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A Day In the Life of an Ag Teacher

18 Posts authored by: Jessie Lumpkins

Do you ever snap into the realization, maybe randomly while you’re in the middle of doing something, that you’re an adult?


It happened most recently to me at National FFA Convention. It was 7:00am, I was looking over the wheel of a 12-passenger van, staring at the road, driving into the city with 9 sleepy FFA members in Official Dress in the my rear-view mirror. And it hit me.

I’m in charge.

I’m the adult.

When did that happen?

Does anyone see me over here adult-ing all over the place?





Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being an adult. I plowed through college classes because I was *THAT* ready to graduate, start teaching, and doing “adult” things.



But sometimes, I look around my classroom and realize that everything that happens within the four walls is completely up to me. Me, someone who considers one of the greatest joys in life to be changing into lounge pants when I get home. Someone who considers pizza a food group. Someone who actively utilized words like “fam, turn up, and totes.” Someone who knows why the Hotline Blings. Someone who thinks 1990 was still 10 years ago. Someone who can’t believe that she’s too old now to apply for MTV’s Real World. I’m kinda like a cat. I’m independent enough to take care of myself but someone should still probably do it for me.



Sarcasm aside, teaching high school students is really the best of both worlds. I get the wisdom of being a few years older, and the experiences that keep me young. In some cases, they also help me gain perspective.



*Story time!* Let me tell you what I was doing on the very first day of 2015.



Over winter break, someone was breaking into our farm and animal lab. Long story short, they were people who were uneducated about agriculture and thought they were doing the right thing, even though they weren’t.  At the time, some locks and other security measures weren’t up to par and it was too easy for someone to jump the chain-link fence and do whatever they wanted in my classroom.

After I discovered their break-in, I was enraged. I decided that I am the adult in the situation, I will take control. So…in a very un-adult fashion, I went a little crazy. I had a feeling these criminals were coming back and I was determined to catch them.



I switched my SUV out for my husband’s black truck. I put on all black, charged my cell phone, bought a hot cup of coffee, and drove up to school once it had gotten dark. I parked in a side lot that faced our farm but was far enough away to avoid detection (I’m so covert, I’m essentially already in the Special Forces). I turned the engine off and put my hood up over my head in a feeble attempt at making the truck look empty. This couldn’t be a stupid idea because I’m the adult and adults are the ones who make good decisions.




I had been waiting for about 30 minutes when a member of the regional FFA officer team called. They were in Nashville and asked if I was free to meet up for dinner. As their regional advisor, I had gotten really close to them and wanted to catch up, but I explained I was in the middle of a covert operation. I couldn’t abandon my post. They understood.



I waited… and waited, stewing in my frustration. The area is pretty urban so cars are constantly passing on the road that was to my right. I watched every time someone turned down the road to the school, only to continue past it to the local park.



UNTIL, a Suburban slowly pulled into the school lot and past my truck. They accelerated until they were directly in front of our farm gates. My adrenaline was pumping as I watched a young male fling open passenger door, jump out, and begin to climb the fence. At this point it was basically Def Con 1. I was thinking I might need to moonlight as a police officer because hot darn, I just caught myself a criminal.



My hands were shaking as I turned on the engine. My lights hit the perps and they fled, but I pulled up to block the only exit from the parking lot. What now, thugs? My face was bright red with anger as their car got closer. I was about to come face to face with these jokers. What in the world would they look like? Did I scare them, or were they going to confront me??  What gives someone the right to just come into MY classroom and do whatever they wanted?!



And then the faces in the front seat came into view… the smiling faces of my regional officers.


After hearing about my secret mission, they wanted to give me a laugh (and a heart attack) by coming up to school on their way to dinner. Of course, they weren’t really the ones breaking into the lab. But in that moment, teenagers gave me a reality check and snapped me back into being a rational adult. My frustration melted with the massive amount of laughter that echoed off the brick walls of my school building. The anger was replaced with validation and love of some of the best students I’ve ever known. I ended my mission and warmed up back home.

(Don't they look like trouble? I took this picture after I recovered.)



Soon after, a security camera was installed and locks were changed. Moreover, our community began to embrace our urban farm and we haven’t had any incidents since.



Whenever I lose perspective, I think back to my covert mission and those awesome kids that remind me that I do what I love, and love what I do.



Now ... where’s my adult-ing award?

Jessie Lumpkins

I rest my CASE...

Posted by Jessie Lumpkins Jul 8, 2015

I've mentioned before that I love Instagram, and my new social media love is a little thing called Snapchat. Snapchat lets you send pictures or video to friends that last up to 10 seconds, or post them directly to your "story", only to disappear within 24 hours. I realized that Snapchat is an appropriate analogy for my summer so far. I've had some amazing "snappable" moments that are over now, but they've left their mark on me in the best way possible. (Most of my summer adventures so far have involved CASE. Never heard of it? Check out some info here.)


Early in June, I loaded up my CRV (which I lovingly named Idabel) and drove 11 hours to McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana for CASE AFNR. There I met up with Karen Van De Walle, a friend I made last summer at my first CASE Institute. (Josh Day was the other lead teacher, also amazing!) I lucked out when I got her as my co-lead teacher. For those who have gone through CASE or similar intense PD, you know the type of bonds that can happen when you spend 8 hours a day for 8 straight days with the same people. Sometimes, you make new friends. Sometimes, you end up with bad blood when you used to be mad love, TSwift style.


