating the future of your community - the future where people care, where people support, where people make a difference, where bad things can happen and you know we will be okay in the end.

 

We do these things. We can do these things greater. And it is so important.  It does not happen enough, in enough places.  It is not intrinsic anymore, or guaranteed - it must be taught.  It must be nurtured.  It must be modeled.  It must be built so that when it is needed most, it is ready.

 

This was not my intended first post of the school year.  I'm not sure it will even make sense.  But I can't describe how it is when something so heinous happens in a building you've sat in, on a campus you grew up with, down the road you live on, where the students you taught were in class.  I can't do anything about what happened, but I can choose how to respond, and where I will focus. I choose to contribute, in the best way I know how.  And I am so proud of how our part of the world, our towns and our communities, have chosen to respond as well.  It isn't always vogue to admit you've moved back to where you came from.  I've never been more glad to be from here.  And I hope we all live up to the quality of character that has been displayed over the past three days.

 

Don't take for granted the things - big and small - you do for your community by preparing your students.  Continue to build that, with the hearts and minds of those who come into your classroom tomorrow.  Make the world better because you were there, and because those students were with you.  We have been given a powerful tool and an influential avenue with agricultural education and FFA.  Use it.  We all may need it.

 

My community has been tested.  It sometimes takes tough things to make you realize how strong you can be.

 

Our community has proven strong.

 

Matt Eddy

What about you?

Posted by Matt Eddy Sep 10, 2015

"Come inside, the show's about to start

guaranteed to blow your head apart

Rest assured you'll get your money's worth

The greatest show in Heaven, Hell or Earth.

You've got to see the show, it's a dynamo.

You've got to see the show, it's rock and roll ...."

 

Working my way into another school year.  We've made it through the Iowa State Fair and are settling into a school-like routine.

 

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As usual, as Nina Crutchfield once explained to me -- (not the exact quote) "Ag teachers always master something and then move on to something else new. Not really getting rid of the old, but just heaping on the new."

 

I don't suppose this isn't far from my truth. 

 

We've added a drone to the Ag Department (maybe more if some grants get funded) and we haven't seemed to stop doing any of the other old stuff either.

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I have truly enjoyed blogging about a 'Day in the Life of an Ag Teacher' and it's provided a nice cathartic release for my thoughts - odd as they may be.

 

Blogs on Grading 1 & Grading 2, teaching, FFA, the Trials and Tribulations of being an Ag Teacher.  But I wonder --

 

What topics would you like to hear about?  DM me on Twitter @AgEd4ME or message me on CoP or email me matthew.eddy@southeastpolk.org

 

For those about to rock (teach) -- "We Salute You"

Tiffany Morey

Wild Times in MN

Posted by Tiffany Morey Aug 11, 2015

This summer I was able to travel to Minnesota to attend the CASE Food Science and Safety Institute hosted by South Central College. It was by far the neatest and most fun CI I've ever been to, and the people were some of the best I've ever met. Staying at the Center - CVM - Dairy Education Center, University of Minnesota located at New Sweden Dairy, was an unforgettable experience. Watching calves be born 24 hours a day on COW TV was our favorite form of entertainment, and the picturesque scenery around the farm made for some relaxing runs.

 

Not only was the curriculum interesting and something I know my students will absolutely love, but my fellow participants made conducting the APPs tons of fun. Our hosts made sure that we got out to see the area, and planned fun activities such as visiting a local butcher for a tour and tasting, and going out for bowling and laser tag. We found ways to amuse ourselves on the weekend by touring a local brewery, sampling local cuisine, posing with Hermann the German, seeing the largest glockenspiel in MN, and visiting a local ag teacher whose husband keeps exotic animals at the family farm. It was also nice to catch up with old CASE friends like Kimberly Fogle  make new friends, and to finally meet some of the ag teachers I've come to know from CoP like Kellie Claflin in person. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will let them tell the rest of the story. Thanks to Kellie Claflin and The Southern Minnesota Center for Agriculture for letting me use their pictures!

 

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Hope everyone is enjoying their last bit of summer and is feeling refreshed and ready for the year ahead. Good luck as you head back to school!

 

-TM

Jessie Lumpkins

I rest my CASE...

Posted by Jessie Lumpkins Jul 8, 2015

I've mentioned before that I love Instagram, and my new social media love is a little thing called Snapchat. Snapchat lets you send pictures or video to friends that last up to 10 seconds, or post them directly to your "story", only to disappear within 24 hours. I realized that Snapchat is an appropriate analogy for my summer so far. I've had some amazing "snappable" moments that are over now, but they've left their mark on me in the best way possible. (Most of my summer adventures so far have involved CASE. Never heard of it? Check out some info here.)

 

Early in June, I loaded up my CRV (which I lovingly named Idabel) and drove 11 hours to McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana for CASE AFNR. There I met up with Karen Van De Walle, a friend I made last summer at my first CASE Institute. (Josh Day was the other lead teacher, also amazing!) I lucked out when I got her as my co-lead teacher. For those who have gone through CASE or similar intense PD, you know the type of bonds that can happen when you spend 8 hours a day for 8 straight days with the same people. Sometimes, you make new friends. Sometimes, you end up with bad blood when you used to be mad love, TSwift style.

 

But these 10 teachers I met in Louisiana? And the bond that we made those 2 weeks? It was amazing from the start, and only got better. Mad love forever. Sorry everyone else, but the casecowboys will always be the best. We missed each other so much that we're still in a group chat on Facebook. (Shout-out to Mitchell, Leanna, Grace, Carroll, Tamra, Jerry, Dara, Kolby, Paul and Susan!)

 

Here are some of my favorite snaps from my time in Louisiana.

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When it was all over, I was truly sad to see it go. If you offered me the chance to drive back down to McNeese and keep working with that same group, I would leave tomorrow. *sigh*

 

Once I was home, I had 2 days to do laundry and attend a wedding, then it was on to Texas Tech to be a participant at CASE ASA. One of my lead teachers there was the fabulous Kellie Claflin, whom I had first met when we followed each other on Twitter years ago. I had talked to her once or twice in passing at NAAE Convention, but now we got to be real life friends! (The other lead teacher was Mark Meyer, thanks Mark!) My time in Lubbock provided for some very memorable snaps...

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After a few days at home, I was able to attend our state CTE Conference and share with my fellow TN ag teachers why CASE is a great choice for their classrooms. It was the perfect bow on an amazing month of being a CASE junkie.

 

Find me on Twitter and Instagram @jlumpffa

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

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