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Everyone knows we build relationships with those who we have things in common.  In high school you were probably friends with the people you played sports with, were in clubs with, or had similar social interests.  College friends we keep in contact today were yesterday's roommates, classmates, (barmates?), and others time was well spent with.  So it's no surprise that ag teachers - as a rule - build strong relationships with one another.


In our part of the world, the ag teacher network is legendary.  New potential administrator?  You call the ag teacher who had that admin last year and get the 411 (or the...details).  Not sure how to prepare for a certain CDE or teach a new topic?  Email the recognized 'expert' in that area.  We know more people in other schools than just about any other teacher - and we are stronger for it.  Do you ever hear your math teachers talk about the great time they had at the math in-service with all the other math teachers?  We get along, we work together, we share the same schedules, we teach the same things, we have the same challenges, and we vacation in Indianapolis together in the fall.


My fellow ag teachers are helping me pull the fat out of the fire on a daily basis.  The week before National Convention was occupied with our State Soils CDE, a short 3.5 hour drive away.  Living on the west side of Oregon, the kids were excited (well, cautiously intrigued?) to journey to the rain shadow eastern aspect of the Cascade Mountains.  We on the wet/west side of Oregon liken the east side to...the Sahara Desert:  sandy, dry, and sparsely populated.  And if those are the only criteria, we're spot on.  But leaving at 6am meant a couple things got left at home on my desk - like the soils manuals.  Probably important.   A quick cell phone call along the way and my able ag teaching colleague Ben meets us at his classroom at 7am as we drive through his community and lets me borrow a copy.  Fat secured.

I am proud to be part of the ag teacher network.  Professional developments are three-quarter workshop, one-quarter family reunion.  This month has offered us Oregon ag teachers several opportunities to get together, with our state association's fall in-service, National Convention, and a state CDE.  Growing as a teacher comes from conversation, sharing, and commiserating together.  If you aren't taking part in these sorts of things, find a way to.  I get a lot out of technical content workshops for curriculum and program components, and I get so much more out of the continued interaction and relationship building with my fellow ag teachers.  Don't miss out on the next chance you get to spend some time with our colleagues; I hear there is a big get together in Nevada coming up in a month.  I hope to see you there.


I'll need someone to hang out with.


Challenge:  Comment below and tell how your colleagues have helped/influenced you!

If anyone ever says National Convention is easy -- they are probably doing it wrong.  Phew - full days, moving around, new environments, lots of people, kids with energy to spare, getting around in a new city, it's a crazy trip.  It's probably one of the top 10 spectacles in the world.  I wouldn't trade for the anything and I leave every year with a better sense of what I want to accomplish and how I can do it.  To spend time in the company of your peers is priceless.  Just being able to talk about the relevant issues - trade war stories -- see old friends -- make new ones; is a experience that I look forward to each year and wouldn't trade for the world - it's my nirvana.


I'm too tired to type tonight --- here's some pictures - which probably tell the story better than I could anyway.  My kids were as excellent as they have been in the past.  There is something about that bonding time that makes it integral to the Ag Teacher / Ag Student dynamic.  Yawwwnnnn.....


Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance.

National Chapter 2.JPGFFA Concert 01.JPG2010 National Convention 03.JPG2010 National Convention 04.JPG2010 National Convention 29.JPGwind farm 07.JPGwind farm 02.JPGFair Oaks 44.JPGFair Oaks 11.JPGFair Oaks 01.JPG

Listening: Charlie Daniels, Left Front Tire, Nickleback, AC/DC,


Tuesday, October 19, 2010


5 AM - my alarm went off, but I really hadn't been able to sleep since 3.  Do yuo ever get those nights when your mind is racing with thoughts, plans, lists of tasks that you forget to sleep?  Happens to me.  I hopped out of bed, after a quick shower and bathroom prep, jumped both legs into my jeans at one time and grabbed my suitcase that had been packed for 38 hours.  I kissed my sleeping wife goodbye, I think she mumbled something about 'have fun' and I headed for the school.  I love driving in the early morning.  No traffic and I like the feeling of getting something done that early in the morning.  Dad was always working from daylight to dusk (and then some) so I guess its just the way it's always been.