But these 10 teachers I met in Louisiana? And the bond that we made those 2 weeks? It was amazing from the start, and only got better. Mad love forever. Sorry everyone else, but the casecowboys will always be the best. We missed each other so much that we're still in a group chat on Facebook. (Shout-out to Mitchell, Leanna, Grace, Carroll, Tamra, Jerry, Dara, Kolby, Paul and Susan!)


Here are some of my favorite snaps from my time in Louisiana. 

When it was all over, I was truly sad to see it go. If you offered me the chance to drive back down to McNeese and keep working with that same group, I would leave tomorrow. *sigh*


Once I was home, I had 2 days to do laundry and attend a wedding, then it was on to Texas Tech to be a participant at CASE ASA. One of my lead teachers there was the fabulous Kellie Claflin, whom I had first met when we followed each other on Twitter years ago. I had talked to her once or twice in passing at NAAE Convention, but now we got to be real life friends! (The other lead teacher was Mark Meyer, thanks Mark!) My time in Lubbock provided for some very memorable snaps...



After a few days at home, I was able to attend our state CTE Conference and share with my fellow TN ag teachers why CASE is a great choice for their classrooms. It was the perfect bow on an amazing month of being a CASE junkie.


Find me on Twitter and Instagram @jlumpffa

Have you ever eaten salad off of a pipette? Have you ever met the Blues Brothers during a fancy dinner in the middle of a museum? Have you ever listened to bagpipes in the lobby of a beautiful old hotel? Let me explain...


The summer of 2013 was awesome for a lot of reasons, and my week in Maryland at the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy was one of them. This program single-handedly saved my teaching career and I'm thankful every day that I was part of it. Because of the Ambassador program, a few weeks ago I found myself lucky enough to be presenting at the National Science Teachers Association Convention in Chicago with some of my fellow ambassadors. During my flight, during my taxi ride to the hotel, and essentially during the entire trip I just kept reflecting on how amazingly blessed I was to be there. There had been a domino effect that lead me to being in an amazing hotel in downtown Chicago surrounded by fantastic people, and it was not lost on me... what if I had not applied for NATAA at all? Or had just forgotten? Or applied a year later?

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Forgive my country girl rambling, but Chicago is the biggest city I've ever been to and it kind of blew my mind. While Jeana and Christa shopped for shoes on Thursday, I just stood on the sidewalk and took in how tall the buildings were. (I also must be approachable and/or friendly-looking, because during that time, more than one person asked for directions.) It was pretty exciting to eat real Chicago-style deep dish pizza, since I basically consider pizza a food group.

After lunch the group walked around downtown and I got to talk more with Jessica Jones (who is the 2015 George Washington Carver Agriscience Teacher Award winner!). We talked about the fancy shopping in Chicago and I mentioned that I had never seen a pair of Louboutin shoes in person (the expensive ones with red on the bottom of the sole). A little while later, Jessica insisted we check out Neiman Marcus, but never mentioned why. Since I knew I wouldn't be able to afford anything, I was eager to just get in and get out. As we glided up the escalator, she led me to a corner of the third floor and... tons of beautiful Louboutin shoes! I had met Jessica just hours before and she had already helped me check something off my bucket list. Ag teachers are probably the friendliest people in the country.

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That night we were treated to an amazing dinner in the middle of the Museum of Science and Industry, where we enjoyed salad appetizers on a pipette (the dressing had to be squeezed from the pipette, how cool is that?) We also were able to celebrate the careers of Phyllis Buchanan and Peggy Vavalla, two women from DuPont who love teachers. (And the famous PJ of course, but luckily she isn't retiring soon!)

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The next day I was able to witness some of the other ambassadors in action, walk around the expo, and work the DuPont Challenge Booth with Jeana. I can't count how many times I said, "Have you heard of the DuPont Challenge?" (By the way, have you? ) It was refreshing to connect with so many science teachers who were eager for opportunities for their students. 

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I already mentioned that ag teachers are the friendliest people, but I also think they're the most fun. On Friday night we checked out a piano lounge, something I wouldn't have thought to do on my own. Loved it!

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On Saturday, I had the pleasure of helping David Black present a workshop on DuPont's Food Security Index and how teachers can utilize the information in their classroom. Coming from an agriculture perspective meant that my views could have clashed with the room of science teachers, but I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and walked away with some new contacts who were interested in agriculture-based lessons focused on food security.

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That Saturday was St. Patrick's Day, and Chicago is well-known for their celebration. The river was turned green, the streets were filled with people wearing green, and there were even live bagpipe players in our hotel. On the way home, I was able to eat lunch with David, who was one of my Ambassador Lead Teachers. I have such a great admiration for him, and it was nice to get to know him even better. Also, thank goodness he was kind enough to wait 40 minutes in airport security while TSA kept checking me for some kind of chemical substance on my clothes (maybe I had gotten too close to the river and whatever they use to turn it green? )

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When I first set out to be an agriculture teacher, I never knew it would take me to places beyond the normal conventions and camps. Even during some busy weeks here back home preparing for state convention and a busy April, that trip to Chicago reminds me that I truly, 100%, without a doubt... do what I love, and love what I do.


