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No, I'm not leaving.  Stop celebrating, students.

 

The other weekend our local livestock association hosted its annual Spring Conference.  Consider it professional development for producers of the animal kind; workshops and seminars by industry reps were coupled with sessions on business management, hinged in the middle by tasty tri-tip.  As a current member of the board of directors - and a confirmed life-long learner - I spent the day learning quite a bit that can be applied back to the classroom.

 

The afternoon session was the most interesting, and comes back to the point of this post.  The speaker was Dave Pratt, who runs the Ranching for Profit school.  While there was a fair amount of debate that such a title was ridiculous in the first place (Ranching for Less Loss was the suggested amendment), there was no doubt Dave believed - and had the evidence to prove - that ranching was supposed to be and is very capable of being profitable, and not just because of the markets today.  Four hours of applied accounting and economics later (that truly didn't feel like four hours of applied accounting and economics), I felt pretty confident the man knew what he was talking about.

 

What struck me the most interesting/intriguing/preposterous was the story of one of the alumni of the school.  Dave talked about the concept of whether your ranch was a business, and furthermore was it a business that you could leave for a year and it would still be operating normally.  The story went how he taught this concept during his school, and this alumnus (let's call him Steve) couldn't believe such an idea.  However, three years later, Steve - who was part of a mentoring committee for the school - had to step down from this commitment because he was going to be visiting New Zealand with his family...for six months.

 

Could you leave your program - our own little funny farm some days - for a year, return, and pick right back up?  I can tell you my first reaction was a resounding 'Are you serious?'  However, in retrospect, is that not a warning sound?  Shouldn't we be building a program that stands on its own, with students, community, administrators on supporting it, rather than one built around ourselves?  Could another qualified ag teacher step in and keep the rocket heading down the rails?  I know how stressed our Art teacher was this spring as he went on maternity (paternity?) leave and was leaving his Annual class with the responsibility of completing the yearbook.  I can't imagine I'd be much better - officers, CDE teams, greenhouse, land lab, market projects, SAEs...just imagine!

 

I've decided if my answer is no, then I need to 1) to develop a more realistic and humble opinion of myself and 2) start investigating why.  Who's doing the work, who's taking on the responsibility, and how do we make sure if we leave the program and its' customers they are still served the best possible way they can be - no matter who's driving the bus.

 

Food for thought.  Because you never know...maybe someday you'll want to be a foreign exchange teacher in New Zealand. 

 

 

READER RESPONSE:  On track?  Off track?  Am I only the crazy one here?  Let me know in the comments - could you leave it for a year?

Transitions

Posted by Cacee A. Ford May 8, 2012

Student Teacher -> Agriculture Educator

 

It seems like a simple transition. 

 

But, so far for me, there has been more to it than that.  Student teaching flew by and I miss my students, colleagues and work environment terribly.  While, I am ready to be in charge of my classroom, I am certainly missing the internship experience.   Also, graduating from UF has been a tremendous experience.  After being MIA from campus all semester and consistently telling myself, "I prefer my school over the chaos of campus life", I have quickly proven myself wrong.  There is something special about the UF campus atmosphere and all that it means.  The old saying has come true, "You don't miss until it is gone or over."   Part of me if very much sad to be moving away from my home for the past 4.5 years, UF. 

 

As I move forward to this next phase, I am constatnly reassuring myself of two things:

 

1. Great opportunities lie ahead.  Who doesn't get excited about finding that first teaching position?  It is exciting to think about revamping lessons and ideas from student teaching and creating and finding new lessons and ideas for an entire school year.

 

2. I will find a job.  I will find a job.  I will find a job.  I have chosen to live in north Florida and unfortunately, agriculture positions at the middle/ high school level are few and far between right now.  But, I have faith and trust in God that He has a plan for me here.

 

 

Life, for me, post- student teaching has been a whirlwind.  But, now that graduation is over and the job hunt begins, I know that I have to keep my head up and know that things will work out as they should.  I am so blessed to have had the interning experience that I did. It makes me feel even more blessed to have had several of my students and co- teacher attend my graduation ceremony and also when others have contacted me to tell me how much they miss my teaching.  Like I said, truly blessed. 

 

Sincerely,

Cacee A. Ford

Matt Eddy

Aristotle the Ag Teacher?

Posted by Matt Eddy May 2, 2012

Aristotle is credited with the following:

 

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

 

As I sit here monitoring my obligatory study hall assignment, I wonder, educationally, what we are turning out?  Frankly, anyone who thinks teaching is easy ought to try it in May.  A bright, sunny, temperate May.  The Seniors are dressed like they are going to the beach (probably just preparing for their future lives), just finished a impromptu water-fight in the parking lot (receiving scowls from teachers and sanctions from administrators); the juniors are wishing they were seniors and are furiously scribbling crib notes for next year's hi-jinx.  The sophmore's are chatting and the freshman are wondering what all the fuss of finals is all about... and I am not so naive to think that this scene isn't being played out in schools across the nation to some degree. 

 

Where is this leading?  I would be lying if I said I knew.

 

But as that quote from Aristotle bumps around in my head, I wonder.  Are today's youth being encouraged to think critically?  Drill and press all you like, but a nation of lemmings is not something I wish to foster unto my nation, much less my state and even much less my community. 

 

Is my Ag program positioned to contribute significantly to the future workforce?  Is Ag Ed across the nation ready to meet this challenge? 

 

In the past couple weeks, I have toured three major global agricultural companies (located within a proverbial stone's throw) from my school.  Toured them with dignitaries, the 9th most important man in our United States Government (A prize if you know the reference), and other various VIP's - and not once did I hear anything about better test scores.

 

In fact, I specifically asked "What do you look for when you hire people?"

 

Almost verbatim:

 

"We want to hire you for your brain, not your brawn - we have machines that do the physical parts of this job.  We need people that can operate the machines, think and solve problems."

 

 

"We want creative thinkers, people who have varied and interesting backgrounds and want to make a difference, contribute to something - not just collect a paycheck."

 

 

"We want to hire collaborative workers - people who can communicate and work with others.  You can be the smartest person in the world, but if you can't communicate it - it's no good."

 

 

So after visiting these places and hearing these thoughts on what kind of workers they are looking for -- I wonder how I can prepare my students for these eventualities of their future.  'Cause with a little luck - they will find themselves at these very successful and wonderful places to work.

 

One thing is for sure -- it's something I may not find on a standardized test.

 

Comments, Quips, Concerns??  Feel free to share.  Just between you, me and 7000 others.

Ken Lym got me to thinking.  A great question with no answer.  I'll post my reply below, but I would like to ASK YOU -- How do you become a successful ag teacher??  Submit reply's below.  What does it take??  How will I know??

 

Enjoy, ME

 

Guess it depends on your definition of successful...

 

Continually learn, reflect, and change, ... then repeat.

 

Join your professional organization (NAAE and state ag teacher group).

 

Be curious, inquisitive, and enthusiastic

 

Be empathetic, kind and helpful

 

Do your best, give it what you got, and realize you can't be everything for everyone.

 

Do what's best for kids.

 

Work professionally with your colleagues.

 

Check out CASE ... might be the best thing you ever did.

 

Read --- educational literature, blogs, opinions, stories -- stay current.  Entertain new ideas without necessarily accepting them.

 

Challenge yourself and your students

 

Back up your computer

 

Realize that failure is probably the best educator.

 

Focus on teaching

 

Caffinated beverages....

 

That'll get you started.

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