I arrived at the school, started lining up my sub-work -- making sure the finishing touches are ready for my extended abscence.  I rushed over to the kitchen to observe the cooks prepping my 75 servings of breakfast pizza for the bus due to arrive at 7.  After swinging thru the office and picking up the copies from my box, I returned to my class room.


6:30 AM - My students start to roll in. 10 of the best of my best.  Great kids everyone and wound for SOUND this morning.


6:58 AM - The charter bus showed up and we loaded our stuff as the last chapter on. Everyone off-loaded -- rotated thru my greenhouse and lab, picked up the breakfast pizza and milk; and we re-packed the bus for the trip south.

12:27 PM - 6 hours later near DeKalb Illinois, we stopped for lunch. The nice thing about riding a bus is that I get to enjoy the company of other advisors, relax, watch a movie (since I serve as entertainment director -- they are the ones I like) and otherwise relax instead of all the anxiety and stress of driving a van at 70 mph thru the middle of the heartland.

2:00 PM - Chicago -- In alternating years try to run thru Chicago on Tuesday -- do some touring before heading to the convention. Rosa from Leon lined us up a great tour at Soldier Field -- Home of the Chicago Bears. It was a great tour and we got to sit in the $950 a game sky box seats. A great view, I must say -- and the all-you-can eat feature would be nice too.

Soldier Field 2010 60.JPGSoldier Field 2010 39.JPG

4:33 PM -- Willis Tower Skydeck -- we drove over to the Willis tower and after ascending 103 floors above the street -- we got a great view of the Downtown Chicagoland area. The new addition -- or new since the last time I visited -- was a bit CrAzY. I'm not sure if it was walking out on a glass for that high up or what, but it was a bit disconcerting.

Willis Tower 13.JPGWillis Tower 08.JPG

7:00 PM - After a short detour -- we arrived at our hotel and went to a Hollywood Pizza joint for some supper and a bit of fun. The kids enjoyed the games and Hollywood Pizza enjoyed 56 of us stopping by.

9:36 PM - After our chapter meeting, the kids we off to their rooms and the pool until 10. We needed to be up early in the morning and be on the bus by 6 -- so an early night after a long first day of National FFA Convention was well in order.

10:30 PM - Final checks of the rooms and I went and almost passed out while watching SportsCenter. A long first day.  Remember, it's a marathon; not a sprint.

The Time is Now

Posted by Catherine DiBenedetto Oct 19, 2010

     The Stanley Cup, the World Series, the Super Bowl... The National FFA Convention.  In other words, the ultimate FFA fan's dream come true. As an AG educator an FFA advisor we are blessed with many opportunities to travel and this week we are all heading to Indianapolis, Indiana for the National FFA Convention. The 'sea of blue jackets' that will walk the city this week is a rewarding and refreshing experience. It is the moment that we have all prepared for.  It will be a busy and exciting week full of leadership activities, CDE Competitions, Award Banquets and recognition for all of the hard work,effort and time that we have dedicated to prepare our students to become the leaders of tomorrow.

     This is an exciting convention for me. After six years of teaching, I have five American Degree Recipients and a National Officer Candidate.  All of those hours of hard work do pay off. It is extremely rewarding to see the accomplishments of our students. Times like now are why we continue to give freely of our time. 

     Good luck to everyone and safe travels. Enjoy convention and relish in the accomplishments of your students. Don't forget to pat yourselves on the back for a job well done!

It's funny, I often pray, asking God to help me prioritize my time.  There has been several times where I find myself asking him to add just a few more hours to my day to help me accomplish all the tasks I have left to get accomplished or the opportunity to add one or two more tasks to the list.  It seems that we arrive at school 30 minutes to an hour early each day to prep for the day and no sooner then we can turn around the kids are loading the bus to head home.  For nine months out of our year, a teacher lives by the bell.  In my case, we have seven 50 minute classes, and 3 minute passing periods in between.  As a teacher, when you teach from bell to bell, and you find out that three minutes flies by faster than you ever could imagine, you truly begin to build your bladder to withstand the toughest of times.  During the school year, you definitely train your mind and body to function different.