Find me on Twitter and Instagram - @jlumpffa


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What a wild summer it's been here for Metro Nashville Public Schools! 6 new agriculture teachers came to our district over June and July. THREE of them came to teach with me! All freshmen in our massive high school of 2,400 now take Agriscience as a science credit! This is my 6th year of teaching, but first ever in a multi-teacher program. I'm excited about what this means for the growth of our program! In the next months, I also want to post pictures from my classroom and lab. I've spent the past year fixing it up and I'd love to share it with my teacher friends and future teachers who love checking out classroom decor.


Today a Facebook notification made me think about time. Maybe it's because we're high school teachers, but it seems like we get used to sending students out into the world and just hoping we'll hear back. We accept the inevitable: one day, our beloved students will leave us. We say things like,  "Don't be a stranger." and "Come by and see me sometime." 

If you're like many ag teachers that I know, you send your seniors off with a gift to commemorate all their time and effort into the FFA. 2 years ago, I sent my Class of 2012 seniors off with a mason jar full of blue and yellow paper. Memories, inside jokes and inspirational thoughts all written down and ready to take with them into the world. And then, I forgot that I had done it.

Today during my lunch, I got a Facebook notification and read this.


What are we doing today that will come back to us years from now?


The same Facebook feed that showed me this picture also shows the weary posts of my friends who feel exhausted having to deal with paperwork, overflowing classrooms, and the general stress of the beginning of a new year. To all of my fellow teachers, I just want to remind you - our students NEED us. I guarantee there is a student who will, years from now, will be going through a difficult time and will think back to the kindness and support you showed them. You are doing a great job, even when it may not feel like it. I'm honored to be a part of such an important profession.


Until next time, follow me on Instagram (@jhartlelumpkins) and Twitter (@jessiehartle)!

Do you Instagram? My students have gotten me into “Insta” as they call it, and I’m kind of #addicted. I originally was a picture taker because I have aspirations of one day actually putting scissors to paper and scrapbooking my life. But our students today think more digitally than ever, and Instagram is essentially how they scrapbook.

Because I know it will be years before I’d actually scrapbook the things that happened this spring, (seriously, I still have things from high school graduation in 2005 I want to put in an album…feel free to pass judgment), I’m thinking that to best share my experiences this spring with my ag teacher friends and potential ag teachers, I’ll just share the highlights of my phone's camera roll… my spring semester Inst-ag-grams!

2014-02-06 14.07.44.jpg We've amassed tons of animals! Nubs the Nubian goat is now the unofficial school mascot. Jackson our mini horse is teaching the students about how to recover from a horse bite. #ouch





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Created our FFA Famous wall so that competitors in CDEs can be recognized for their hard work. Since this pic we've added more team pics! #careersuccess





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My students and I experienced holding an owl at the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention in February! Moments after this picture was taken, *somehow* the owl escaped and landed in the rafters. It was many hours until he was recovered. #mybad





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This picture is actually on my real Instagram - State Secretary and National Secretary! Nick (Mitch's brother) was one of my regional officers this year and I cried when he, Shelby, Amy and Kevin were elected state officers! #theynamedmeJLump





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Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, called Nubs precious so basically he's the most famous goat in the world. #celeblivestock






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Two new goats, Billy and Beau, came to live at the McGavock Farm Lab. Nubs greeted his caprine brethren timidly. They have since proven to be...destructive and pushy. On a completely unrelated note, anyone want two Alpine goats?





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We now have 4 bunnies, including Bonnie and Clyde the achingly cute dwarf satins.





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We took 12 students to State FFA Convention in Gatlinburg! First time our chapter attended in about 20 years. Because I'm sticking to camera pics only for this post, this is the only group pic I had on my phone and isn't the best quality. However, it is one of the best memories... Anna (the student at the end of the table) celebrated her birthday at this restaurant and rode the mechanical donkey shortly after our meal. I would have gotten a photo of that but her ride was about .8 seconds instead of 8! #getbackonthedonkey





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An outtake of our yearbook photo shows that 56 of our 61 members made it to the picture.





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New officer team elections! Zoey opens his envelope to find he is the new chapter historian and his friends watch in anticipation! I normally wait until banquet to announce the results, but I decided to mix it up this year with the envelope system. As much as I loved the reactions from them the day they opened their envelopes, I think next year we'll go back to the banquet announcement.





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We fostered kittens! Simba was a class favorite.





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Students who pass the large window right before my classroom door can check out our new ducklings. We'd been waiting since the fall for Momma Duck to have some babies!





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Senior officers after graduation! Even though we only had this year together, they left a legacy for our underclassmen that will ensure the chapter remains active. Proud of these kiddos!





Next on the horizon ... CASE, FFA Camp, officer retreats and maybe some summer fun somewhere


Follow me (@jhartlelumpkins) and my chapter (@mcgavockffa) so I can check our your Inst-ag-grams!

