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Work Hard. Be Kind.

Posted by Tiffany Morey Oct 29, 2013

"Work Hard. Be Kind." These are the words that are painted above the front door of my school and are also the school motto. They are simple, yet powerful, and define what we do each and everyday as ag teachers.


Work Hard. There are very few educators who work harder than ag teachers. From putting in extra hours after school and on weekends with our FFA chapters and all that they entail, to preparing for upwards of 5 different classes each day, we know about hard work. Our classes and students demand large amounts of attention and energy, and keep us in constant motion. We are always preparing and planning for bigger and better things for our ag programs at FFA chapters, and are constantly finding ways and time to improve ourselves as educators. Why do we work so hard? We do it because we love our jobs and to us, the hard work is worth it.


We also teach our students the value and importance of hard work. From SAEs to CDEs, FFA allows our students to reap the rewards and benefits of working hard. We demand that they work hard in our ag classes as well, and the good grades and life skills that they gain as a result are things they can use for their futures. In addition, we also set the example for them show them that hard work is what is needed if they want to achieve their goals in life.


Be Kind. Ag teachers are also some of the kindest people you will ever meet. They care SO much about their students, programs, FFA chapters, and communities, and they let it show. Maybe this kindness has evolved because ag teachers spend their days dealing with so many different types of people, or maybe it's because they just really are happy with their jobs. Perhaps it's a combination of both. As ag teachers, we rely on many different people to make our programs and FFA chapters function and run smoothly. Without the support of our students, co-workers, administrators, parents, and community members, we wouldn't be able to get much done. By being kind to these people, we show our gratitude for their help, and make them want to continue to work with us. We also show our kindness to our students as well. Ag teachers get to know their students far better than most other types of teachers, and we spend so much time with them through ag classes and FFA. Not every kid is enjoyable to work with and be around, but by being nice to all of our students (even the ones that drive us nuts), they know that we really do care about them and their well being.


In turn, we also teach our students to be kind to others by setting the example. FFA shows our students that being kind to others is essential for success. It's even stated in the closing ceremonies line with the phrase "courteous to everyone". If our members and officers are not courteous and kind to others, nobody will want to work with them and the chapter will not succeed. By showing them the importance of being kind to everyone, they can see that a little kindness can go a long way in getting people to cooperate and get things done.


Keep working hard and being kind. Even though it's tough sometimes, working hard and being kind are what we need to do to succeed in life. As ag teachers, we know this and keep doing these things day in and day out even when it's tough. Our dedication to working hard and being kind is what makes us such unique and amazing educators, and this quality we possess is one of the reasons I consider myself lucky to be an ag teacher. Have a great time at National FFA Convention to all those who are attending and look for S'Morey soon. In the meantime, work hard, be kind, and continue to be the awesome ag teachers that you are!



Off and Running

Posted by Tiffany Morey Oct 13, 2013

It's hard to believe that the first marking period of the school year is already halfway over. It feels like just yesterday that I was packing up my old classroom, house, and life and moving here to Hunterdon County. The summer was spent cleaning and preparing my new classroom for my students (over 30+ trashcans of junk later it is finally clean and organized!), ordering supplies, writing curriculum (no curriculum for 3 out of my 5 classes! AFNR came to the rescue for 2, and I'm writing the one for Floriculture as I go-just don't tell my students!), and getting situated in my new home. September went by in the blink of an eye, and I am finally getting the chance to reflect on my first month and a half in my new ag teaching position.


The Students

They are by far my biggest challenge and the only "bumps" in an another wise great beginning to my new job. Having been accustomed to 3 ag teachers in the past 5 years, and an overall lack of consistency/structure/expectations/discipline, they were a bit wild. Many of them took ag because it had been an elective where they had not been required to do much of anything in the form of work. They also had a total lack of respect and felt the urge to talk whenever they wanted. Needless to stay, the CASE curriculum and my style of classroom management (showing respect for teachers and classmates, following rules, consequences for not following rules) came as a bit of shock and they pushed my buttons as much as possible. After laying down the law, pulling the instigators aside, and calling a few parents, things are improving. This battle is something I will fight all year long, but one that I know I will succeed at.


On the flip side, there are a lot of students who really love ag, and are excited to learn. My CASE Animal Science class is an absolute dream to work with, and I am finally teaching CASE the way I have always wanted to. My middle schoolers are a fun bundle of energy. They are loving CASE AFNR and try so hard to please. Their energy can be hard to contain, but we are making it work. CASE Plant Science has been a challenge, but now that we are getting into more of the labs, they are starting to get engaged and interested. Floriculture is the biggest struggle, but floral design has caught the interest of half the class, while renovating the greenhouse to install a hydroponics system has interested the other half, so things are improving there as well. Overall, I really enjoy my students and serving as their new ag teacher.


Planting the Rain Garden



The School

My new school is absolutely wonderful. It is a true learning community and everyone really cares about their students. My co-workers have been nothing but kind, supportive, and welcoming, and I have a great mentor who teaches science. There doesn't seem to be much negativity and drama, and everyone works together to make the building have a positive environment. The administrators are very supportive of the ag program and seeing it grow and progress. They have approved adding CASE Animal and Plant Biotech for next year, and regularly check in with me to see how things are going and if I need any assistance.