I teach in a small rural town, where most  of my FFA members are involved in every other activity on campus.  With this in mind, this leads to challenges in my scheduling, especially for after school practices for FFA.  Over the years I have began to solve some of my problems by joining my kids with their sports.  I coach Junior High football,  Junior Varsity basketball as well as assist the Varsity basketball coach.  Although this might seem like a tremendous time burden, it has truly helped me in scheduling my FFA practices and has helped my relationships amongst our coaching staff and more importantly my kids.  As you can begin to see, most of our after school practices are now after sports practices which are now starting at 5:00pm or 6:00pm.

In New Mexico, we as ag teachers do not specialize in any given area of FFA, so we find ourselves working five to six seasons out of the year in FFA.  At the beginning of the school year, starting in March or April from the previous year until the first of October, we are in our showing season. (Those that have show cattle started as early as October from the previous year)  After our show season we move on to our Creed and Quiz season throughout the months of November and December, followed by our parliamentary procedure season in December and January.  Next we take part in our Public speaking season usually held in February, and finally wrap our school year up with our intense Career Development Event season.  Most ag programs in our state start their CDE event practices in early February and last until the first of April.  Many of our ag teachers will work 14 to 15 hours a day preparing their 10 to 15 different CDE events for the state and national contests.  Lastly, the months of April and May are spent filling out National Chapter Awards, planning and preparing for banquets, and getting kids ready for state FFA convention and FFA Leadership Camp held in June.

Although this seems like so much, when you love what you do, all this works seems like fun.  When you absolutely love and have a passion for what you are doing, the hours and work load seems like nothing.  I am truly blessed to have a job that I love and kids that truly appreciate the time and effort you spend with them.

Matt Eddy

Cows, Kids & Cussin'

Posted by Matt Eddy Oct 15, 2010

Another day in the life of an Ag teacher


COWS - In a rather spur of the moment lab -- I know, Ag teachers are the poster children for meticulously planned and organized activities, I'm such an anomoly -- my Advanced Animal Science students, with the help of Doc Hoy, did some palpating and pre-breeding season check up on the Animal Learning Center (ALC) cows.  After springing the kids around 1:30 and coordinating everything with the Doc - I arrived at the pasture to find that my kids had already gotten the cows 'up' and were ready to let them into the lot.  I love it when kids take initiative.  Once we got the head-gate set up and a little corral made, we separated the cows and calves and proceeded to get to work.


ALC Cows Fall 03.JPGALC Cows Fall 85.JPG


Most of the cows went thru in typical fashion and only a few notable exceptions.  #4 (infamous amongst my kids) was her typical 'anti-social' self and has most likely earned a long walk off a short pier.  I'm pretty sure she is cull cow material and just doesn't fit in the program we are conducting, what with needing to be docile and behave when at the fair.  "White belly" -- the name has been changed to protect the accused -- demonstrated some leaping ability that would make Dick Fosbury take note.  TWICE - not once -- TWICE she took the gate by leaping like a deer at a fence line.  Pretty impressive for a 1500 lb animal to gracefully clear the gate without touching it once.  Keeping her off the next truck to the nearest sale barn is the fact it WAS a pretty short gate.... I guess.  Only a couple needed some added assistance in the re-breeding department and since we had a higher than normal rate of retained placenta, it was a good idea to check how things had progressed.

ALC Cows Fall 23.JPG ALC Cows Fall 05.JPG

Our next item is to get a working tub, if we are going to do this into the future - the safety of the kids and protection of my sanity is paramount.  Which reminds me - I need to talk with For-most today.



