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Disclaimer: What follows below is one-side of a provocative coin:  Wes and Matt have taken a topic and then divvied up the ‘Point’ side and the ‘Counter-Point’ side.  Neither article necessarily reflects the personal or professional opinions of either Wes Crawford or Matthew Eddy.  Rather, the goal is to generate some professional dialog about what a day looks like in the 21st Century to be an Agriculture Educator. Catch Matt’s flip side here.



Topic: Is Working at McDonalds an SAE project?



And why wouldn’t it be?


How could you think it should be?


Odds are good you fall in one of the two camps above.  For as obvious at it would seem to you, I have no doubt you could quickly find an opponent who is as equally resolute.


Of course, for 11 months of the year, this hardly matters.  We quietly go about our mild business of lesson plans, CDEs, banquets, conferences, meetings, accommodations, state reports, grants, professional development, shop repairs, bus trainings, webinars, and such.  And then degree season hits.


Granted, as we have already taught our students how to keep proper records, and we stressed the importance of regularly documenting the activities associated with their Supervised Agricultural Experiences, it is such a simple thing to generate a State Degree application and hit print, and it’s done.  Right?


I’ll let you wipe the tears (from laughter...or crushing realization) before continuing.


Rather,it is highly likely the ol’ Ag Experience Tracker (AET) servers require twice the electricity during degree/proficiency season than the rest of the year combined, as students scramble to enter all the cattle feed, fair hours, and long-forgotten speaking CDEs that should have been religiously recorded along the way, but somehow the teenage mind overlooked.  That Google Map of active chapters lights up like a Griswold Christmas tree during the month of December.


But I bet those are just my students. Surely not yours.


So at any rate the end of 2015 was like the end of 2014 and the end of 2013, with some gentle/not-so-gentle prodding from their advisor drove my students to submit a slew of delinquent diary entries and get those recordbooks shipshape and crank out their FFA State Degree applications.  Then it’s off to the state degree application review with the fellow advisors in the district.  And then the question comes up:


“We’re going to count working at McDonald’s as an SAE for State Degree?”


Let’s skip the discussion on the suburban-ness of our school particular school district.  I could point out that I have exactly two of 135+ students yearly who have parents who are engaged, full-time, in production agriculture.  Or the fact that the school district boundaries end at the city limits in three directions.  We could pine under the guise of validation that “Well gosh darn it, what else can they do?”  But that is not the point, nor is it the basis of the point of view being defended.


Our traditional view of Supervised Agricultural Experience can be summed up by simply looking at the list of nationally-sanctioned proficiency awards.  Of the 47 awards offered in 2016, a full 27 of them are production agriculture based.  To be fair, this is an improvement over a decade ago.  But for an industry that boasts 25% of the jobs in the US while only a generous 2% of the workforce is involved in production agriculture, then by our own Intro to AFNR PowerPoint statistics we are highlighting the fact that less than one in ten of the future career positions we are dedicated to filling is in production and yet our largest, best defined incentive area for SAE is nearly 60% production based.


Let’s go back to the question - is McDonald’s a legitimate SAE?  I’d propose that we decide by looking at what the experience entails.  A McDonald’s employee has to 1) acquire a food handler’s license, 2) learn procedures for food handling and preparation, 3) work with a variety of other employees, 4) handle and interact with customers, 5) handle money and orders under pressure, and 6) general employability skills.


Let’s compare to a couple other, more ‘acceptable’ SAEs.  If the same student is working at a local farm store as a cashier, it is entirely possible that the only task they may have is retail check out.  Their responsibilities will be 1) handle money, 2) handle customers, 3) demonstrate telephone skills, 4) and general employability skills.  They may never have to have actually know anything technical about the products in the store, but just hand questions to the ones who do.  Or maybe they just carry out feed.  Or maybe they just sweep the floors.  But we would see the job title on the Placement page, and move right along without another thought.  At least the McDonald’s employee had to have a certification to get the job.


The end goal of the ‘fast food’ SAE - or this AST student - is not to enter a lifelong career into fast food work.  But it is hard to argue idea that this student is not currently engaged in a segment of agriculture; it is a bit hypocritical to campaign that agriculture affects everyone who eats if we aren’t willing to be inclusive to those preparing the food, regardless of what the billboard on the building is.


I can’t speak to what happens in your state.  In ours we changed the name to the State FFA Degree from the State Farmer degree some time ago.  That doesn’t demean production agriculture.  But looking at a bigger picture - of preparing students for a diverse array of important careers in a future agriculture industry - can be done many different ways now, as we guide them and motivate them to develop themselves with something as a high school job experience that asks “Would you like fries with that?”.



READER RESPONSE:  Is working at a fast food restaurant worthy of the most prestigious FFA degree earned in high school?  For that matter, does the load out job at the farm store count too?  Make your case in the comments.

Disclaimer: What follows below is one-side of a provocative coin:  Wes and Matt have taken a topic and then divvied up the "Point" side and the "Counter-Point" side.  Neither article necessarily reflects the personal or professional opinions of either Wes Crawford or Matt Eddy  Rather, the goal is to generate some professional dialog about what a day looks like in the 21st Century to be an Agriculture Educator.  Catch Wes's flip side here http://communities.naae.org/blogs/dayinthelife/2016/02/07/would-you-like-fries-with-that-state-degree-pin.


Topic: Is Working at McDonalds an SAE project?


