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Wes Crawford


Posted by Wes Crawford Sep 23, 2013

There are no two ways about it - when you are an ag teacher, you wear a lot of hats.  You collect a lot of hats too, if your conferences and livestock shows are like ours, but that's a bit more literal than what I am referring to.  We're talking a bit more of the figurative today.


Although if I had a hat for all the different hats I wear a year/month/day/last period, it would be a lot of lids nonetheless.  With only so many dining room chairs to leave them hanging on, to my wife's great joy, I'm not sure I'd have room for them all.  But what if we did have hats for all those aspects of our jobs?  Here's my take on what a few of those hats would be, besides the good ol' teacher hat:


vet.jpgAmateur Veterinarian
Don't tell me I'm the only one who feels this way.  I swear two years of vet school may have been a good idea.  As I've gotten older and wiser, I tend to refer a lot of things to the professionals, but in my youth I felt obligated to help with every castration, vaccine administration, and belated de-horning (not a pretty one, that).  Live and learn.  And pass the AI glove.
counselor.jpgCareer Counselor

We're not quite there yet, but pretty soon the senior year meltdowns that begin with "I don't know what I'm going to do with my life!" should commence.  But that isn't the first time we help guide students into a direction and vocation.  With lots of opportunities for college and career at our disposal, and bonuses like offering dual credit courses, it seems we are always handing out scholarship applications, fielding phone calls for employers looking for employees, or related activities.

travelagent.jpgTravel Agent
I certainly feel I've attained the abilities to navigate the nuances of air travel, hotel booking, rental car reservations, and how to best feed 15 people during peak dinner time hours before the next session.  Because who doesn't enjoy 30-60 minutes of phone time with Delta Airlines?
contractor.jpgGeneral Contractor
I've had the jobs, just wish I had the know-how all the time. I have discovered a great deal about about concrete, permits, greenhouse structures, inspections for permits, teaching ten kids how to build a fence, failing inspections for permits, natural gas lines, and eventually closing permits.
motivationalspeaker.jpgMotivational Speaker
It can be for as great as tasks as preparing to win a state CDE; it could be as mundane as finishing notes at 8am on Monday morning.  It may have been to keep speaking the rest of the Creed.  Or to take the tractor out of neutral.

Impromptu Mechanical Engineer

1)  Do you have a welding shop? If yes, proceed to question two.

2)  Have you ever been asked to fix _____?  If no, proceed to question three.

3)  You are lying about either question one or two. Please go back and correct.

goatwhisperer.jpgGoat Whisperer

Sure, it took eight kids to round up the three kids running loose. And when they fail, you go out and get them all in yourself.  Because you are that good.  But you still can't build a fence that will hold goats in. Have you tried water-proofing it?  If your fence will hold water I've heard it may hold your goats in.

weddingplanner.jpgWedding Banquet Planner

Really, what's the difference?  Both involve a rehearsal that isn't taken seriously enough, a ceremony that emphasizes the importance of said rehearsal, and then you eat.  Invitations, floral decorations, centerpieces, etc included.


Don't lie - this has been you.  Maybe you improvised a six person tent with a mop and 100 feet of cotton twine when the tent stakes were left at home during officer retreat. Or you maneuvered 25 tables through the world's slowest elevator one at a time in order to setup your banquet room when you couldn't access the ramps to the gym because the city was paving the back access.  Or you organized a forestry field day on site when you arrived and the guest speakers all forgot.  Or you linked seven belts together to pull a student out of a hole when hiking during a field trip.  Or you just forgot to plan anything for next period.  Or maybe it was just me...


I'm sure I've missed plenty of examples of either hats or MacGyver moments - seems like the comments would be a great spot for your suggestions.  Enough good ones and I'll make another post of the top submissions.


But there is one more role this year is going to add to my plate at the end of this semester.  It is an exciting one, but more than a little intimidating.  It is going to change my life greatly, and it's a hat that is going to change how I approach all these other ones.  I am greatly looking forward to where its going to take us as I wear it, and most likely will require me to reach out to my fellow teachers as I learn to incorporate it with all these other hats we all wear.







Here's looking forward to 2014.  Advice appreciated.

