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Changing the Statistics

Posted by Tiffany Morey Mar 26, 2015

We've all seen the statistical evidence showing that ag teachers have a fairly high rate of leaving the profession early on in their career. Burning out is more common than leaders in agricultural education would like it to be, and many never teachers succumb to the pressures and demands of the job and quit. What can we do to reverse the statistics and keep more people in the profession? What have you done personally to keep yourself teaching ag?

 

Let's face it, being an ag teacher and FFA advisor is an EXTREMELY demanding job! We often teach many different courses throughout the day or school year, and most of them require more prep time than your traditional classroom subjects do. FFA also requires a significant amount of time outside of school, as do coaching positions. but unlike sports which have seasons of only a few months of the school year, FFA is year round. FFA also comes with it's own set of paperwork to complete and review, which must also be done outside of school hours, and can be an exhausting process.

 

Our jobs often carry over into our personal lives. Besides just the time commitment of the job, teaching ag and being an FFA advisor are very much a part of our daily home lives. Many ag teachers are involved in their local agricultural communities and serve as members of other organizations. We often live near our students, and see them while doing our normal everyday things. The job carries a high emotional commitment as well, and that can sometimes affect our relationships with our families, friends, and significant others. In addition, the demands of the job also may not leave as much time as one may like for exercise, socializing, travel, and other fun activities that we enjoy.

 

The recent trends in education where a greater emphasis is placed on standardized testing and an increased amount paperwork/documentation, cracks down on the amount of time that any teacher has prepare lessons, grade assignments, and even just teach in general. Ag teachers really feel this for the aforementioned reasons. We are faced with the challenge of getting the same amount of work done, in a lesser amount of time. At times, it may seem very overwhelming.

 

However, despite the challenges and demands of the job, teaching ag is truly a wonderful and one-of-a-kind profession. We get to work with amazing students and teach a subject with real, real world applications. The lessons that we teach have legitimate value and significance, as well as being engaging and fun for students. Agriculture is something that every single American relies on for their basic needs. We are tasked with the very important task of teaching the fundamentals of this field and getting young people to get involved and stay involved with it. The future of a safe and secure food supply starts with us. Not many teachers can say that they teach something that is is critically important to our country's future as we ag teachers can.

 

Besides just teaching something so meaningful and worthwhile, we also get the pleasure of working with the fine young people that are FFA members. We help to shape and develop the future leaders of not only the agricultural industry, but also of many other industries and even government. Being tasked with the challenge of helping students develop into proficient and successful leaders and team players is rewarding and refreshing. Teaching life lessons, as well as educational lessons, is an added perk of this job.

 

So how do we convince students to even enter the field of agricultural education? Better yet, how do we convince them to stay once they start? The demands and realities this job are daunting, but the rewards and positive aspects, are something that make it worthwhile. However, it takes time for teachers to be able to understand this.

 

The future of agriculture needs ag teachers. We need people to become and ag teachers and stay ag teachers. Let's work together to change the statistics and keep people in this great profession. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

 

-TM

Matt Eddy

You Can't Handle the Truth

Posted by Matt Eddy Mar 23, 2015

After reading several articles lately in my state and a neighboring state - the battle we are waging to educate the public about agriculture and it's production methods is very real.  Sometimes I wonder what the trial of 'the farmer' would look like... (Creative liberties were taken)


Farmer: I'll answer the question!

[to Kaffee]

Farmer: You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I'm entitled to.

Farmer: *You want answers?*

Kaffee: *I want the truth!*

Farmer: *You can't handle the truth!*

[pauses]

Farmer: Son, we live in a world that has farms, and those farms have to be worked by men (and women) with plows. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg?

 

I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for the environment, and you curse the Farmer. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know.

 

That producing food in abundance, while tragic to you, probably saved lives. (Billions actually) And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, provides food. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that farm, you need me on that farm. We use words like honor, work ethic, commitment. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent creating an abundant, safe food supply. You use them as a punchline.

 

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a person who rises and eats under the smorgasbord of the very food that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a plow, and farm a plot of land.


Either way, I don't give a dern what you think you are entitled to.


Kaffee: Did you produce the most food you could?

Farmer: I did the job I...

Kaffee: *Did you produce the most food for the least cost of any nation on this planet?*

Farmer: *You're Gol' Dern right I did!*

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Well -- maybe i'm just over caffeinated and not getting enough rest...

Keep teaching everyone you can about the story of Agriculture... and tell Rob Reiner I'm sorry.

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Wes Crawford

Telling Our Story

Posted by Wes Crawford Mar 15, 2015

The other day I had the chance to spend time with the newest members of our profession, all attending the Early Career Teacher Workshop hosted by Oregon State University.  While I'd like to think I'm not far removed from said demographic, I'm afraid reality and my hairline suggest otherwise. Nonetheless, being there with other OVATA members by the invitation of Dr Lambert & Co was greatly appreciated and enjoyed.

 

It's easy to overlook (read: block out) and misremember those first years for all of us, where every day could be a day you've never taught before, or a CDE you've never brought students to, or the new experience of wrangling students in an airport, or the first time you've had to utilize 911 after a lab, or whatever it may be.

 

And it isn't like we are making it any easier these days.  We have all three rings of this circus to worry about, and then we pile on other concepts - like advocacy.  It's clear how important it is - it can literally be the difference between agricultural education existing in your school, or being cut.  At a greater level, it is the difference between being a part of setting the direction for experiential education and college and career preparation, or being an afterthought.

 

So how do we advocate while doing the rest of the 1,252 items on the to-do list?  As part of a workshop on advocacy at the Early Career Teacher weekend, we came up with the following manageable yet impactful ways we could all advocate:

 

1 - The Power of the Press:  does your Reporter send out results from FFA CDE's, Community service activities, or other news?  If this isn't working, take the charge on.  It's an easy email to forward or write yourself, and tons of people will see it.

2 - Who's Judging You?  Who do you get for speaking judges?  Public speaking CDEs are an excellent way to showcase our best.  Most people are blown away by the poise of our young people.  You have to get judges anyway, so make them people who matter - school administrators, counselors, local community leaders, partners, etc.

3 - Records, Students, Records - How up-to-date are your students' SAE records? The ability of AET to amass data on the economic impact of Supervised Agricultural Experience is powerful - as long as the data is accurate.  By making sure your students know how to record their SAE and holding them accountable is a powerful tool in advocating for the importance of Agricultural Education.

4 - Records, Teachers?  - Speaking of students, how are your records, Teacher?  Do you document the hours you put into supervising FFA and SAE?  Can you justify your current extended-duty contract - or the need for a larger one? This is important data.  I have gotten lazy about it the longer I teach, but the data would not only serve me but other ag teachers as well.

5 - #agedu365 - I'll steal this one from Matt Eddy, and it is a good one.  You can read about it here, and I challenge you to not only use it and Social Media, but are your students using it too?  And if you haven't caught on yet, Facebook is to them what MySpace is to you.  So where can they use it?

 

We are not going to get everything we need to do done tomorrow.  And that's okay.  We will continue to do little things to improve our ability to make our case about the importance of agricultural education.  Teachers, keep teaching. Do the best you can for your students. And find a couple simple yet effective ways that can communicate the great things your program is doing.  And that is advocacy.

 

See you on the road.  And then tell someone about it.

 

How do you tell your story?

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