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?