KIDS- Well - the first day working cows with "green" hands was a pretty good success.  No one was hurt, killed, or otherwise mutilated.  One girl got 'organic cow exhaust' - did I mention they were still on good green grass? - under her nails, causing a bit of a dilemma.  The part that tickles me about this whole process is how kids can come to a astute observation of reality when the tail starts hitting them in the face.  Of course, most were dressed at least semi appropriately and everyone was game for most of the jobs that working cows usually entails.  I ended up doing more sorting and pushing than I needed to, but maybe as my 'hands' come into their own, I can start relinquishing that job.  The tub will help a lot too.  Getting into a pen of 25 - 3 year old cows is sometimes intimidating and for the under-seasoned - can be down right dangerous.

ALC Cows Fall 30.JPGALC Cows Fall 72.JPG


"Joe" - not his real name - was a self-professed rodeo cowboy - he travels the Jr rodeo circuit - riding, roping and generally cowboy-ing.  Since he had his rope available - at my request - I figured this would be a good chance to catch the calf with pink-eye and the one with a bad tag.  Standing tall and looking proud, he sauntered into the herd of calves sorted out from their mama's.  I couldn't help but snicker and needle "Joe" as he roped the calf and then proceeded to have a dickens of a time getting him down and tied.  "Do they time you with a Calendar in this event", I asked; not very innocently.  The calf bawled up a storm, drawing the interest of EVERY cow in the next pen -- Sheesh - kids these days.  BUT he did finally get them down and tied, allowing us to come in and minister to their afflictions with the care and delicacy needed.  As I have quoted before:  The pay ain't much, but the entertainment is cheap and plentiful.


ALC Cows Fall 80.JPGALC Cows Fall 66.JPG


CUSSIN' - I'm not sure exactly if I was well behaved or not.  Working cows is license to use the more colorful words in the English language and even to make up a few combinations you don't normally hear.  It's state law,.... I'm pretty sure.  For the most part, I am certain this group of cows and kids didn't hear anything new, and as a matter of fact - I think the closest I got to cussin' was threatening "Joe" I was "gonna drop you faster than you did that calf." If he threw another clod of dirt to try and get a cow to move into the chute from the small sorting pen.  I think the fact it almost grazed me on the way by was probably a larger factor in drawing down my ire than anything else.  Learning experiences -- they come in all shapes and sizes around this ranch.


All in all - a great day with some excellent kids who learned a bit more than they would have sitting around taking notes.  I hope with the addition of a working tub next time, and more experienced cow hands - our Artificial Insemination experience will be fruitful.  And the cows may end up bred too.

Kellie Claflin


Posted by Kellie Claflin Oct 14, 2010

As I said in my last post, life is busy! But I'm loving every minute of it! One of my favorite parts of college has been connecting with my friends and classmates in student organizations. Since I was a freshman at UWRF, I have been active in several of these organizations including Dairy Club and Sigma Alpha, a professional agricultural sorority. Meetings and club events are a great opportunity to see friends, while having the chance to develop professionally and/or relax and have fun. This has been especially true with the two organizations at UWRF catering to ag education - the Agricultural Education Society and Alpha Tau Alpha.


Ag Ed Society was my first chance to meet other people on campus that were as passionate for agriculture and agricultural education as I was. While the focus of the group is Ag Ed, members come from all majors across the university. The group holds bi-weekly meetings, volunteers to help with FFA conferences and contests, presents and judges parliamentary procedure workshops and contests, as well as going bowling and golfing in the Putzke Open. My favorite Ag Ed Society memory was bonding with upperclassmen as a member of the quiz bowl team for the National Collegiate Agricultural Education Conference/ATA Conclave as a freshman and sophomore. Not only was I able to utilize my Ag Ed knowledge (oh, how I love Ag Ed trivia!), but also really get to know other Ag Ed majors who are still good friends and resources. It was an additional plus to come home with both second and first place wins!



