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Or, why I have to reintroduce myself to my students every other week in the spring.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become great/the best/annoying to everyone not as good as you.


If that is the case, then I must be approaching phenom status when it comes to writing sub plans.  Welcome to Spring.


In retrospect, I'm pretty sure March was last week because this month has flown by.  What began with a CDE or two was filled in with a couple great conferences in the middle.  Alamo.jpgThe first one was just a couple weeks ago down in San Antonio.  Throw a few thousand science teachers together, drop a few ag teachers in the mix, and you get the National Science Teacher's Association conference.  Thanks to the ever-generous support of DuPont, a few Agriscience Ambassadors were able to join in and present a few workshops to science teachers from literally across the world. Not to mention an opening night dinner that couldn't be beat inside the grounds of the Alamo.  Yes, that Alamo.  Apparently they build it right inside of downtown San Antonio.  You would have thought that would have helped out Crockett and Co back in 1835 (and yes, it is smaller than you expect.  And either those walls were higher back then or people were a lot of shorter). you haven't heard of the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy (NATAA), you are missing out.  This program is one of the best professional development opportunities for ag teachers out there, and I've been to a few.  The folks at DuPont know how to make teachers feel valued, and go all out to help you be a better teacher of inquiry and agriscience for your students.  I was able to be part of this very cool experience back in 2010, and have been able to be part of workshops here in Oregon as well as NAAE Convention, FFA Convention, and at NSTA.  More importantly, all those speakers and inservices I've sat through re: inquiry and science and science and inquiry finally made sense as to how it can apply in my classroom.  I am very thankful to have been able to be part of it, and to continue to help spread the word.


Then it's back on a plane and headed home.  After a solid 2.5 days back home (which is exactly how long 'they' say it takes to recover from the time changes/jet lag), and just enough to reset classes and check in on the pile of fire irons, it was back on the road for a six hour drive across Oregon for the NAAE Region I Conference in Pendleton, Oregon.  If you've heard of Pendleton, you know this old rodeo town is in one of the most unique agricultural areas in the western US.  With about 70 teachers from across eight states, we had a great gathering of teachers and university staff at one of the best-hosted conferences we could ever hope to attend.  Props to Blue Mountain Community College and Nick Nelson for hosting an awesome event complete with Underground Tours, Calcutta Calf Roping (which, for the record, I can proudly claim to be part of the team with the 3rd and 4th best times and certainly the team with the best average), driving through ranches and farms and hearing from some great teachers presenting Ideas Unlimited and workshops.  Even Breed'n Betsy herself was there in the...synthetic flesh.


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As you can see, our very own NAAE President Farrah Johnson gets gloved up to pass the AI gun, while Region I Secretary Heath Hornecker coaches from the side and Region I Vice President Erica Whitmore needs a glove to use the camera at this point of the conference.  On the right, Paul Andres of La Grande High School in La Grande, Oregon demonstrates using ultrasound for body composition.


All in all, a great conference and great weekend.  If you haven't attended a Region conference, put it on your list.  It's time well spent.


And now? Well, the bad news is I won't teach a full week of school but once until the end of the year.  In the next nine days, I'll be at CDE's for six of them.  But at least I can still keep working on those sub plans.


What's keeping you busy these days?

Matt Eddy

And It Ain't Boring

Posted by Matt Eddy Apr 25, 2013

In the midst of class today - we had a minor situation.


The student doing ALC cow chores today noticed that our prize cow wasn't up at the bunk.  Rare for her because she would never miss a meal.  So after some searching, she found her on her side trapped by the bale ring and a mountain of old hay.  To make matters worse, her head was down hill and her rumen uphill and high centered.

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Luckily with my student teacher at the helm of the good ship SE Polk, I was able to hot-foot it out to the pasture (breaking most, if not all, posted speed limits) and work to help get her righted again.

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Once brought back around, she stood on her own and after a phone consultation with Dr. Hoy, the prognosis looked good.  A bit of a dicey situation, but the astute observations of Alyssa and quick action probably kept our best cow in the herd.


I guess it ain't boring.  My school shoes sure ain't gonna be the same....

They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to support an ag program and FFA chapter and to help them serve students successfully. Whether it be the literal community your program is located in, the community of your school, the learning community within the classroom and FFA chapter, or the community of ag teachers in your state, all of these different "villages" play an active role in helping us do our job as agricultural educators. This post is dedicated to these "villages", because without them, our programs would not glorious sunlight of brotherhood and cooperation that is necessary for them to grow and thrive.


