It never fails, every time I speak to a group of teachers about the idea, practice, and philosophy of changing from an individual dues structure to paying a chapter affiliation fee, at least one teacher says "I don’t want every kid in FFA."
Since the idea is that we no longer collect money from students to join FFA, choosing instead to pay a program fee (much like your school pays a fee to the state Athletic Association) so that every student who walks through the ag department door is an automatic FFA member. An affiliation fee virtually removes the barrier of money from the playing field.
Let's go back to the well-meaning teacher who likes the dues structure. The comment "I don't want every kid in FFA" is very revealing. It says a couple of things.
I know, I know, I can hear you gasp as you read. You’re thinking, "She just doesn't know what it's like at my school," or "Sshe’s never had kids like mine," or "She’s been out of the classroom, working in the FFA ivory tower too long, and forgot what it's really like." You are right. I don’t know what it’s like at your school, I've never taught the kids you teach, and I've even been away from the classroom long enough to only remember the good stuff. But this perspective does give me the unique opportunity act as an outside observer.
Answer these questions truthfully:
That last question is the real kicker! Those same teachers that say "I don’t want every kid in FFA" believe that they are protecting FFA’s reputation and tradition. I appreciate the sentiment but I cannot condone it. This attitude simply promotes exclusivity and that is not what we are about. We're about taking every student that walks through our door, developing an appreciation for the industry of agriculture, AND developing even a miniscule potential for leadership. My simple response to that statement is "Don’t you want the values and ideals of FFA in every kid?"
Please post your thoughts, idea, and comments regarding this topic and check out the March 2013 issue of FFA Advisors Making a Difference that addresses inclusiveness in our programs and FFA.
I work at a fairly large school district. We moved to the affiliation program as soon as it was offered in Arkansas. Our school picks up 2/3 of the cost, and our chapter pays the other 1/3. I am not spending class time trying to convince students to pay $20 for FFA dues. I know many of them cannot afford it. Instead, I tell them that the school has already invested the money for them to be members, and I tell them about opportunities to get involved in the FFA. We do have some kids get involved that are trouble-makers. But, if they can't behave themselves in class or keep their grades up, they are not allowed to go anywhere to represent us.
I have seen alot of kids get involved that might not have otherwise. Before affiliation, I always told kids to not allow money to be the barrier from joining FFA, and that we had sources for FFA dues for kids that didn't have it. They just needed to tell me that they wanted to be a member. Since affiliation, some of those kids who couldn't afford it before, and didn't say anything, are active members.
Inclusiveness will be key for our organization going forward, IMO. We need to find/encourage students outside our core demographic to consider careers in agriculture. We need them, the industry will need them, our civilization globally will need them.
As I said in 2010 (weird going back over stuff from long ago...Re: Why don't we want every kid in FFA? (and now discussion of affiliation fees) and I still probably owe Nina some coffee...) that the pendulum in education is swinging our direction. We need to be taking advantage of that. Make hay while the sun shines.
I'd take it a step farther than every kid in FFA ... If I had my druthers EVERY kid in EVERY High School in AMERICA would have to take at least ONE Agriculture class. Blow your hair back on that concept.... How cool would that be?? It might end the misconceptions of agriculture in society --- it might also end the regulation of agriculture to second class status or 'forgotten farmer' syndrome. 10x that awesome Dodge commercial.
Where will the next Norman Borlaug come from? And did they miss out on the opportunity to achieve their potential because someone said -- "I don't want every student in FFA'... and didn't feel welcome so blew off Ag class for (insert class of your choice here) and became less than what they could.
Great topics and I hope this thread ends up with more views (almost 8K) than the last one.
FWIW, JMO, ICBW - ME
I agree with Matt. It would be truly amazing to give every student the opportunity to take one ag. class. A neat thing that one of my cooperating teachers did a few years ago is open up an exploratory agriculture class to 8th graders. He realized that many of the 8th graders where just sitting in study halls. So, he presented the administration and guidance counselors with this unique opportunity that allowed 8th graders to choose if they wanted a study hall or take this exploratory ag. class. Currently, I am teaching those classes. I have four classes at a total of 48 out of 60! That's is by choice!!!! WOW. Think of the influence this has on their future class choices.