In honor of Teach Ag Day, which is is this Thursday, September 26th, this short, but sweet, blog post is dedicated to the best job you will ever love: teaching ag!


The Top 10 Reasons to Teach Ag (If you aren't already!)

1. No two days are ever the same (this is a good thing!)

2. Your students will make you laugh at least once a day (guaranteed!)

3. Ag teachers have the most interesting and exciting subject matter in the entire school

4. We work with the best kids (once we train them!)

5. We get to watch our students make connections between what they learn in our classes and real life on a routine basis

6. We get to serve as advisors and leaders for FFA chapters and be a part of the greatest student service organization in the country

7. We can be as corny and cheesy as we want and write it off as part of our job

8. We have the best online network of teachers (CoP) and the best professional education organization (NAAE)

9. What we teach actually matters and makes a difference

10. Our students will actually use the things they learn in our classrooms and those things will have a positive impact the future of American agriculture


Happy Teach Ag Day everyone! Hopefully all of you will be doing something to promote our wonderful profession and to help TAG the future of agricultural education! Keep on doing what you love and loving what you do!



It's hard to believe that summer is over and that in a few short days I will be beginning the next chapter of my teaching career when I meet my new students. At the end of the last school year, I accepted a new ag teaching job and left the school where I had been since my student teaching days.

Jumping In- In June, I packed up my life, and moved to area of New Jersey where I didn't really know anyone or anything. Instead of getting tenure yesterday when school started, I am starting all over again as a "new" teacher. New jobs also mean lots of other new things: new school, new administrators, new co-workers, new students, new grade level of students (middle school!), new curriculum, new rules and regulations, new parents, new classrooms, and a new FFA chapter. The decision to make this career move wasn't easy, but after spending the summer getting settled into my new community and school, I know in my heart that it was the right one to make.


Treading Water- July was a whirlwind of filling out paperwork and all of the other tasks associated with getting a new job. I was also fortunate enough to receive a grant from DuPont Pioneer to attend the CASE Animal and Plant Biotechnology Institute in Maryland. Of all of the CASE trainings I've been to, I found this one to be the most interesting and engaging. The rigorous content was made manageable and even fun thanks to great lead teachers Carl Aakre and Aaron Geiman and fellow participants like Matt Eddy and Leslie Fairchild (and many others!). I am so excited to teach this course next year and am thankful to DuPont Pioneer for the opportunity afforded to me by their scholarship!


Doggy Paddling- August brought my first real vacation since I began teaching (it was awesome and much needed!) the fun task of cleaning and organizing my classroom. While program's former teachers (3 in the past 5 years) are all great people, organization was not their strong suit and the classroom and shop area were in a state of utter and total chaos and disarray. Thanks to their rather "creative" and confusing systems (or lack thereof) of organization, supplies and equipment were here, there, and everywhere. My amazing co-FFA advisor and she was nice enough to come in a help me clean up the mess, and we had many laughs and gross/surprising/crazy discoveries as we sorted through 40+ years of stuff. After 30+ hours of cleaning, 20+ cans of "stuff" thrown away, 500+ textbooks removed from the room, and a complete reorganization of every drawer, cabinet, and closet in the shop and classroom, I can now say the classroom is clean and organized! Everything is labeled, and there are distinct areas for labs, FFA, floral design, and aquaculture. New and replacement equipment and supplies are on order, and in a few weeks, I will have everything I need to teach! I still need to tackle the greenhouse, which is currently growing an excellent crop of weeds, but that's what students are for!


I also had the opportunity to work with my new FFA chapter officers. They are a truly excellent group of young adults, and are determined to see their chapter grow and succeed. I had my first student qualify for National Convention, and she will be representing New Jersey both there and at the Big E in the Dairy Cattle Handler CDE. While I will not be there to see here compete, I know she will do well and represent our state and chapter with pride! We also had a display in the Community Tent at the Hunterdon County Fair. The fair organizers let us have the space for free, and the officers did an amazing job designing and decorating it! They manned the booth all 5 nights of the fair, and did a great job interacting with the community to let them know that South FFA is back in action. I also had the opportunity to get involved with my new chapter's FFA Alumni and thanks to them and parents' of the members, we had adults at the booth each night as well. Several Alumni members and parents have also volunteered to coach CDE teams, and its a wonderful (and new and novel) feeling to know that there is such strong support behind the FFA chapter. I can't wait to get the year started so that we can work together to bring the chapter back to it's former level of excellence!



