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A Day In the Life of an Ag Teacher

276 posts

This is by far the most difficult blog post I've had to write. After 4 years and countless hours of hard work, my district decided not to renew my contract and to let me go at the end of this school year. This means that as of June 30th, I will be without the job title that has defined my identity for almost a decade: agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. After seven years of devoting myself to my profession, building two amazing ag program, helping others, and serving as a superhero to my students, I am unable to use my super powers to preserve and save the one thing that allowed me to use them in the first place.


The news hit me like a shockwave and has rattled my co-workers, students, and community supporters. During my time here, the ag program was transformed into one of the best in the state and our FFA chapter experienced unparalleled levels of success. The students grew tremendously and developed into the type of young adults that our agriculture industry needs. Over a hundred thousand dollars of grant money was secured for new curriculum, supplies, and a brand new state of the art agricultural science lab. Enrollment in ag classes soared, articulation agreements were established, countless community projects were performed, and the program hosted our first student teacher. However, when it came down to it, it was not enough for me to keep my job as an ag teacher.


Change is hard for many people, and in a traditional agricultural community like the one I work in, the change was too much for some. There was much focus on how I was not like past teachers and doing things the way "they had always been done".  Instead of people seeing all of the amazing things the students were doing, all they saw was how it was different from what had been done in the past. While the changes to the program were necessary to prepare students for the ever changing and evolving field of agriculture and reflected the agricultural needs of our state as a whole, not everyone saw it that way. Unfortunately, there was a lot of negative backlash related to the positive changes made to the ag program, and that ultimately cost me my job.


For a while, I wallowed and almost drowned in the negativity and anger over what my district had done to me. But then I realized that what happened to me had nothing to do with my abilities as a teacher or FFA advisor. and everything to do with how the changes to the program were perceived.  Ever since I started here, I have been like Superman, or in my case Superwoman and work tirelessly to promote positive change, help others, and do the right thing. As fellow ag teachers, you understand this because you are the same type of teaching superhero. You understand the sacrifices, hard work, and dedication it takes to do this job. Like me, you have sacrificed nights, weekends, holidays, summers, time with family and friends, and a good chunk of your personal life for this amazing profession. And also like me, you did these things willingly and with a smile because you knew how important it was to your students and what a positive difference it made for them.


But like in the Superman comics and movies, not everyone can appreciate the superhero efforts that we ag teachers make. Not everyone understands how much extra we do for our students, and how hard we work behind the scenes to make our ag programs function and our FFA chapters run smoothly. In his quest for justice and doing what's right, Superman runs into challenges from others who don't support his efforts or who won't support the actions and decisions he makes, even if they are for the ultimate good of everyone. This is what happened to me. Despite my best efforts to save and positively transform the ag program and FFA chapters here, which I did successfully, those who didn't support the changes ultimately prevailed. My heart is sad that they can't appreciate the amazing things that were happening, and that as a result of their actions, my students, the future of agriculture, are the ones who will suffer most.


While my teaching superpowers will be on hold until I can find a new ag teaching job, I'm never going to forget that they exist or stop putting them to use whenever the situation calls for it. I know I am an  innovative and effective agriculture teacher, an outstanding FFA advisor, and a positive mentor for my students. I will never forget the things I have accomplished so far in my career, and I will never stop striving for continued personal and professional growth and success. I will continue to strive to offer the highest quality agricultural education and FFA experiences to my past, present, and future students and will keep working to make positive changes in the lives of those I educate and work with. Every superhero needs to take a rest once in a while, and I guess this is my time.


I'm not disappearing from teaching ag, but I am taking some time to figure out what comes next. I'm excited to explore all of my options and to see what comes next. I can't wait to see where my next program and FFA chapter will be, and to meet all of my future students.The future is bright and this is merely the closing of one chapter in my teach ag superhero story, and not the end of my book.


Thank you all for your continued support over the past few years, and I look forward to sharing my teach ag adventures of the next chapter of my teaching career. Have an amazing rest of your school year and keep using your teach ag superpowers!



Matt Eddy

And the learning goes on.

Posted by Matt Eddy Apr 21, 2017

Voracious. Insatiable. Unquenchable. Compulsive. Eager. Ravenous.


One key characteristics that I find in all of the educators that I put into my 'good' category is their desire to learn more about their profession and hone their skills.  Continuing to learn as part of a any profession is key to your potential success. It may be the most important key to success in the field of education.


These couple days in Minneapolis, CASE LEAD Teachers have gathered to continue to sharpen the saw.  Not only is this work vital to producing effective Curriculum Institutes in the summer to help train new instructors in CASE, but it also has intrinsic benefits to our classrooms when we return home.