President Obama visited McGavock High School last Thursday, January 30. In order to share a very out-of-the-ordinary day in the life of this ag teacher, I'd like to share with you a photo journey of things that happen when the President visits your high school. (If you're interesting in the White House video, you can check it out here - President Obama Speaks on Education from Nashville, TN | The White House)





Lots of media attention is focused on your high school and why they chose you over the school down the road. Be prepared for a mixture of commendation and anger.

(Note: People may give you some undue praise. Because this is my first year at my school, I've only had about 6 months of work put in. The reason for his visit was to congratulation the Academies model and encourage it in other schools. If you are unfamiliar with Academies, they are essentially small learning communities centered around CTE classes. This model is what Mr. Obama said all high schools should be like. I know there are many different political stances to take on the current administration, but I have to say, that's a point in his favor.)







You will have the privilege of being able to help choose who can attend.

McGavock High School has over 2,000 students, and only 600 could attend. Our 10 officers represented us.






You will get a snazzy ticket that no one actually looks at or takes from you.

If you're into scrapbooking, you'll probably get really excited about including this.






Your last class of the day will gawk at protesters outside your classroom window.

This crowd will grow past this point and be audible from your room.

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You could wait outside for an hour and a half in the cold in order to go through security.

You may leave your jacket in your classroom on the other side of the school, because the student council sponsor may mistakenly tell you that jackets aren't allowed inside. The plethora of emergency vehicles and news vans will entertain you.






You will enter the already packed, freshly-painted gym and see the PE teachers sneaking up to the best spot, and you will follow them.

Your kids will wave to you while you take a picture (they are all turned looking up towards me in this one), but as you will soon find out, they're crafty and won't stay in that spot for long.






You will start getting texts from folks watching at home who notice your students and their jackets are on TV.

You will be immensely proud of them for being smart enough to back up to the ropes so that can happen. The ladies are even smart enough to pull their hair forward so all of the jacket shows.

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Regardless of your political affiliation, you realize that CTE is getting a huge shout-out from the Commander-in-Chief, and it makes you applaud frequently.

You also get pretty excited when your students are just feet from the President, in OD. They take adorable selfies for Instagram,






You also take some selfies.

Including a Secret Service selfie. Notice the earpiece and cool pin.

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When it's all over, you will load up some of those students, who at this point had been standing for about 4 hours, and drive them another hour away to compete in the second level of Extemporaneous Speaking, Prepared Speaking, and Job Interview CDEs. They will be so exhausted that they may not be on their A game, but they make you proud regardless. There is no picture of this event because it's a miracle we even made it to the contest. (To the teachers of the Southern Section in Middle TN, especially those at Eagleville and Oakland - thank you for waiting.)






When you get home and have some time to breath, you watch the recorded news footage and  get excited when one of the stations talks about your program for an entire minute.






If you're like me, you'll end the experience on a nerdy note and use a stopwatch to add up all the time that your students or their jackets were on TV.

Between 4pm and 6pm on the day this happened, on the 3 major networks? 40 minutes, 33 seconds.

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You will think back to all of the people who made fun of you for going to an urban school and joked that they would "see you in the hospital" because you might get shot.

You will then resist the urge to email all of those people a picture of the President in your gym, talking about why your high school and school district rocks.

You will reflect back to August when your students didn't know what FFA was and had never seen a blue jacket, and you will say it was a pretty darn good day.

I rarely make resolutions. I tried last year while I was engaged and not even the prospect of being shoved into white dress in front of all of my friends and family and taking hundreds of pictures could persuade me from going to the gym or putting down the Dr. Pepper. But since I love my job, I think this year I can manage to keep some ag teacher resolutions. Enjoy them, hold me accountable to them, make some of your own.

Just don't judge my




Resolution Number 1:

Tone down the perfectionism.

This is my planner...I can only write in my planner using the designated planner pen...

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Being a perfectionist may very well be an unwritten prerequisite for entering an agriculture classroom. I could have showed a better video clip for that lesson intro... My classroom could have better wall decorations... the FFA bulletin board hasn't been changed in 3 months... My CDE team needs more work... The lab is in rough shape... I could have handled that issue on the officer team better... I need to hear that speech one more time...


I've often heard the quote, "Comparison is the thief of joy", but for me, the culprit here is perfectionism. It's ok to leave the shop in a mess sometimes, or submit a student-written Ag Issues portfolio that isn't going to win any major awards. Going home and worrying about something can't magically change it, so I resolve to sometimes take a deep breath, step away and be content with imperfection. Even imperfection in myself, which transitions well into...

Resolution Number 2:

Suck at something and embrace it.

This is me struggling with chemistry,

another something that I suck at.


The English teacher may call me about a plant issue and I have to admit that I had maybe 2 plant classes during my entire educational career. I know enough to expose my students to it (aka the "knowing a little about a lot" syndrome), but I will finally shout it from the mountaintop: I am not a plant person.  I dreaded teaching Greenhouse Management. I had two houseplants in my dorm in college and they died slow and painful deaths. I just like animals. They're cuddly and/or tasty.  So when the English teacher is disappointed because I had little insight into why that bug won't stop messing with her Azaleas, I will try not to feel shame and direct her to some good websites for help.