Perhaps the best thing that has happened since arriving at the new school, is that we have finally articulated with Rutgers University! An articulation agreement with Rutgers is something I have been working on for the past 2 years. After many meetings and countless months of waiting for the paperwork to be approved by various university officials, our articulation agreement was made official last week! We are the first ag program to ever articulate with Rutgers, and are paving the way for many others to do the same. As part of the agreement, students will receive 3 college credits for both CASE Animal Science and CASE Plant Science. Plans are also in the works to articulate the CASE Animal and Plant Biotech course as well. We also have an articulation agreement with Delaware Valley College that came along with my hiring, which means our students can receive between 6-8 college credits at 2 difference 4-year ag colleges in our area! That is pretty awesome!



The FFA chapters at South are just awesome! My high school officer team is a great group of young people that are passionate about seeing their chapter grow and succeed. We are sending 3 teams to the Fall CDE, and have already begun work on our Living to Serve Grant project. We planted over 2000 plugs for our rain garden, and are working to being community outreach about the project. Our first full, formal chapter meeting is next week, and I know it will be successful. The middle school chapter has about 10-15 active members and is also sending 2 teams to the Fall CDE. They may be young, but they are passionate about FFA!


Our chapter held a car wash at Tractor Supply 2 weeks ago, and made enough money to cover the transporation costs of the Fall CDE. The event got a nice write up in the local paper, and the members had fun! Our next event is our annual Fall Fest at our high school. We are teaming up with other student organizations to bring our community a day of fall family fun complete with crafts, games, food, and hayrides. We even got permission for FFA members to bring their SAE animals for a petting zoo. As long as the weather is good, it should be a great day and another opportunity to show the community that our FFA chapter is back in action!


I am also fortunate enough to have an amazing FFA Alumni! They helped chaperone and BBQ food for our carwash, and made baked goods to sell. They are also providing the food for our Fall Fest, and one member is bringing the tractor and wagon for the hay rides. Each meeting we have seen more and more parents and ag supporters attend, and it is wonderful to know that I have so much help and support! They are such a great group of people, and I am enjoying working with them. In addition, I also have a fantastic co-advisor who helps make running 2 FFA chapters manageable!


Pictures from the FFA Car Wash





The Community

I love my new community. Not only is it beautiful, but the people are genuinely kind. They are supportive of ag, and have been nothing but welcoming and helpful. The scenery is lovely, and the lack of traffic makes it a perfect place for me to enjoy all of my favorite things in my personal life. The roads are safe for biking and running, and the local towns are historic and fun to explore. Although some of my students are my neighbors, and I can't go anywhere without seeing someone I know (student, parent, co-worker), I am the happiest I have been in a long, long time. I've even made friends with my "horsey" neighbors across the street, and they let me come over and ride whenever I need some equine therapy after school. Being able to have a much more balanced personal and professional life has made me enthusiastic about my job again, and I feel refreshed and ready to go when I walk into school each day.


Beautiful Hunterdon County





Hope things are going well for everyone! As always, thank you for following along with my adventures in teaching ag, and look for S'Morey soon!




My Equine Friend and Therapist, Eros


Matt Eddy

My kid got a what??

Posted by Matt Eddy Oct 10, 2013

Another fun filled week of Parent - Teacher conferences.  When did it all go wrong? 


School and grading; School and Grading

It's an institute you can't disparage;

This I tell ya, brother, you can't have one without the other.


Maybe I should back up some -- or a lot.


I have been toying around with the concept of standards based grading in my program for more than a year.  Finally, I decided that the only way to see how it would work was to put it into practice.  The long and short of it was to run a 4-3-2-1 scale with 4- being above and beyond, 3 - meeting standards, 2 - needs improvement and 1 - no evidence.  The idea was that I could use the National Ag standards (along with CORE standards) articulated in my CASE curriculum to assess student learning in a much more meaningful way.  No late penalties, no zeros, no failing, no extra credit. Did you learn and what can we help you with if you didn't.  All 2's (or 1's) are re-mediated to help the student understand the concept and then changed to a 3 once they can meet the standard. My largest problem is implementing a system that is not meant to ever be compared to an A-B-C-D system but at the end of the semester - having to make the results fit that system.  Such is the life of trying new things I guess.


Another brick in my proverbial paving job to Hades.  Sometimes I wonder if my life is meant to serve as a warning to others.


For the most part -- the students have been exceedingly accepting of the idea.  In fact, they have been rather agreeable to the concept of being more concerned with their 'learning' rather than with their 'grade'.  But their parents....


The reaction from parents was across the board.  Apathy, indifference, anger, anxiety, stress, ignorance.  Several times the inference of 'Sally or Tommy' always being a 4.0 student was mentioned along with overtures of how this would affect their GPA. When did a 4.0 mean a guaranteed golden ticket to the success super-highway??


Grading should be a by-product of learning -- not the reason for it.


Which is why I have tried to implement this system into my program.  Less reasons to chase grades and more reasons to learn.


Maybe I'm just being crazy, or maybe I'm just ahead of the curve... but maybe it's a lunatic we should be looking for.


Hope everyone has a great time at National FFA Convention later this month and have made plans for NAAE Convention in .... where was it again?  Some po-dunk little place no one has ever heard of out in the desert someplace.  Guess we will have to make our own fun.


Remember - I'm pulling for ya; we're all in this together, ME

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