Besides curriculum planning, learning about new CASE updates and progresses, we had a great in-service by Drew Perkins from -- on questioning in Inquiry-based Instruction.  This is a key element to the CASE model and we really enjoyed spending a good amount of time reflecting and defining best practices in questioning techniques. QFT - Question Formatting Technique -- was a great addition to our CASE toolbox and will reap benefits for other teachers and our students for years to come.


When you consider your professional learning - let the thirst for knowledge engulf you and consume your drive for improvement.


Non scholae sed vitae discimus

Tiffany Morey

My Next Thirty Years

Posted by Tiffany Morey Feb 6, 2017

I recently hit a birthday milestone and this was the blog that evolved from it.


My Next Thirty Years (of Teaching Ag)


I think I’ll take a moment, to celebrate that teaching ag is not a phase

But a lifetime endeavour and story, with each year being a new page

Now it’s time to focus in on how to make the best of this career

I plan on doing it for my next thirty years


In my next thirty years I’m gonna have some teaching fun

Leave lasting memories with my students of all the educational things we’ve done

Hopefully I’ve gotten some of them over their dissection related fears

And I can come up with fun new ways to teach ag in my next thirty years


My next thirty years I’m going to participate in PD more

Let teaching out stress me out less, and not let the challenges make me bitter and sore

Make my classroom a place full of happiness and cheer

And have it a place where my students want to study every year


Oh my next thirty years, I’m going to get more efficient with how I grade

Continue to share my passion and get my students involved in FFA

Leave a lasting legacy on this job that I hold dear

And try not to get burnt out during my next thirty years


My next thirty years will be the best years of my professional life

I’ll help students to find success in ag and school, instead of strife

Hopefully I can convince some of them to make ag their career

And inspire at least one to one day want to teach ag here, in my next thirty years

This year, our school had pajama day as part of the homecoming spirit days. Staff were allowed to participate, and I enjoyed a day of being comfortable at work. This level of physical comfort is similar to how I've recently started to feel while teaching. Maybe it's having a student teacher that makes me strive to be my best, or maybe it's just time, maturity, and number of years in the profession. Regardless, it's a wonderful feeling to finally have!


For years, I was teaching to survive. Lately, I've noticed that my teaching technique has evolved and I'm really starting to thrive. Instead of just trying to make it through each class, lab, and lesson, and constantly stressing about grading, having the needed materials, and content delivery, it feels as if I've found a rhythm. I no longer need to consult the teacher notes for each CASE lesson, my classroom is organized, materials and supplies are easily accessible for my own as well as student use, and I've finally devised an efficient grading system. Classroom management is a no longer an issue, and students are clearly aware of expectations and procedures and are cooperative about following them. All of my classes are ahead of where they have been in the past, labs and lessons are flowing smoothly, grading is no longer a major stressor, and best of all, the students come to class excited for what each new day will bring.



My punny solution to students using their cell phones in class



Having a student teacher has also helped me to focus on how and why I teach the way I do. Instead of just teaching to get through each lesson, I've learned to focus and refine my technique to make it as student friendly as possible. It's wonderful to have someone to talk about educational theory and practices with, and who is as passionate as I am about what I do. My student teacher helps me to continuously push myself to be the best ag educator I can be, and to want to refine and hone my craft to make it an art form. I might be the cooperating teacher, but they have taught me equally as much about how to be the best ag teacher that I can be. My purpose for the profession has been renewed, and I find myself looking forward to the challenges of each new day at school.


This year also brought a change in administration to my school. My new principal is so supportive of the ag program, and goes out of her way to help our FFA members. She helped make our trip to the Big E possible, attends our meetings and events, and is truly committed to our members. It's not often that you feel appreciated for the hard work that you do as an ag teacher, but she makes me feel that way every single day. With her support, I know the program is going to continue to grow and accomplish great things.



A wonderful surprise gift of some great TAg swag



Hope everyone is having a good year thus far and safe travels home to all those that were at National Convention.


Until next time,



Matt Eddy

I've been everywhere...

Posted by Matt Eddy Sep 21, 2016

Travel, I've had my share, man

I've been everywhere


Thanks to OP McCubbins - I was re-reading some of my earlier posts -- like 5 years ago.  Boy doesn't time fly when you are having fun.


In the last 5 years --

  • I was teaching CASE in Washington, Ohio, Pennsylvania; took one in Maryland, along with Mentoring in Minnesota and Missouri  ... and getting 'trained' in Colorado.


  • I've been to Indianapolis, Louisville, Seattle, and Washington DC


  • Toured all the finer places in Louisiana - including New Orleans TWICE.


  • Visited farms in North Carolina, Del-Mar-Va and Southern Iowa


  • Talked with Legislators, diplomats, farmers, and ethanol producers.