In the spirit of full disclosure, I must also admit... I'm bad at SAEs. FFA is my passion but every time I introduce freshman to SAEs I die a little inside because it isn't a perfect presentation (but like I said, I'm working on that, too). When you look at the list of accomplishments I've coached my students to, there is only one SAE-related one in 5 years of teaching. It's hard to talk about that when I'm a perfectionist because I wouldn't want my fellow teachers to think, heaven forbid!, I'm not the quintessential ag teacher. But refreshing things happen when you suck at something and embrace it. In admitting your area of weakness to another teacher, you may be surprised to hear, "Really? I actually love SAEs. I have some stuff to help you. I suck at teaching soils, do you have anything cool for that?" Which leads to my next point...

Resolution Number 3:

Share and share alike.

Don't know if this better illustrates the perfectionism or the sharing - my CDE files where I keep good stuff.


An inherent part of our job is competition. But is there a reason that we can't have some cooperation in there, too? Many of my fellow teachers have been exceedingly kind in sharing things with me, and I happily share anything I have, but...

More than a few times, there have been teachers who mention being awesome at something and in the same breath uttering, "But I can't share that with ya."  Let's just remember that our ultimate purpose to bring success, not necessarily a championship, to students. All students. My students, your students. So if that could happen from me emailing you my top-secret, high-tech, one-of-a-kind study guide for Parliamentary Procedure, then check your inbox.

Resolution Number 4:

Be purposeful about being grateful.

Owl thank you notes are a good way to go.


This one is simple but possibly the most measurable. I work with so many helpful, enthusiastic people that I often hear myself thinking, "Thank goodness for my Principal." But do I ever actually say that TO her? Probably not enough. I like mail and cards, so I often write thank you notes. I love baking, so cookies are good too. Sometimes an email just to say, "I really appreciated the way you stood up for the agriculture department during our meeting today." could mean the world. I typed that in about 5 seconds so... I have no reason not to be purposeful with my gratitude this year.

Resolution Number 5:

Professional Development is my friend.

Apply in December of 2014 for NATAA. You won't regret it!

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Last year I submitted my application to the DuPont Agriscience Ambassador Program and completely forgot all about it. I was accepted and as I packed up for my trip last June, I started getting anxious. I could stay home and get things done, what if I don't make friends with anyone this week, will this PD even be worth it? Going through that week in June changed my outlook on teaching forever. It should be the training every agriculture teacher receives before they're in the classroom. I am now a less anxious, happier teacher because of it. So let's resolve to broaden our horizons and remember that PD is a two letter abbreviation, not a four letter word.

Resolution Number 6:
Slow down and enjoy the little things.

Go ahead and pretend like you didn't cry when you watched this movie.

Enjoy the small things!

This is important, even if it's the last one. I talk about this the most with my fellow teachers. How will I have children and still teach? How do I spend enough time with my husband if 50% of my Saturdays are busy with FFA?  How can I enjoy doing something totally unrelated from work when the deadline for State Degree applications is in two weeks and they are still in rough shape?

Back away from the computer slowly and just say no.The emails can wait. The applications will get done. They always get done every year even though we always panic, right?  But children are not young forever. When I finally have one or two, they are only going to have a few years to wear a massively oversized soccer jersey and run clumsily down the field only to make exactly 0 goals. That movie my husband wants to see? It's only in the theater for a few weeks, and it's just not the same when you aren't shoving extremely over-priced popcorn into your mouth in public.

For all the other perfectionist, type A agriculture teachers who suck at something and spend lots of time stressing out over our jobs because we love it so much...

Let's enjoy the little things both in the classroom and at home in 2014.

National FFA Convention makes my job so easy... the laser show, the theme song, the massive expo, the wallet-draining mall. It never fails that my students always come away inspired and awestruck. The last time members from my new chapter attended a convention, the George Bush (the first one) was President and I was getting ready to go to Kindergarten. The previous teacher never made this trip with his students. Suffice to say, they were unaware of what awaited them in Louisville last week (a mere 2.5 hour drive from our high school.)

When they found out that my birthday was the Saturday of convention, they showered me with many gifts, but I want to share the best one with you today as my way of saying Happy Friday.

After insisting that I meet with them before we went to dinner one night, they gave me what they appropriately called an FFA rose, or a blue and yellow wax rose from the FFA mall. (Y'all know what I'm talking about. That booth may be as old as the FFA itself). The "card" they gave me was a picture from the amazing Teach Ag Booth. (Ready, Ellen Thompson?) As I pulled the picture from the bag, Maddie, a sophomore, said,



"Happy Birthday, I'm going to be an agriculture teacher!"

What YOU get for YOUR birthday?

Today Maddie saw me wearing my Teach Ag jacket (because it is unseasonably COLD here in the Volunteer State) and asked me how I got it. When I explained that I get to blog about why my job is the , she loved that there was a national platform for young people who are considering joining our profession. So if you will, lend Maddie your ears and hear why she wants to join the ranks of crazy agriculture teachers everywhere.



"I was inspired to teach ag after learning about how much agriculture really effects our lives each and every day. Not everyone understands just how important our industry is. I plan to share that with as many people as I come in contact with. Teenagers and young adults need to be aware of what we do and that agriculture is about so much more than farming.