Our awesome display at the Hunterdon County Fair! (above and below)


Freestyling- Now it is September and on Monday, I will meet my new students. I've been given a warm welcome to my new school by my administrators and co-workers. They held a new teacher orientation for us "newbies" and I was assigned an awesome mentor who teachers science and loves ag. The staff inservice days were very informative and useful for last minute preparations to the classroom, so I am feeling ready to go! I can't wait for Monday, so that I can begin my new adventure!



My lovely "welcome" sunflowers from a thoughtful new co-worker!


The next few weeks will be the usual craziness of school starting, so look for S'Morey later this month. I would also like to thank Ellen Thompson and the Teach Ag Campaign for allowing me to serve as A Day in the Life blogger for another year, and all of you for reading my blog and letting me share my story with you! Blogging about my experiences as an ag teacher has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I am very grateful and fortunate to get to continue doing it! Good luck to everyone as they begin the start of the school year. Keep on doing what you love, and loving what you do!



Matt Eddy

Dark Horses

Posted by Matt Eddy Sep 4, 2013

It really isn't until after Labor Day weekend that I start to feel normal... Normal for ME anyway --( Stow the wisecracks! )  School starts the day after our State Fair, but it's still a few weeks before I can seem to catch my breath and the three day weekend is my official end to the summer activities.  I surely must enjoy being busy in the summer, because I can't imagine it any other way or how I got to this point.  It surely is hard to explain what we do to those who believe that teachers get their 'summers off'.  I wasn't lucky enough to go abroad like Wes -- see this blog yet? -- but summer was a great one.


Since I haven't blogged for a while - we got some catchin' up to do. Kick back and pass the Pepsi.


Before the end of the year, there are always a few projects around the school that need finished -- my landscape class got most done but about 10 trees needed my loving approach to finish the job right after school got finished.  Strange how the help disappears sometimes - like water at a mirage.   Luckily we had time to shoe-horn in an officer retreat -- getting kids schedules to match up is a lot harder than I remember it being 15 years ago.


Literally within 24 hours of returning from our retreat, I left for Pennsylvania to teach a CASE Curriculum Institute for Penn State University.  It was an absolute dream.  The participants were top notch ag educators and I look forward to their impact in our profession in the future. I also got indoctrinated as a positive agent of change by Daniel Foster who was hosting this institute, along with the best 'make it happen' duo in the business - Michael K. Woods and Abigail Smith who took care of all our institute needs. (Pictured @Neil_Fellenbaum Keely Weinberger Mike @Greg_Babbitt and the group)


All work and no play is no good at all --- I haven't been on a horse in 20 years.  Luckily it's just like falling off a bike... Thanks to Melanie Bloom for the suggestion of touring Gettysburg on horseback and making it sound as cool as it was.  Sergeant (pictured) and I had a great time.

Back home again and we had our North Polk / Southeast Polk joint meeting and cook-out along with the "Battle for the Sourth Polk Cup" - except for exceptionally hot weather, it was a blast.







Before leaving for CASE Biotech in Maryland, we ran the cows thru for one final check prior to fair. It helps to anticipate our timing schedule on who goes to the fair first.


During my great CASE Biotech experience in Maryland, I studied under the expert tutelage of Aaron Geiman and Carl Aakre - two of the smartest ag teachers I have ever met.  And with their guidance, we ran DNA electrophoresis, genetically modified bacteria to glow, and learned more about Biotechnology than I could remember at the end of the two weeks.  Luckily in the midst of the intellectual calisthenics, we got to spend a Saturday in New York City -- a first for me.  Good friends make travel well worth it and if you want the best 12 hour tour of the greatest city of them all then -- Michael K. Woods is your guy.Leslie Fairchild Romana Cantu  , Carl and Mike and I had a great tour from Penn Station, thru Times Square to the Park, back to the Battery, by the World Trade Center, thru Wall Street and back to Times Square.  It was a first on many levels.