Alpha Tau Alpha is a national professional honorary organization specifically for agricultural education majors. While ATA partners with Ag Ed Society in some events, ATA has a special focus in preparing future educators. We've had great professional development events as the group has traveled to visit classrooms or engaged in great question and answer sessions with current teachers and administrators. As a member I've been able to build on the relationships I started forming as an underclassman and really bond with my fellow Ag Ed majors.




Tonight we welcomed seven new members into our ATA family during ATA initiation. It was a neat experience to hear about why these new members are excited about agricultural education. It was also a good chance for me to reflect on my own reasons, as well as reflecting about the impact that these organizations have had on my life. The biggest impact? The bonds that I have formed with my close friends and fellow Ag Ed majors through the ups and downs of college life.



Good friends nearing the end of our college career and getting ready to continue to the next step - STUDENT TEACHING!

Kellie Claflin

I love fall!

Posted by Kellie Claflin Oct 12, 2010
I absolutely love October and fall weather! My walks to and from campus are filled with beautiful trees, crunchy leaves and crisp fall air. October also means that the school year is in full swing and life is busy, busy, busy! But I just think of it as training for being an ag teacher.

Last night I got back to River Falls after a trip to Manhattan, Kansas to the K-State campus for the North-Central Region of the American Association for Agricultural Education conference. The meeting which brings together university faculty, graduate and undergraduate students to network and present current research about agricultural education. As I prepare to enter the teaching profession, I enjoy learning about new research as it applies to recruiting students into the secondary ag programs, coaching CDE teams and teacher resiliency. It got me really excited to put the theory into practice in the classroom!


The trip also had several other highlights. My main highlight was finding Claflin Road that runs through the K-State campus, especially since I don't come across many other references to my last name. I also enjoy seeing other college campuses, so it was fun touring both the academic buildings and campus lab farms. On Sunday afternoon, the conference attendees toured the Konza Prairie, which is one of the last remaining tallgrass prairies and we even experienced bison sightings! To round off the trip, the UW-River Falls group made a trip to Call Hall to experience K-State ice cream. (The cookies and cream flavor is my recommendation!)
As an FFA member I loved traveling and exploring different parts of the United States. I've been lucky that I have been able to continue to travel as a college student. I've been to South Dakota with the UWRF Dairy Club, Nebraska for AAAE meetings and Nashville for NAAE Convention. It's been a great to complement travel to conferences with my classroom learning. And of course, one of my favorite travel experiences is coming up next week - National FFA Convention in Indy!!! I can't wait!


Matt Eddy

Pomegranate 7-UP

Posted by Matt Eddy Oct 12, 2010

Pomegranate 7-up -- it's got to be the best thing since sliced bread... seriously.  Not to heavy, just a bit of flavor, no caffeine, and antioxidant properties - Whatever that means.


As ag teachers, I think we forget sometimes that we have the great job of turning people on to an industry that makes just about any conceivable food or beverage choice available to us - safely, cheaply, and in mad abundance.  Working with future agriculturists in our classes, teaching them about the industry - keeping their curiosity peeked - has got to be one of the most rewarding charges a person can take up.  The pay ain't much but the entertainment is cheap and plentiful.


NWMSU - We had a great time at Northwest Missouri this past week.  How many times can you get 40 kids to show up at 5 am to leave for Missouri??  All of them left with barely an inkling of what they were going to do or where they were going; and all arrived home (yes, all 40) a little more worldly, a little more knowledgeable and definitely thinking that FFA trips weren't so bad after all.



We have our Greenhand Camp tonight after school, we have started fundraising by selling fruit, and I also have a van taking kids to a horse judging contest tonight as well. Managing the chaos.  Oh, yeah.  Most importantly, I am trying to teach class thru the aftermath of homecoming last week.  I hope this week will be better than last.


ALC Cows - We are going to palpate cows this week, when the Doc has time to supervise; we are starting the estrus sync program on Monday next week.  It'll be a challenge to the students, as some/most of the 14 days will include me being at National Convention -- the onus will be on them.  I think they are capable, but sometimes you are never 100% sure.  I guess we will find out.