I want to inspire others to want to wear our blue corduroy jacket because it'll never go out of style. I plan to show FFA members that our jackets represent our past and all that we have the potential to become. We are the future of agriculture. Whether you want to be a farmer, a marine biologist, a veterinarian, or an agriculture teacher, our industry depends on you. If you're wondering if this career is right for you, here's what I know: if you love the blue and gold as much as I do, you'll want to be a part of it forever.  By choosing a career as an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, you will!"    

-Maddie, sophomore at McGavock High School

Jessie Lumpkins

Warm Fuzzies

Posted by Jessie Lumpkins Aug 27, 2013

Hey friends and fellow awesome agriculture teachers,


This summer was good to me and I'm really excited to share my experience at the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy and my new classroom. Days have been so full that I haven't yet had time to do those two things justice in writing, but I will.


For now, in the 20 minutes left of my planning before students will burst through my classroom door, I'm reflecting on why I love my job. With National Teach Ag Day less than a month away, it's a great time to remind young people contemplating a career in agriculture education about why being an agriculture educator is such a great choice.


Agriculture teachers do our jobs because our curriculum is fascinating and vitally important. We do it because students need a place to belong during their high school years, and the FFA is the perfect solution. We do it because there was probably an ag teacher that guided us as teenagers and helped us to create memories that we held onto so tightly, we dedicated our life to helping others make them, too. Lots of agriculture teachers will share this kind of story and it's true that these messages will impact college students interested in our line of work.

But what we sometimes forget to share are the little things... like when many students stay after school on their own time to try-out for a CDE team, and while excitedly making a plan for their success together, leave you an entire chalkboard of warm fuzzies.



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(And for those of you wondering, who still has a chalkboard in 2013? That would be me. Nice to meet you. I'd shake your hand but mine is covered in chalk. A whiteboard is in the works!)


Teach Ag for the warm fuzzies!

Jessie Lumpkins

Carrying On

Posted by Jessie Lumpkins May 13, 2013

I'm really into collecting music on my iPod (that I received as a Christmas present in 2006 and it's still kickin!) One of my current favorites in rotation is Fun.'s Carry On. The best line is "Let your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground."

I used to think that leaving things in the past, or making something part of your past instead of the present, shows that you don't care anymore. The growth I've done in the past few weeks, aided by my students, has shown me that isn't the case, and that carrying on doesn't mean ignoring the importance of the people and the memories we made with them.

After much consideration, deliberation, and contemplation, I decided to take a new teaching position in the Metro Nashville Public School District here in Tennessee. I have always found the prospect of a school district in a urban area interesting ever since I heard about Corey Flournoy and his Chicago Ag Science chapter. The exciting opportunity I'll have in my new position is something I've been reservedly (is that a word?) excited about. I can't wait to meet new students and show them what ag ed and FFA have to offer...but that meant I had to break the news to my students first.

We had our banquet Friday, and I felt like that would not be an appropriate day to discuss it. The banquet went well with almost all of our RSVPs attending, including representatives from TriGreen Equipment who drove all the way from Alabama to present their $2,000 National FFA Scholarship to one my seniors.

After it was over, a very exhausted Vet Science team and I drove 3 hours west to a hotel to prepare for our first Vet Science contest the next morning. And ya know what? They won the state contest! The elation they felt was rewarding to witness. You know you've got some FFA leaders on your hands when they kept saying, "We met our goal, we met our goal!" instead of, "We won, we won!"


I woke up this morning at 4am feeling nervous and sad. I had dreams of all of my former and current students standing in my shop, questioning me and asking why I had to leave. There's no doubt about it... I expected the worse this morning. With a few tears I shared the news with my officer team. They nodded and showed signs of understanding when I explained that what I need to do for myself as a professional does not change the fact that I will always be someone in their life that cares about them and will be there to help them with anything. The worst was over and even though they had lots of questions, they showed me what it is to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and carry on.

The support and understanding from my students and colleagues has helped me grow as a professional and show me that change and flexibility is an inherent part of our jobs as teachers. Instead of fearing change, I'm now looking forward to the excitement of a new challenge, armed with the experience and wonderful memories I have of my time at Page High School. There are too many amazing students and wonderful memories to try to list them all.

And now it's time to carry on, getting the classroom and shop ready for a new advisor and jumping feet first into my new position, including the most exciting news ... I'll have an animal lab! I look forward to sharing that and more highlights from the next part of this wonderful journey as an agriculture teacher.

Until then, I encourage you to carry on through any difficult decisions or tasks you're facing. Carrying on will always lead you to "the glorious sunlight of brotherhood and cooperation."

Jessie Lumpkins

Good Ol' Rocky Top

Posted by Jessie Lumpkins Apr 3, 2013

My favorite trip of the year? State Convention. At the end of every March, my Tennessee FFA family and I work our way East (down in the Tennessee hills, ain't no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top, ain't no telephone bills. Gooood, ol', Rocky Top.... ok, I'm done.) and gather in Gatlinburg for a week of excitement. This year, 18 members of the Page FFA Chapter attended state. After a year of hard work, my members impressed me just as they always do.

