We all bust our tails every day to give our students opportunities. So how can I ask the question “Are you limiting your students' success?”
By now you know I ask the hard questions. Think about all the forms you had students filling out last year. How many were degree applications? How many proficiency applications? How many scholarship applications? How many SAE grant applications? Did the chapter officers submit a national chapter award application?
I can just hear the grumbling going on in your head as you read this. Your inner voice is saying things like “If I had kids fill all those things out, then that's all we'd be doing.” Or perhaps it's saying something like “My kids don't have anything good enough to fill out those apps for.” Or maybe you're thinking “I don’t have time to learn how to fill all those things out. If a kid wants to do it I won't stop them but I'm not going to help them.” If this inner dialogue is going on in your head then the answer to my initial question is “Yes, you are limiting your students' success.”
Applications are a way of life. Our students are going to leave the comfort and safety of the high school building and they will be filling out applications every time they apply for a job, get a mortgage, buy a car, and get married. As Randy Plattner (Marshall, Missouri), our Perspectives contributor to this edition of the Making a Difference magazine, points out whether the application is for a leadership position, a scholarship, a degree or a proficiency award, the application is an important tool students use to communicate their personal story. A story they will fine tune as they go through life.
If we don't provide them with the experience of completing applications now, how will they ever be able to use them effectively to get jobs and advance their careers? If we don’t give them meaningful venues to practice the skills, we are limiting their success beyond our classroom doors. Read this issue of Making a Difference for tips, ideas, and resources for completing FFA applications. After all, using FFA as the model and motivation for performing real world skills is what we do.
For those who didn't experience those inner dialogues, you have strategies and techniques to share! Help everyone improve their desire and skill at managing the application processes. Help those struggling to embrace the application process as a tool to evaluate student performance and an opportunity to reward student engagement in their learning processes. Share your tips for facilitating student completion of FFA applications.
Question back -- Are FFA award programs limiting our success?
Is the system as currently set up and implemented -- TRULY set up for students to be successful? Can a student 'compete' in our current system on their own without - sometimes enormous - help?
Sometimes I feel like the system may have been set up for kids at one time but adults now play in it. Like many modern livestock shows. (Send hate mail to: 7945 NE University Avenue....kicking two cows in the same post... I apologize there..., Best Larry the Cable Guy voice. )
My biggest advancement in applications has been utilizing the AET. (http://www.theaet.com) In little more than a week here - every student will hand in a completed proficiency award. Signatures and all. The officers will judge them and send our best in each area on to the District event. This implementation has taken time, but I have went from 1 or 3 applications per year to ALOT. We sent 17 to districts last year (cause you can only send one in each area -- another soapbox for another day), 10 advanced to State, 2 were 2nd place winners .... AND I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WITH THEM. (Except sign). Sure - they got beat by kids with polish, or better programs, and we may have had one or two that weren't PERFECTLY spelled or written -- but they made it by their own efforts and told their own story - I commended them for LEARNING about applications BY DOING them. Most will self correct, improve and hand a BETTER application in this year.
If LEARNING is the focus and performance the by-product -- I think we all come out roses. Empower students with a system they can self-navigate and you will be surprised what they can do.
Excellent points Nina. As a former agriculture teacher and now a parent of two FFA members, it fell to me to be the one to push my boys to apply for degrees and Star awards not only because I have knowledge and experience, but also because I have a desire for them to be successful; I had that same desire for each and every one of my students when I was in the classroom. This brings to mind two points. First, it is the FFA advisor's responsibility to push the members to complete applications, and as Matt mentioned, provide a plausible system and the resources for doing so (i.e. AET, rubrics, examples, etc.). I have heard so many times from FFA advisors over the years, "I just don't know enough to do applications". To this I say a great big WOW! What's the FFA motto? If we as advisor's do not model a behavior of learning then how on Earth can we expect anything different from our students. Secondly, we do have to push students whether they want to be pushed or not. Perhaps they have a low self-esteem or they have no familial network for support or they just flat do not care at this point in their life. Honestly, can you tell yourself that you are miserable at the sight of seeing a FFA member walk across a stage to receive a degree or other award...of course, not and neither is that student when they cross the stage regardless whether they were interested in applying at the beginning. I am proud to say I am a parent two successful FFA members. One son was a finalist in the USDA Risk Management Essay Contest, received his Lone Star FFA Degree, and most recently, walked the stage at Nationals to receive the American FFA Degree (the first one in the history of our chapter). The second son earned Star Greenhand in Production at District and Area and received his Lone Star FFA Degree as well. He graduates this year and will attend Mississippi State as an agriculture major and I look forward to the day he will be the second American FFA Degree recipient from our chapter. By the way, in the process of my boys applying, I assisted five other members in achieving their state degrees as well and would have done the same for any who qualified for American; I still have a heart for every student to succeed. So, here's the point of this whole rant...FFA advisors reignite the passion for student success and have students apply for awards and degrees because the feeling you have when they win will outweigh any Grand Champion announcement on the planet (side note...we exhibited cattle and had a ton of GC awards; trust me I never cried at hearing the words Grand Champion like I did when I heard my son's name as he crossed that State or National Convention stage).
Great topic and consideration. Do we limit student opportunity? Maybe. Is that good? Maybe. Is that bad? Maybe. Is it needed? Maybe.
Ok, to start with, great points. The proficiency applications, degree applications, chapter award applications, SAE grant applications, to coincide with the state applications for the ag issues academy, NIFA grants, etc. are all GREAT things. Can one member accomplish all of them? Probably IF the FFA is their only activity. To give some background, our chapter has had some success in all of these areas. We believe strongly in the SAE, the Degree programs and Proficiency program. To tell students not to apply, not to complete, not to develop tremendously limits their opportunity. Every student should have that opportunity.
The key word is opportunity. Every student (notice I said student, not member) completes a proficiency application here after their first full year of records. This builds the base. If it is an area that they are interested in, have the potential for success, or know that it is a good thing to do, they continue. The vast majority continue each year in the building process. They are encouraged to apply each year, often reminded daily, but it is their choice. While applications are a way of life, so are choices.
If we push, who's proficiency or degree is it? What does it mean to the student? Encourage, every day, every hour, every minute. Force, never. The students will be resentful and the award no meaning. It might look good in the paper, but within the school and chapter it devalues the honor or award. I completely agree that everyone who meets degree qualifications should apply and be encouraged to apply. However, different students have different goals than others, and we can only put so many hours into a student's day. When they decide that between homework, sports, band, drama, speech, FFA, FBLA, community service, and family that they don't have time to complete an application, we appreciate their time.
The same can be said about every FFA opportunity. Some of the most fun learning is when a group of students are interested in an opportunity we haven't tried before. Our chapter's first ag sales team had an absolute ball last year building their sales presentations/researching the product/etc. even though we had very little idea of what to expect and zero experience.
So the questions to me aren't the questions in the mind, it is the question of if all opportunities are being presented to the students, with the opportunity to find their slice of the pie, part (s) of the buffet, their place in the FFA and the world. If we don't provide those opportunities, in whatever way fits our program, that is the limiting factor. And one final bullet.....we all say we can't do it all, which is true. But we can offer opportunity and that is the measurement, not the number of applications, CDEs, Grand Champions, community service hours, etc.
Much like Matt said, it isn't important for the teacher to know the application up and down. It is important that the student learn in the process. Bronze, silver and gold is a medal or a certificate. The experience is another branch on the tree of life.