National Convention -- I can't believe it's almost here.  I REALLY can't believe I have so much to get ready still.  I think as I get older (and wiser?) I don't plan as completely (some may say obsessively) as I used too.  Parts of me is just ready to sit back and ride the roller-coaster for the shear feeling of the dips and hills, without planning the course ahead of time.  Maybe its just something in this fall air....


As I re-organize my thoughts for today -- I hope that whoever came up with Pomegranate 7-up was an Ag student.  One of the great benefits of this profession is to profoundly impact students and possibly influence this industry for the better.  World Hunger Issues; Technology break-thru; or even Pomegranate 7-up.


See you down the trail -- ME

     First, where did the summer go and second, how is it possible that it is almost time to leave for National Convention already?  As Ag Teachers we dedicate countless hours to the success of our programs and our students. Why? It is simple.... because we love what we do! Could you imagine how much extra time you would have on your hands if you only had one 'prep'. Wow, I almost think that would be somewhat boring. To teach the same course several times a day...I am not sure that would be for me. I love the opportunity to teach a variety of plant science topics and concepts throughout the day. In the floriculture lab in the morning, out in the greenhouses by 3rd period and outside in the landscape by the end of the day. Now that is a full day of teaching and learning to do! I can't even imagine leaving school when the final bell rings at the end of the day. I love the hustle of my students when they come into the floriculture lab at the end of the school day, excited to work on their SAE projects or gather for a meeting to plan the next FFA activity or event.


     Have you ever noticed that our students seem to migrate to the 'AG Wing' of the school? I always have students stopping by to say 'Hello', look for a friend, use a computer, share a story or ask for advice, and of course, look for snacks to eat. We create a safe environment that our students enjoy visiting. We help provide opportunities to create life-long memories and we provide our students with 21st century skills that are essential for their success . We give them an opportunity to break away from the typical school day and a chance to relax. Don't get me wrong, I run a tight ship with high expectations, I play by the rules and teach my students the importance of responsibility and good work ethic but, my students know that they can come to my room for support and help when they need a place to get away at the end of the day. They also know that you can have fun while working hard and reaching goals.


     Our list of things to do never seems to end and yet we rarely say NO to all of the requests to help with activities, serve on committees, write curriculum, plan leadership events, write letters of recommendation, prepare students for CDE's and ensure that SAE records are up to date. This is where all of our time goes and we love every minute of it. Before we know it, we will be selling citrus fruit and poinsettias(if you can avoid the dreaded attack of the Whitefly!) and preparing for our spring plant sales. All the while, having the time of our lives inspiring our students to become the leaders of our future. Life as an Ag Teacher provides a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our students while we are doing what we love and are passionate about! Can you think of anything else that you would rather be doing? I sure can't.

I started my teaching career with the notion that none of my students would fail. You see, during college I had written a term paper on "Failure in the Classroom" and was convinced that if I was good enough and clever enough and devoted enough and worked hard enough then ALL my students would be successful. Boy was I ever disappointed! About November of my first year I realized that all those theories I had read about just weren't working for everyone. No matter what I did there were one or two students who consistently got "F's". During a regular review meeting with my Principal I shared my concerns - his answer? You can't save them all! He assured me that, for reasons that may be beyond my control and despite my best efforts there will likely be a few students who will end up earning an "F". And he was right - especially about the "earning" part. I realized that I don't "give" grades - students earn them.


Please don't get the idea that I ever give up on a student - I am pretty good at finding alternative instructional methods to try to help students with varying learning styles and abilities - and generally find that any student who at least meets me halfway will find success. These days technology has really helped as I can record lecture reviews or create tutorials and post them online for students to review anytime they want. I have created electronic flashcards as well as shown students how to make "old school" style flash cards. We've played games in class, used peer review, created charts and graphs. We use Google docs for online collaboration to encourage students to develop skill in working together online. I even use collaborative testing in a few classes where students work as a team to complete an exam - which works GREAT by the way!


So while we can't save them all we have lots of life preservers to throw out - they just have to grab for for it so that we can pull them to success.