Remember that while you are busy making a living, don't forget to make a life --- we couldn't say goodbye to Maryland without crossing the Bay bridge (not many bridges in Iowa), eating some crabs on the eastern shore and enduring a little novice crab-shucking pain.  I reveled in the richness of the CASE experiences and my travels so that I could bring a greater sense of purpose back to my agriculture program. Tiffany Morey Wendy Vidor Katy Macleod


All good things must come to an end -- and there was no rest for the weary as we ramped right up into Animal Learning Center preparation for the Iowa State Fair.  A pretty motley bunch signed up for the Summer LAB course this year and they brought their inner Larry the Cable Guy to life with a "Git'R Done" attitude.  Even though we started later than usual, we were, by far, more ready than usual during the last couple days before fair.  I even got to change my office venue for a day or so.  Nothing like a little hard work to put things into perspective. PALCO APACHE are my heroes - their equipment make teaching kids how to handle and work cattle easy and SAFE!

20130801_110046.jpg20130801_131906.jpg20130801_135147.jpg20130802_102946.jpg20130807_095042.jpg02-PALCO chute6.JPG

Along with cattle care, ALC duties, and cattle transportation; we also worked at the Seed Survivor booth in the Agricultural building, appeared on TV and radio to promote our building and agriculture, and spoke with the Governors' Iowa STEM council in the midst of the hubbub of the fair. (students pictured with Lt. Governor Reynolds below)


And once we got back to school - our biotech equipment had arrived, we started school and held our Greenhand tailgate before the first home football game.



And now, after some Labor Day rest, I think we can start over and do it all again.


It would be so easy

To find a better way

Oh but I know I'll never change


Cause I love the long shot

And the left out lost causes

Hanging out in the back of the pack

with the dark horses

Wes Crawford

Come on, Seven!

Posted by Wes Crawford Sep 2, 2013

Well, I'm not sure where that summer went to.  But for those of us in our part of the woods, school starts tomorrow.  And that's why I'm writing this instead of cleaning my classroom.


I'm well aware some of you started your new school year a month ago, and for that you have my condolences.  Us traditionalists out here in the Pacific Northwest are fortunate that we get to experience the full six-weeks of back to school shopping ads that became moot to you in August.  But we tend to not have as long of breaks throughout the year and get out a bit later.  So fair's fair.

But this is my lucky number seven when it comes to teaching.  Seeing it in writing makes it no easier to believe, but clearly time flies when you are having fun.  In fact, further reflection realizes that of my last six years, I have been able to blog here on Communities of Practice for half of it. Half of my teaching career.  I don't know if that makes me well-established to some of you or woefully young.


The good news is, I've blogged about the better half.  Your first years as a teacher are like middle school - everyone needs to get through it, and at the time you don't know any better, but once you get through it you realize you'd never want to go back.  Even moving jobs wouldn't be the same.  There is something magical of making it out to years four, five, etc.  Trust me, probies, it's worth making it that far.  And beyond.


It's amazing what you can pack into three - or six - years.  I've not been the most prolific of story tellers, but it is most enjoyable to scroll back up the posts and see where we've been, to realize how far we've come, recognize some terrible one-liners, and reaffirm I still have a long way to go - and I'd better pace myself accordingly.  There are times when it flies by, and times when you just have to find ways to entertain yourself.  There are days your students amaze you, both with their hands-on ethic, or their answers on tests, and those students who have come and gone.  And then there are the days that require multiple pairs of pants.


It's been a journey, both down the road with kids as well as with fellow ag teachers, both in business and friendship.  But I'm not saying anything you don't know if you are already in this game.  And to those who are coming in - welcome.  Work is easy when you love what you are doing.  Nothing can compare to the people I've worked with and the students I've had.  It's been work, but as wise men say, it's work worth doing.


It's a trip I'd take again twice, and am just glad it isn't close to ending.  Although I'm not sure I'll be so lucky to drive some of those roads again anytime soon.  But maybe I'll head that way for a bit longer next time?

Some day. 

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