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The Agriculture Issues CDE team was named the State Runner-Up! This team worked for months, presenting to local groups interested in the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry and practicing their presentation after school. After the first round my students came out and felt pretty good about their performance.  There is nothing quite like the excitement of running up the holding room to see if the finalists have been posted. We wait eagerly at the board until an official walks out with a piece of paper with two names. A crowd usually gathers and my students crane their necks to see if Page is listed - and it was! They made it to the final round and presented on the finals stage. I was so impressed by their performance; they captivated the audience with their genuine and passionate delivery of their roles in the issue of the Horse Protection Act Amendments.


2013-03-25 18.39.59.jpgMy chapter president was also named the State Runner-Up in the Job Interview CDE (for the second year in a row!). I know she was a little disappointed that she didn't take home the win her senior year, but this marks 4 years that a Page FFA member has been either the winner or runner-up in this CDE.


7 seniors received their State FFA Degree (3.85% of members earned it this year in Tennessee). These were the members who were freshman during my first year teaching. I still remember where they sat in my classroom that first year, and just a week ago I watched them walk across stage to receive the highest award a state can honor. So proud!


We also had a student play his banjo as State Talent on stage and at a banquet during convention. He is truly gifted. I will definitely be sending in an application for National Talent for this young man!


In addition, Page FFA received a State Superior Rating, was recognized for 100% membership and for our National 3-Star Rating. We had virtually no issues the entire trip, aside from the fact it snowed the entire time, which not even the seasoned advisors could ever remember happening during convention before.

On a personal note. I was humbled and touched when the retiring State FFA President began thanking his advisors and was listing those who helped him during his year. Without warning, my picture pops up and I hear a pre-recorded message from him that thanked me for my passion and for helping him with his Prepared Speaking when he went to nationals. I rarely get caught off guard, but he did a good job of keeping that nod under wraps and successfully brought me to a few happy tears.


Now we prepare for the final 3 CDEs for the year and our regional and chapter banquets. We are expecting a check in the mail today from a generous donor who randomly emailed me to say they wanted to donate a large sum of money to our chapter. More on that blessing in my next post!

I am almost ashamed to publicly show this picture but... this is what my room looks like the morning of our State Convention trip.


For the first time in four years, I am not running around like a wild woman trying to get props packed and papers printed. We are so prepared that I have time to make this quick post before the kiddos get here! I'm taking 18 members. We are ready to receive some awards we've earned through the year, compete in the Job Interview and Ag Issues CDEs, present a dynamite Agriscience Fair Project, watch 6 seniors receive their State FFA Degree and of course root for our state officer candidate.


Tennessee State Convention is held each year in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (or Hillbilly Vegas as we call it ). Can't wait to hear Retiring Addresses, see all of my FFA family and watch my students enjoy the best trip of the year!



Jessie Lumpkins

Calling Turkeys In

Posted by Jessie Lumpkins Mar 13, 2013

Today as I print out an exit surveys for our most recent field trip, I remembered that I had not yet shared our adventure to the National Wild Turkey Federation Convention in Nashville. Page High School is located about 40 minutes south of the famous Opryland Hotel, where the convention is held each year.


The magic of this trip was that it was coordinated in only 5 days. The director Ms. Rolka sent Tennessee FFA advisors a notification that there was a large cancellation in their Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience  that focused on careers in the wildlife and natural resources industry. This area is big with my students; we placed 2nd in the state last year in the Environmental and Natural Resources CDE and will add a Wildlife Management class to our current Animal Science pathway next year (it's already full!) The trip, lunch and a bag of goodys would be free for any students we could get to attend. In addition, my sub day and the bus would be paid for! On a whim I asked my principal the next morning if she thought we could swing it, and she and my bookkeeper helped me get us to the event 4 days later. I asked seniors and juniors first since it was focused around careers, but I had a few extra spots and let two freshman attend who took initiative and came to me about the trip.


A day before we left, my students wanted to hear the list of experts.

(Me - Students)

"Tom Tidwell, Chief of the US Forest Service." - "Cool, cool."

"Joe Murfin, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Daisy Outdoor Products." - "Awesome."

"Kristen Giger, Project Biologist, National Wild Turkey Federation." - "Gotta love NWTF."

"Cuz Strictland, Outdoor TV Show, Mossy Oak Camouflage." - "I know who that is! I love Mossy Oak."

"Michael Waddell, Outdoor TV Show Host, Business Owner, Celebrity, Realtree Road Trips." - COMMENCE STUDENT FREAK-OUT. Seriously! The excitement after I read that line went from pumped to barely containing themselves.




The entire panel was very helpful when it came to giving students a direction in the outdoor industry that would help them consider post-secondary options, and how to be a good employee in general. After hearing from the experts, Michael Waddell stayed for at least an hour talking with students individually and signing autographs, giving them advice and reminding them that he started in their shoes.


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We had pizza for lunch then made our way to The Roost. This was the area of the convention that had fun booths with lots of hands-on games and experiences, and celebrities like Turtle Man (Live Action!). The best part? There was a live owl. As the people in front of me parted and it's little ear tufts came into view, I audibly gasped. Most of you probably realize that ag teachers/FFA advisors are often associated with owls, but I am truly obsessed. I own probably thousands of owls and owl-related items, but that's a post for another day.