I have sat in on meetings with faculty from other departments and listened to them bemoan the quality or should I say lack of quality among their students - the students can't do the work, they aren't motivated, they don't want to learn - on and on they go. This kind of ranting just amazes me - to me this is what teaching is all about - finding ways to reach and motivate students. As the saying goes, "if it was easy, anyone could do it". I teach, not because I can't do other things, but because this is my passion. In fact my favorite students (yes I love them all but still have favorites) are those I call my "diamonds in the rough" - the young girls and guys who love hands on stuff but need a lot of motivation to apply themselves academically. They tend to be bright but they hate to show it, are quick to understand but slow to admit it - but boy do they shine with a little polish - once they have a little success! So I have learned to not be quick to dismiss a student, to assume they can't succeed - everybody gets a chance - and often more than one.

Matt Eddy


Posted by Matt Eddy Oct 4, 2010

Friday ended up being our day off due to this week's Parent-Teacher Conferences, so what do I do with a free Friday? Work... LOL I'm such a sucker.

I drove down to Columbia, Iowa to pick up our "Feed Train" mini-bulk on wheels for the ALC (Animal Learning Center) cows. No more sack feed at the coop, we can handle 3 ton now! For several reasons, this works out well for us -- Cheaper, easier to work with, and mobile. Once we figure out our winter feeding situation - this should make for a more ideal feeding operation. I must say the people at McCorkle Hardware in Columbia are some of the nicest folks you could hope to deal with. Their help and kindness make me glad to do what I do. There are just some people in this world that "get it" about working with kids and will go out of their way to help you out. I can't say thanks enough for that. It makes me feel good about this career choice and my role in it.

Saturday we participated in the South-Central District FFA Trap shoot. I know... you hear kids and guns in the same sentence and people tend to get a bit crazy - but if you have never seen 125+ kids on 25 teams participating all day long with the type of responsibility and camaraderie I witness every year at this event, you are missing something. Not only are these kids ultra well-mannered -- their etiquette is beyond reproach -- but all very serious young adults calmly enjoying a competitive event with some good old fashioned sportsmanship and team spirit.

Adam Stroud approached me about starting this event 10 years ago - as my naïve self was just getting my feet landed in this profession -- and not knowing any better, but spotting a student with a passion -- I said "Sure ... You line it up and I'll help you get it rolling". Adam was the kind of kid who didn't necessarily find success in the other areas of our "traditional school" event list. He wasn't a math whiz, English didn't set him off, and he didn't enjoy many sports -- but boy oh, boy -- could that kid pluck clay pigeons out of the air with his 12 gauge. Adam had been tagging along to the Izaak Walton League just outside Indianola for a decade or more by his freshman year. When I met him, he could rattle off a perfect score just about any time he pleased. His enthusiasm for this sport and his ability to help others learn about this sport made this District FFA event a success right out of the gate.

Now 10 years later -- I sit here and look around -- observing these students and their advisors, the smattering of parents and helpful adults from the Izaak Walton League chapter intermingling and joining in a day of fellowship. I think that Adam should be proud of what he started here and I know he would enjoy seeing so many here to participate. This event is Adam's legacy to the Indianola Ag Ed program -- an event that allows students with alterative interests an ability to come together to enjoy their activity. FFA has always been a student led organization... and I can't think of a much better example of why Ag Ed is for me.

SC District FFA Trap shoot -- A great example of everything that Ag Education can do and the types of impact and influence one person can have on their fellow students. I'm next on the line .... PULL.