Jim Handy looked with disapproval at the weather report. SNOW -- BLIZZARD -- Lots of it.  He sighed -- A day off is exactly what he needed but not this week.  Proficiencies and State Degrees, contests and officer books were due in 4 days.  And Mr. Handy was going to need every one of them to wrangle those kids and get their record books put into order.  It really should have been done last fall, but in-between homecoming parade floats and preparing for National FFA convention (then dealing with the fall-out when Timmy Timmerson skipped curfew to meet some girls from Nebraska - his father was the head of the Flat Broke Savings and Loan as luck would have it - and it was a long conversation and a long fall for Mr. Handy).  After those red hot coals were put out, it was the end of the semester and grading multiple choice tests took all of Mr. Handy's free time.


Most of the impending degrees were pretty straight forward.  Mr. Handy had lots of kids who showed livestock or worked at the Heartache Co-op - loading customer trucks with bags of feed and fertilizer. Heartache hired them by the handful and paid a whopping $5.25 an hour - good pay for a youngster and this had kept Mr. Handy's students in SAE projects for years. But now students were getting ideas -- and he was having trouble keeping them focused on good Agriculture projects.


Take Elias - he was a nice kid, Handy mused, but not coming from a farm, he was certainly disadvantaged in class. Just last week when they were ear notching paper cut-outs of pigs ears, he asked - "Mr. Handy, why is this important??" -- "Well,..." puffed Handy, "it just is. We've been notching pigs since before I taught this class and we will be notching pigs long after I retire in a few years" -- that Elias was a regular wise-apple sometimes Handy thought.  Even his SAE was an exercise in tolerance.  Elias worked at the new McDonald's that cropped up at the junction of the Interstate bypass and Highway 218.  It was the talk of the town, since otherwise you had to drive 30 miles to have a good meal. Elias was one of two students of Mr. Handy who worked there.  $8.25 an hour! Handy didn't know how they could stand to pay such exorbitant wages to youngsters.  And how was he supposed to explain this SAE to the State Degree board?? Why - it's never been done.  And to compound matters, Elias was the son of old Mrs. Winklefelter who taught college-prep calculus.  And the last time she had caught Handy in the teacher's lounge she had scurried over to him to talk about how excited Elias was to earn his State Degree next year along with his classmates.  Shoot, how was he supposed to work with those kind of expectations?? It's downright uncivil.  He had muttered about looking forward to 'helping' and after grabbing his new "Livestock Showman Monthly" magazine, he made a hasty exit.


As Handy made his way back into the ag room, he noticed a light on the phone - Agh, messages.  He hated that phone.  If he wasn't in, then just call back later... He reluctantly redialed the number and searched his desk for the slip of paper with the code to unlock it. "Dang, fangled nabber flabber's"... he muttered.


When the message finally cued up, it was Farmer Jones, the octogenarian who had a small dairy down by the Old Creek Road.  Turned out the last worker he hired from the local community college wasn't coming back (4th one this month Handy reflected) and Farmer Jones was wondering if he knew of any kids who might want to help around the place a bit. Handy reflected on his classes -- maybe what Farmer Jones needed was some new blood  that he could train the right way to do things around his farm.  Handy made a note to call Farmer Jones back and also wrote down to talk with Elias tomorrow about his SAE -- maybe he could get two crows with the same stone....



As our shortage of agriculture producers continues and the average age of the American Farmer becomes more geriatric - shouldn't agriculture education programs focus on producing more producers?? The entire industry and mankind depends on the few, the proud, the Farmer. 


We don't have a shortage of fast food workers, co-op employees, and the like -- but we do have a shortage of farmers.  Mr. Handy may have agricultures best interests at heart...

The X Factor

Posted by Tiffany Morey Feb 2, 2016

The X factor: something all possessed by all educators, especially ag teachers. It comes in many forms, most notably positive and negative. It can be a wonderful surprise filled with warm fuzzies, or a harsh reality check that makes one question their abilities. The X factor is something that is continually developed throughout one's life and teaching career, and remains with them forever. It shapes the person and professional they become, and has the power to permanently change their life for the good or the bad. The X factor is free, and is something that never expires or runs out.


Wondering what the X factor represents? It is experience. According to Randy Pausch, the author of the phenomenal book The Last Lecture: "Experience is what we get when we didn't get what we wanted."  This quote applies perfectly to teaching agriculture. Oftentimes, we learn our most memorable and life-changing lessons when things don't do the way we plan. Whether we choose to use these things to help us improve, or ignore them only  to keep having the same experience over and over, is up to us.


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Teaching ag can be filled with many negative experiences. First, there those faced by teachers of any subject such as lack of engagement from students, difficulty with classroom management, dealing with tough parents/students, and observations that don’t go as planned. Then, are are those related specifically to what we do: CDE teams not doing as well as expected, FFA officers and members not preparing or fulfilling their commitments, teaching a bunch of different classes all with their own prep, the difficult student clientele put in ag classes, and seeds or plants for the plant sale failing to grow. The list of negative experiences is endless if that is what you focus on.


However, teaching and teaching ag can be filled with endless positive experiences if one simply decides to see them. From a lesson going better than expected to a student mastering a difficult concept when they didn’t think they could to a group of students pulling together to accomplish a task, those great experiences are easily visible.We also are lucky enough to see our FFA members and teams pull off surprise wins and placings, watch officers conquer their fears of public speaking, witness sick animals and plants make miraculous recoveries, and see the looks on our students faces when the lightbulb goes on and they truly become passionate about ag.


The experiences that we choose to focus on can be a tough decision to make and it has the power to either make or break us as ag teachers. While it would be great if all of the good stuff could happen to us right away, sometimes they take time for us to be able to see and appreciate. It’s easy to focus on not getting what we want, but that is also what can cause us to give up and leave our wonderful profession before we find our true talent for it. Like the Rolling Stones said: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might just find, you get what you need.”


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We all have the X factor. We all have the power to use the X factor for great things in teaching ag. How we choose to express it is entirely up to us. Hopefully you will choose to use your X factor to achieve greatness in your classroom and your life.


-TM

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