As I called my gang of turkeys in so we could load the bus and get home, they were excited to tell me everything they saw in The Roost and about how it was the best field trip they had ever taken. It was a great day!


Jessie Lumpkins

Remembering Taylor

Posted by Jessie Lumpkins Feb 13, 2013

*Parents/students related to this blog are ok with me sharing stories.*


This post has little to do with my classroom or a CDE, but everything to do with how amazing it is to be an agriculture teacher and be a part of a student's life.


A year ago Monday on February 11, 2012, one of my students in Livestock Management - Taylor - got in his truck leaving work, and was in a fatal car accident. He was one of the most kind-hearted young men I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. He participated in the Soil Judging CDE and attended FFA Camp with us. He was also the youngest person to be certified through the Tennessee Master Beef Program. Most of our school knew him and anyone who did was his friend. He was thought of and remembered during the past year, but especially yesterday. When Taylor was a freshmen, his Agriscience class wrote personal creeds to coincide with the studying of the FFA Creed. This is what he wrote, with bits and pieces of a letter he wrote to Temple Grandin taped to it (two papers I still had of his).

IMG_2907.JPGWe  built and installed a picnic table in his honor at FFA Camp

Clements in Doyle, TN. Hopefully when members sit and enjoy their time at camp, they'll learn a little bit about him. I am proud of how FFA members ALWAYS rally as a family and support each other.



Now I know this is a heavy topic (and for any pre-service teachers, know that the majority of your days are fun-filled and lighthearted), but I bring it up to share with you another story: On Monday (the one year anniversary of Taylor's passing), one of my officers who is pictured above was in an accident on her way to school. She is safe (and back at school today!) - but when I think of how easily the outcome could have been different, I am so thankful that her seat in my room was not empty for long. (The picture below is of her accident. She wasn't texting or anything, just reaching down to open a bottle.)





What we do as agriculture teachers is life-changing. We are charged with sending career-ready students into the world with the enthusiasm they had their freshman year coupled with the wisdom of a senior. We don't just prepared students for the real world, but arm them with tools and the mindset to be excited for it. Yet the small things matter, too. Talking with the students and hearing about their weekend plans each Friday, then getting an update each Monday. Knowing what animals students have and their names, and asking about them. Understanding the personalities of each of your unique students, and ensuring they all feel welcome and included. We cannot control what happens to a student once they walk out of our classroom, but we can make sure they are safe, loved and cared for when they are in the four walls of a classroom, shop, greenhouse, or barn.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to do that every day!

Jessie Lumpkins

We've got issues...

Posted by Jessie Lumpkins Feb 5, 2013

We've got issues...


IMG_3429 - Copy.JPGAg Issues, that is. Spring semester is in full swing and we've focused on only a few CDEs including the Ag Issues Forum. This is in contrast to a couple of years ago when the goal was to attend to win each CDE that year. I'm finding myself more at ease with the quality over quantity. Our issue this year deals with Tennessee Walking Horses, so we had one of our presentations be made to an inspector who visited school.

2013-02-02 08.43.17.jpgI woke up early this Saturday morning to snow and conducted phone interviews for students in the East TN Job Interview contest. I loved that I was sitting on my recliner sipping on a cup of coffee (with bedhead and no makeup) and was still able to help FFA members! They were all impressive in their own way. Even though my student will be competing against two of them during State Convention, I was still very glad I got to give them feedback and help them improve.


Thursday night we competed in the Opening & Closing and Parliamentary Procedure events at our sectional level and despite not advancing, I'm always proud. The parli team is actually really awesome for how young they are, and I can see them being dynamite this time next year.


I also had 7 seniors qualify for the State FFA Degree that night, the most I've submitted at once. Keeping in mind that we have 75 members total, 9% received their State Degree and that's a number as a single teacher that I'm proud of.


In class, I still have the challenge of not being able to use any live animals for Vet Science or Small Animal Care due to county policy. As frustrated as I get, we find interesting and fun ways to overcome it. Today we began a week-long lesson on Pet Loss and Grief. This was something I wanted to talk about later in the year, after I heard about the passing of Barney (President George W. Bush's Scottish terrier), I thought this would be a great time to incorporate this interesting and useful lesson. We talked today about why losing a pet is so difficult, and the methods owners utilize to mourn a pet. Some interesting contributions included those who stuff/taxidermy their deceased pets!


We're also going to discuss the role a vet plays to a grieving pet owner and what steps they can take in a companion animal career to help people during that time. Tomorrow I plan to show them a site that specializes in pet loss cards from a vet, and then allow my students to design their own. Technology, English, and Ag all coming together; gotta love it!


Fetal pig dissections will begin Wednesday in Agriscience. This used to be an activity that I felt inept at but after having an awesome mentor my first year, it gets better and better each time. I have a challenging (but spirited and fun!) group of freshmen this year who need some extra motivation from time to time. I finally had to be firm and say that those who are missing assignments or failing will not be allowed to do the dissection; this brought all of the grades but 2 (out of 40 students) up to at least passing! Most were already very high Bs and As anyway. I love that they are being motivated by hands-on activities, even if the only animals we can play with right now are dead!


See you Wednesday, Babe!

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