We need to focus on optimizing the three circle model! Every student deserves the opportunity to be an FFA member, participate in a SAE and experience hands-on, inquiry and differentiated learning (which ag. ed. provides)
That sounds like a great idea, but I prefer the dues system. If money is the main factor, it's a non-issue because I know where I'm located, a student on free or reduced lunch programs, or in need of financial assistance can apply to the school to get the dues waived. I fear that if my chapter gets too large, my active membership will decrease. Everyone is always welcome to join FFA, but the dues help filter it a little bit to only those who really want to be in FFA.
I don't have one bit of a problem with all ag students in FFA - 98% of my students join without much prodding. My problem is that affiliation is very unfair to small schools with small programs. The affiliation fee on the last go-round I saw presented in my state raised my current level of dues to nearly 1.5-1.75 times my current rate. Someone still has to cover that cost and I don't really want to do another fundraiser or charge the students more, and I really doubt the school is going to offer to make up the difference. If the affiliation fee was more reasonable for the "little guys" I wouldn't have a problem with it.
How does your state (would you identify?) do the affiliation dues??
Iowa's chart is on the thread that I referenced in the thread back in 2010 (above reply) --- Maybe I will re-post for posterity.
Ok Here it is. Or at least the last one Iowa was using to my knowledge. Might even reflect a pre-dues increase we had recently... but i think it is good fodder for discussion.... Curious what other state's are doing.
Affiliation Student Ranges
Chapter Affiliation Dues Total
I use the term "filter" a little loosely I guess. In my opinion, one of the worst things that can happen is to have a chapter of 100+ members and half of them don't do anything, and most likely don't want to be involved in the first place. If it's free for anyone to join, that's something I can see happening. Why? "Because it looks good on a resume."
With the dues system, unless you live in a community that has greater prevalence of poor or underprivileged families, students who are in FFA are more likely to be the ones who really WANT to be in FFA and wreak the rewards from it such as personal growth, leadership development, and any awards of money or trophies that they may receive. And like I said, if a family can't afford the dues for their child to be in FFA, they can apply for a waiver and have the dues waived. If a student does this, I have no doubt that student REALLY wants to be in FFA. I'd much rather have a chapter of 40 members with 75-85% active membership than a chapter of 100 with 40-50% active membership. That's all I'm saying.
Hmmm. I guess we are looking at it differently.
For me - It's worth 30 or 40 kids who have their dues paid and do nothing with the opportunity -- IF I catch the one kid who gets excited about AG that I would have missed otherwise -- IT'S WORTH IT.
Analytically looking at numbers - a 40 person chapter might not be worth the cost of the program (teacher, budget, space, time) -- where 100 might be. Regardless of the participation %. It's a numbers game - always will be.
FWIW -- Enjoying the convo.
If we are truly embracing the 3 circle model all students benefit regardless. if a student is enrolled in an ag program, they should be exposed to those 3 circles. Incorporate the SAE and FFA portion into the grading. Will you have every student participate in your regional speaking day, probably not. but if you conduct a public speaking unit in your class and make every student give a speech for a grade, they grow a little. If you are teaching a landscape class and have your students compete in groups in a contest similar to the CDE, they gain a little more knowledge and still continue to grow. Make SAE's required. Have them keep a logbook in their binders and check them every two weeks for a grade. You can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink is very true but you can shove their head close enough to make them almost taste the "kool-aid." I had no intentions of embracing the opportunities in the ag program in high school. But my ag teachers (we had a 4 teacher department) presented me with the opportunities and eventually I jumped on board. 7 years later I am wrapping up my 3rd year teaching agriculture and am very thankful that they encouraged me. You may not get every student to jump on board, but when you see a student who didn't want to participate approach you at the end of the year and ask, "how do I run for the executive team?" or "I think I want to try out that contest?" it makes it all worthwhile. If you can change just one kids life by encouraging them to be active and they bite, it is worth it.
