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?