It's that time of year. Granted in the world of agricultural education any time of year when the days end in 'y' is that time of year, but the decidedly busy month known as MarchAprilMayJune is moving right along. Since March 1st, we Oregonians have seen State Convention, Oregon State University CDE Days, spring recruitment, scholarship deadlines, banquet preparation, about 6,000 CDE practices and their subsequent events, spring plant sales, market animal weigh-ins (just finished the pigs yesterday), and - by the way - five or six teaching preps a day. And while experience brings notions of working smarter, not harder, the time saved in being more efficient is more than made up for by adding new tasks to the plate. Never before has a seemingly innocuous bit of advice seemed so important:
These two little words have never been more important than when the busiest get busy. They come from a recently retired teacher in our district - Denny Quinby. Mr. Quinby taught when I was in high school, and you had to get to know him to get him. His favorite saying was "I hate kids. That's why I teach." This gruff looking ag teacher would make the smartest-mouthed high school boy hold his tongue. Of course, if you spent much time around him you knew it was because of kids that he taught, and did so for 29 years in Elkton, Oregon - population 170. In fact, one student even wrote him a letter upon graduation. In it, she let him know: "I know your secret Mr. Quinby - you really do like kids!"
Denny would often intone a reminder to use younger teachers - pace yourself. At first I thought he was just talking about the long hours of socializing and catching up during summer conference. But the more times he said it, I realized it had greater implications. Sometimes we can get so caught up in what has to happen right now by next week before the month is over and we don't think about how we are managing the big picture. The students we have today are not the only ones we will ever have - what about the next year's, or the year after that, or - in Denny's case - the students in 20 years whose parents he had in class as well? Are we pacing ourselves for that?
I'll be honest - I haven't even considered the children of my current students (well, until I just wrote that last paragraph). I am fantastic about throwing everything I've got to the moment at hand and keeping that pace as long as possible. There was not a single day in March or April that I did not work oustide the classroom (never mind the hours in it!), according to my records. But we all know of someone who did the 24/7 stint - and doesn't even teach anymore, maybe because of it.
Of course there's going to be times of the year that demand a great deal of our time - and we give it gladly. But if you want to continue to enjoy this game we play then be sure to play it smart. Pacing yourself doesn't mean you have to quit or take huge breaks (because, let's face it - it's not going to happen); it means we take care of our students, advise and teach and coach and prepare them for their potential - and we do it in a way that ensures we can do it for many years of students.
So fellow ag teachers, keep up the good work! Just remember - pace yourself.