I definitely see where you're coming from. IMO, it just hurts the scope of the FFA chapter as a whole if 30 out of 100 members in the chapter don't do ANYTHING. Yes, it's great to grab any kid that you can and get them excited about agriculture. But at the same time, with those 30 members, I guarantee you that at some point, they will take an opportunity away from one of the more active members in the chapter who really deserves it. Whether it's a scholarship, an award, a trip to National Convention, or even a job down the road, I guarantee something silly like that will happen, even though it shouldn't.
I want the kids in my FFA chapter who want to be there because they understand how they can benefit from it. On the other hand, I would never turn a student away who wanted to be in my chapter, but it's about creating a culture that when they walk through the door and decide that they want to join, they will be expected to be an active member who contributes in one way or another. JMO.
Jamie, you make a good point, but let's revisit the questions I asked in the original post/article:
I really believe that if, as teachers, we are truly inclusive in our practices then participation will take care of itself. Now, keep in mind, my #1 strength in Strengthfinders is Responsibility. So I look at from that perspective, that's why the questions are framed in the first person. If I've got 70 out of 100 kids who don't want to participate in FFA, then it might be me. What am I NOT doing to make all these amazing opportunities appealing to those 70 kids? Am I in reality driving them away? Am I failing to find what they're interested in and pointing them toward an ag ed/SAE/FFA avenue to engage them? Am I working to engage those "problem children" or letting them be lazy as long as they don't cause me trouble?
The 20/80 split seems to be universal in all things, and youth organizations are no different. 20% of the members do 100% of the work while the other 80% watch and take advantage of it, regardless of chapter size. If that's the worry, time to revisit that Program of Activities and get students to start designing activities that will appeal to a broader range of members.
Maybe for FFA week they try a Fear Factor day where every kid in the program shows up to watch some brave ones eat strange food, have a Junkyard Wars night in the shop where teams of students use everything in the scrap piles to build a catapult that will lauch tennis balls or build rockets powered off the aircompressor, start raising guide dog puppies for the Blind, host SEC champion football players for a meet and greet at a home ballgame, grow strawberries in baskets to sell at the local strawberry festival where members man booths and serve as festival volunteers, work with the local humane society to host a Pet 1K walk/run, or screen a movie in your gym and admission is food for the local food pantries. I did the first two and it was amazing how many ag students turned out to participate and watch, good time had by all and some learning actually happened along the way. The rest are activities I've seen other chapters do or were from our our Models of Innovation finalists.
Whatever the idea, it's time to start pointing chapter leaders toward engaging every single student in every component of leadership, then get out of their way. After all a measurement of a successful FFA chapter is 100% member engagement. The larger the chapter, the bigger the challenge, but as several teachers said earlier, it's worth every minute when we make a difference in the life of a single student who couldn't afford dues, was too cool to join, or thought FFA wasn't for them.
With 100% honesty, I can answer those questions:
-not sure what that's asking
I understand what you're saying, and they're all great points, but I don't think that whether you utilize the chapter dues system or the program fee system even begins to answer any of those questions. It's more about the culture within the chapter.
According to this chart, if we used your affiliate system for a chapter of 50, we would have to pay an additional $125 for dues over what we currently pay in Missouri. Not a very appealing prospect for us.
Concerning whether every kid should be in FFA. I bust my butt trying to encourage every kid to participate and get involved in FFA, but the hard truth is that there are kids who get put in agriculture class because they have nowhere else to go with them. These kids have absolutely no interest in agriculture and the program and no matter how much effort, promotion, positive enthusiasm, etc. I put into it, they have no interest. They are there to fill a seat and get their practical art credit and go on their merry little way. Its very frustrating, which is probably the vive that you will be getting from my comments.
I resent those that are likely to infer that I am a bad teacher or elitist. I have killed myself to try to get these kids on board. Frankly, there are just some that wont drink the Koolaide. Does every kid belong in FFA? The question is, does every kid appreciate or care about FFA? The answer is no.
In regard to the dues vs. affiliate fee. If kids can afford to blow money on vending machines, happy meals and a cell phone bill, they can afford $11 for state and national dues. If they feel they are invested in the organization, they are more likely to take an active part in its goals. There is no way that our school is going to pay for student dues. Fact is, money for teaching supplies, CDE fees, etc. ALL come from FFA. So basically the kids are paying to subsidize the program...but thats another issue.
To answer Nina's question...