2010 SC Dist Trap 08.JPG2010 SC Dist Trap 07.JPG2010 SC Dist Trap 06.JPG2010 SC Dist Trap 01.JPG


I'd like to say I'm the only ag teacher sitting at school on Sunday afternoon. And that I'm the only one who spent 14 hours three different days at school this past week (this was a busier week). Or that I'm the only one who is going to be in the classroom exactly half the weekdays of October, and on trips/activities/professional development for the other half and half the weekends too (and to those who think those are vacations remember that for every day I'm not in the classroom, I still come up with the lesson plans and will take care of the grading from those days, besides all the duties that come with the activities - it truly is easier to be at school than not!). And surely I am the only one whose truck smelled like the inside of a cow because I picked up some rumen lining at 7am from the local custom meat locker on the way to school for a lab on rumen microbes. Most definitely, I am the only one who has considered calling my Congressman to legally extend the day two more hours. Yes, I would like to say that I am the only one in this situation.


But if I did say that, my wife would hit me, because she's an ag teacher too.


We all know these situations aren't limited to my corner of the world; it just seems to come with the title 'ag teacher.' We know who gets to school early and we know who leaves the school last, because we are often here for both ends of the day. We are on first-name basis with the night janitors, and know which ones will let you in the office after it's locked and which ones won't.


But then, we also know our students better than just about any other teacher in the school. We know their parents, or lack thereof; we know what they enjoy about school, and what they don't; we know what they want to do after high school, and which ones don't have a clue; we know their personalities and their strengths and their weaknesses and their fears and we know the potential they carry.


It can be easy to feel a little overwhelmed and be run a little ragged from time to time, but I think most ag teachers agree on two things: we do it for our students, and we love it. It's because of those same students we do all the things we do and commit the time we have. If we didn't like our jobs, we wouldn't take the time to craft effective and engaging lessons, we wouldn't set practices during the evenings and on weekends, and my truck wouldn't smell like internal organs. If I didn't like this job, I'd go home at 3:30pm amidst the mad dash of some of other teachers out the door.


The fact of the matter is I enjoyed my fourteen hours here on Wednesday. I was thrilled to watch the FFA officers lead fifty FFA members in the first chapter meeting of the year, handling business, facilitating icebreakers to get to know the new members, and getting everyone excited to have fun and learn for another year. I enjoyed Thursday's conferences; sometimes you are the only teacher who can tell a parent their student is enjoyable, engaged, and working hard in your class. And while Friday night was the first time I've ever announced a football game (it's just like a market lamb show right?) I had plenty of students afterward give me a good-natured bad time for doing it. This week happened to be a busy one, and I still have plenty of opportunity to do other things outside of school I enjoy with family and friends.


I stand firm in my convictions; we may grumble from time to time about the busier schedules and occasional long day, but in the end we have busy schedules because we choose to do it for kids and we love what we do. I avoid things I don't like (see my wife re: laundry). The time I spend with students as they struggle to decide who they are and who they want to be is the most valuable, enjoyable, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny thing I could be doing. So let this be the theme for the year as we share in one another's stories: I love what I do, and doing this for kids is the most important thing I can be part of.


And I wouldn't trade away a minute of this 26-hour day.



Challenge:  1)  post why you love what you do (ag teacher or otherwise!), and 2)  share how you know what you do is important!  I really do want to hear it!

After a first day that started with a student comment that "she won't make it till Christmas" I am sure some are curious how things turned out. That first year most of my students ended up in Horticulture when their first and second and sometimes third choice of program were filled - this was a county vocational school which only had the students for half a day. So I had frustrated "wannabe" auto mechanics, welders, and even carpenters and masons - but no one who actually wanted to be in horticulture. I learned very quickly that it was better to pretend you liked snakes when a garter snake ended up mysteriously in your desk drawer and it was easier to  come in early and simply weed out all the pot seedlings leaving them guessing about why the seeds they scattered never grew.  When I learned that the school had a large van I could use (if I got my bus drivers license) I knew I was on to something. I got my license and made the students a deal - they work WITH me Monday through Thursday and every Friday we would take a field trip. The trips had to be horticultural related and educational but to them just getting out of school was a treat.  By Christmas I overheard them arguing about what to get me as a gift - being high school boys for whom bigger is always better they got me the biggest bottle of Jean Nate perfume and a cowboy hat (they knew I loved country music). The year turned out great -and some of them did decide that horticulture would be a good career.

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