The community that my school is located in is not one centered around agriculture. It is very urban, and there are no working farms. It's taken a few years, but the community has slowly but surely become very supportive of my ag program. Thanks to our county board of agriculture and our tri county soil conservation district, 4 FFA jackets were sponsored for my students and they will receive them at State Convention Next month. The county department of parks and recreation is employing 3 FFA members to work at The Presby Memorial Iris Garden (home of the world's largest private collection of irises) over the summer for their SAE projects. 4H is allowing other FFA members to do their SAEs through the Youth Farmer Program where they will be caring for a flock of chickens and growing vegetables. These items will be sold at a farm stand and students will receive a portion of the profits. Not only are these experiences allowing students to take what they have learned and practice it in the real world, but it is allowing them to improve and benefit themselves as FFA members too!


Basil and lettuce for culinary arts and compost for 4H

In the school community, we are working with several other CTE programs on projects. We are using the greenhouse to grow lettuce and herbs for the culinary arts program. In return, they are giving us their discarded food items for compost. This compost (mixed with plant matter from the greenhouse) is being donated to 4H to be used to grow the vegetables for the Youth Farmer Program. The graphic arts program is designing the programs and invitations for our upcoming FFA Banquet, and are accompanying us on our trip to The Presby Memorial Iris Garden so they can photograph the irises. The retail careers program sells our bouquets for us when we hold FFA fund raisers and donates the snacks used as prizes for FFA Week. The ag science students grow plants and propagate fig tree cuttings that they also sell in their store. The carpentry program built all of the new tables for our greenhouse and our students worked together to make sure the final product was ideal for our needs. Thanks to the cooperation between these programs, our ag program is thriving and students are working together to accomplish some amazing products!


Plants for the FFA Plant Sale


Reorganized Classroom Shelves

The classroom learning community has come a long way in the time since I started here. When I took over, students didn't work together and they had no pride in their program and FFA chapter. Today, things are completely opposite. Students work together as a team to keep the greenhouse running and to accomplish projects in class. The FFA chapter is a unified bunch and they are a true brotherhood who have each other's backs inside and outside the classroom. The fact that they are a real team has been very apparent lately with the students volunteering to assist in reorganizing the classroom to make room for the supplies for our new CASE course being offered next year to working together to advertise the FFA Plant Sale and plan the FFA Banquet. They have helped to establish a true learning community who cooperates and works together to accomplish some pretty awesome tasks!



Donated Petunia Plugs and Coleus Plants

The brotherhood of ag teachers here in NJ has also benefited our program in many ways. When we were late to the Spring CDE last week due to a terrible traffic from an accident on the highway, NJFFA staff allowed my students to jump right into the competitions and allowed them time at the end of the event to make up the rotations we missed for both the Vet Science and Environmental Natural Resources teams. Thanks to their willingness to cooperate with us, my ENR team was able to do the best they have ever done and the students were able to compete in the events that they had spent so much time preparing for! When the seeds for the flowers for the FFA Plant Sale didn't sprout as well as we'd hoped. an ag program in a neighboring county gave us several hundred petunia plugs and coleus plants that they had left over. It was extremely generous of them, and without their generosity, we would not have any flower plants to sell. To say thank you, we gave them a bunch of floral design supplies left over form the former floral design program that had been sitting in storage and would have been thrown away otherwise. By exchanging our surplus of materials, both programs got things that they needed and would not have been able to get otherwise. In addition, when we decided to hold our first ever FFA Banquet, another ag teacher was kind enough to send me all her notes on how to plan for it as well as the scripts and documents used for the actual event. All of these things illustrate the unique brotherhood that we have as ag teachers!


They call this message board Communities of Practice for a reason. Without the glorious sunshine of the types of brotherhood and cooperation that come from being members of communities, we could not do the job we love. Look for S'Morey soon.



Matt Eddy

Peach Trees and Rainbows

Posted by Matt Eddy Apr 12, 2013

I don't think anyone ever said that teaching Agriculture would be all Peach Trees and Rainbows...


One might begin to wonder, after reading our blogs, that teaching agriculture must be the best thing in the world... and maybe it is.  But it doesn't always go well all the time - for any of us - or at least, ME.


This week has been a grind - very much a grind.   I'm not sure why.  Lots of little things, some slight turbulence  or maybe the weather.  It's been cloudy, rainy and cold for the better part of the week after a short shot of 75 and sunny.  Iowa weather can be mean in the spring.  We did miss (almost all of us) the snow in SD, MN, NE, CO, KS that has bollixed their April weather patterns.  And we certainly missed the wicked twisters in the south.  But the melancholy of the weather could be part of it.


The students have had less energy, I'm irritated faster than normal with behavior; assignments aren't done as well as could be and that's frustrating.  I'm swamped by the usual April and May hub-bub and projects.  It seems like some days that your walking into the wind.  The next two months are always the toughest educationally.


