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New Pair Shoes

Posted by Josh Dahlem Jan 18, 2012

“Mr. D, What are you wearing?”



This was the first thing I have heard the last two days when students have walked into class. No, the student’s were not talking about pants or jeans, but my shoes. Who would have thought that wearing something other than work boots would gain so much attention?


If students pay that make such a big deal about my footwear, I wonder what they think about my curriculum. This has made me wonder if I changed some of my curriculum what students would say. When I came to my current school 3 years ago, I brought with me the CASE curriculum, this added rigor and relevance to my plant science course, but not others. Over the years, I have struggled raising the rigor in my other courses for various reasons from student pushback to lack of adequate planning on my side. With the new semester, I began teaching 2 new classes of Ag I. I have made a conscience effort to raise the standards for these students. With the exception of a few, the students are completing the assignments to higher standards and at a quicker pace than my previous classes.


I would like to think it’s the new mindset I have taken with my Ag I courses in that all activities, projects, and problems they have completed so far have been relevant and student driven. This has increased their involvement and allowed for more hands on learning. Maybe it’s a fluke and will go downhill after another week or two, but we, as Ag teachers, have it easy when relating our material to real life situations and ensuring that students taste success. Every day when we enter the classroom, we set our expectations for students, by setting them high; they will work to reach our expectations and when the material they are learning about is relevant, they will be more engaged. Some may not make it, but I am willing to bet they learned more than if the expectations were set to low.


So the next time you are planning activities for your class change your shoes, see if your students notice. By developing activities that are more rigorous, your boots may get a little dirty, but the students will rise to the occasion.


Can you imagine the conversation, somewhere in Mexico, some sunny day, all those years ago?


Mayan Guy 1:  “Hey!  I finished the calendar!”
   Mayan Guy 2: “Sweet!  Why does it stop at 2012?”
Mayan Guy 1:   “Ran out of room, it obviously starts over then.  Oh man, wouldn’t people freak if they thought it just ended?!?”


I’m fairly certain that most of us can agree/hope we have much to look forward beyond a wonderful fall of presidential-election/holiday-spending commercials, but what if indeed 12/21/12 turns out to be the last day of ever?  What would you want to accomplish before the winter solstice?  I present my Ag Teacher New Year’s Resolutions (or Bucket List, choose your label), to complete between today and December:

  • Actually finish a project (don’t just quit and start another). My wife would appreciate this to happen at our house, in multiple examples.   Unfortunately, I’m a chronic starter and an unaccomplished finisher.  This seems to be true of all projects:  shop reorganizations, greenhouses, land lab fencing projects, grading.  They all get to the point of functional, and then seem to fall prey to a shortage of daylight hours and an excess of things to do.
  • Take a vacation that doesn’t involve workshops or hotel room checks.  However, I think it may freak the other guests out when you knock on all the rooms in the hall for lights-out out of habit.
  • Buy something other than hanging baskets from the school greenhouse for Mother’s Day.  While it worked in high school, it may have worn out its charm.  And yes, I did pay for them.
  • Clean out all the school-related tools in the backseat of my truck.  Not only would the shop get restocked, but I would probably gain 2-3 mpg...and then the next project will start (see bullet #1) and it will all be back to "normal."
  • Watch a keynote speaker and not give them an evaluation in my head. Oh come on, like you don’t at least think up at least a few items for the Comments section of the scorecard.  (By the way, this is one of the ways to tell you are indeed a validated ag teacher – more to follow at a later date).
  • Turn in all paperwork on time.  We're not even going to say 'early'; this is pushing the limits of "realistic" goals too much as it is.  Of course, dropping the words 'on time' would still make this a valid and yet-unmet goal.
  • Spend a day with other ag teachers for purely social merriment. Sounds easy?  Try it without making your way around to shop talk:  don’t say the words “contest judges,” “standards,” “SAE visit,” “Perkins form,” “acidosis,” or “administrator”.  Doesn’t seem so pedestrian an idea now, now does it?  However, it doesn’t count if you use the last two in the same sentence.


I can tell you one thing I won’t be doing:  catching up on my late fall grading before the 21st of December.   Because who wants to do all that paperwork and then have it all come to nothing? 


Just trying to look to the positive.  Happy New Year.




What kind of 'ag teacher resolutions' would you suggest?  Include them in the comments!

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