                    Secretary of Agriculture from Kosovo

  • Tip toed through Malaysia, the Philippines, and Hong Kong


  • Got stuck in airports in DC, St. Louis, Chicago - only slowed down in Dumagette and Lankowi



  • Saw cucumbers, corn, beans, goats, sweet corn, sugar cane, rice, cows, pigs, milk being produced (and there was more)


  • Played, worked, ate and slept immersed in agriculture and the great people who are in it.


I'm sure I could work up a list that would be longer than my arm, because Teaching Agriculture has been a great adventure these last five years (18 total).  I look forward to what comes next cause it seems like "I've been everywhere, man"...

Tiffany Morey

Pay It Forward

Posted by Tiffany Morey Sep 4, 2016

School officially starts this Tuesday. With every new year, comes new changes. This year things are changing in a huge and exciting way. My big news?


I'm getting a student teacher! That's right, they are letting me mentor an aspiring teacher and teach them the tricks of the trade. Being entrusted to do this is a great honor, and I only hope I can do a great job.


I've already met my student teacher, and he's awesome. Not only does he have a true love of agriculture, but he has a genuine passion for sharing it with others. He is enthusiastic about exploring all of the facets of being an ag teacher, including learning to be an FFA advisor, and about utilizing the CASE curriculum. As for me, I'm equal parts excited and terrified by this new opportunity.


I'm excited to open my classroom to an aspiring ag teacher to allow them to experience the magic of our wonderful profession. I'm excited to share all the knowledge, tips, and tricks that I've learned over the years, and that others have passed on to me. I'm excited to allow them to learn how to be an FFA advisor and work with our FFA members. I'm excited to watch my student teacher succeed and their passion for teaching ag increase as the semester progresses. Most of all, I'm excited to be able to do my part in passing the torch of teaching ag to a future teacher who will hopefully be entering their very own classroom at this time next year.


On the other hand, I'm terrified that my student teacher will not have the amazing experience that they deserve. I'm terrified that I won't be able to be the mentor they need to succeed. I'm terrified that they will find student teaching to be a negative experience and that they will struggle more than necessary. Most of all, I'm terrified that at the end of their internship, they will choose not to continue on the path to becoming an ag teacher.


My own student teaching experience was not exactly a great one. My first placement ended up being a total disaster, and I was ultimately removed from it after a month and a half. I was left in limbo for several months after that as my program weighed the options of either removing me from the teaching track altogether, or finding me a new placement. Luckily, my guardian angel showed up just in time in the form of an ag teacher that I had never heard of before who volunteered to take me into his program for the remainder of my internship.


That teacher literally turned into my guardian angel. Under his tutelage, I bloomed, blossomed, and grew into a confident and competent ag teacher. Gone were all my insecurities about my ability to teach ag, and in their place, was a passion and excitement for the job. Because of him, my student teaching internship went from a total failure to a total success story.


You may wonder why I am sharing this story of my own experience. The reason? My former cooperating teacher is the university supervisor of my student teacher.


At first, I was unsure as to whether or not I was ready for a student teacher.  When I heard how things were going to play out with my mentor being involved in the process, the answer was clear. He mentored me, now I have the opportunity to mentor my student teacher, and he will give the feedback needed to make everyone succeed. I couldn't have asked for a better sign that taking my student teacher was the right thing to do.


All of this reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies: "when someone does you a big favor, don't pay it back... pay it forward." My mentor went out of his way when I needed someone to help me be successful on my journey to becoming an ag teacher. The Teach Ag Campaign gave me this amazing opportunity to start sharing my teach ag story at a time when I was seriously considering quitting the profession. Had it not been for them doing me a big favor by believing in me and encouraging me to keep going, I would never be the ag teacher I am today. Now it's my turn to pay it forward and help new and future ag teachers.


Wishing you all the best as your begin another year!



Matt Eddy

In with the new...

Posted by Matt Eddy Aug 23, 2016

The first day of school always holds a certain promise.  I'm a huge fan of potential and today is like my own little special holiday.


I wish everyone a happy first day of school - last week, this week or next.


Things I have shipped in new this year:

Electric Pencil sharpener -- it's amazing how the little things make a big difference.

250 Barramundi - New year, new fish.

Reagents for green Fluorescent Protein Chromatography - Who doesn't?

A box of day old Casey's donuts -- cause they are better than the new ones.

Monitor splitter -- 2 screens are better than 1.

MasterTag catalog for 2017

one new travel bag for my computer


and a bunch of new students brimming with potential.


Have a great one - ME

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 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!


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.



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!



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)?"





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).


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.)



6. Get a class pet

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



7. Student bulletin boards

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


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.


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.



10. Stickers

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



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



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

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.


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.”


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.


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


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



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


When accidents happen, ag teachers are prepared.



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


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



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



Sometimes, you just need a reminder.



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!



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?





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.




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.)



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?