We had some new CASE Biotech stuff come in and I got it all organized and put away today like it should be - a minor victory. 4% down, the other 96% of my classroom and lab to go.   The greenhouse is behind; and my students don't seem to sense the same urgency as I do towards the completion of our projects.  All in all, I'm worn out today.


Maybe Vince Lombardi was right.  In the long run, deep down in our hearts, we must like the grind.*  Because we pursue this thing called education with everything we have, all of our thought and energy - even though some days it seems like it drains them both at the same time.


But today is Friday - and after a couple days of recharge - we'll try again.  Because we like the grind....  and I firmly believe that anyone's finest hour - their greatest fulfillment - is that moment when they have worked their heart out in a good cause and lie exhausted - but victorious.*


Keep your stick on the ice - Remember, I'm pulling for ya; we're all in this together. Red Green


I'm out....


*adopted from "What it takes to be #1" by Vince Lombardi

A Seedy Situation

Posted by Tiffany Morey Apr 5, 2013

Spring is here, spring break is over, and my students have found themselves in a bit of a seedy situation.....literally. They came up with the idea of growing vegetable and flower plants in the greenhouse and selling them to the staff as an FFA fundraiser. This meant that they were going to have to plant A LOT of seeds! Flats were filled, tags were labelled, and a planting schedule was devised. However, Mother Nature decided to mess with their perfectly crafted plan and timeline, which led to them finding themselves in a bit of a predicament. The following pictures depict what happened.......


A week of warm, sunny days meant the seeds sprouted much earlier than expected.


This meant that the students had 20+ flats of seedlings that needed attention right away.


Nobody remembered to test the soil beforehand. Testing of the soil once the seedlings sprouted revealed that it was completely depleted of NPK. This prompted the seedlings receiving an emergency dose of Miracle Grow.


And so, my students have found themselves in a seedy situation with their plant sale plans. Will the seeds make it? Will the plant sale be a success? We shall find out the next time I give you s'Morey!



Jessie Lumpkins

Good Ol' Rocky Top

Posted by Jessie Lumpkins Apr 3, 2013

My favorite trip of the year? State Convention. At the end of every March, my Tennessee FFA family and I work our way East (down in the Tennessee hills, ain't no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top, ain't no telephone bills. Gooood, ol', Rocky Top.... ok, I'm done.) and gather in Gatlinburg for a week of excitement. This year, 18 members of the Page FFA Chapter attended state. After a year of hard work, my members impressed me just as they always do.

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The Agriculture Issues CDE team was named the State Runner-Up! This team worked for months, presenting to local groups interested in the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry and practicing their presentation after school. After the first round my students came out and felt pretty good about their performance.  There is nothing quite like the excitement of running up the holding room to see if the finalists have been posted. We wait eagerly at the board until an official walks out with a piece of paper with two names. A crowd usually gathers and my students crane their necks to see if Page is listed - and it was! They made it to the final round and presented on the finals stage. I was so impressed by their performance; they captivated the audience with their genuine and passionate delivery of their roles in the issue of the Horse Protection Act Amendments.


2013-03-25 18.39.59.jpgMy chapter president was also named the State Runner-Up in the Job Interview CDE (for the second year in a row!). I know she was a little disappointed that she didn't take home the win her senior year, but this marks 4 years that a Page FFA member has been either the winner or runner-up in this CDE.


7 seniors received their State FFA Degree (3.85% of members earned it this year in Tennessee). These were the members who were freshman during my first year teaching. I still remember where they sat in my classroom that first year, and just a week ago I watched them walk across stage to receive the highest award a state can honor. So proud!


We also had a student play his banjo as State Talent on stage and at a banquet during convention. He is truly gifted. I will definitely be sending in an application for National Talent for this young man!


In addition, Page FFA received a State Superior Rating, was recognized for 100% membership and for our National 3-Star Rating. We had virtually no issues the entire trip, aside from the fact it snowed the entire time, which not even the seasoned advisors could ever remember happening during convention before.

On a personal note. I was humbled and touched when the retiring State FFA President began thanking his advisors and was listing those who helped him during his year. Without warning, my picture pops up and I hear a pre-recorded message from him that thanked me for my passion and for helping him with his Prepared Speaking when he went to nationals. I rarely get caught off guard, but he did a good job of keeping that nod under wraps and successfully brought me to a few happy tears.


Now we prepare for the final 3 CDEs for the year and our regional and chapter banquets. We are expecting a check in the mail today from a generous donor who randomly emailed me to say they wanted to donate a large sum of money to our chapter. More on that blessing in my next post!

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