Skip navigation
1 2 3 4 Previous Next

A Day In the Life of an Ag Teacher

48 Posts authored by: Tiffany Morey

Dear Ag Teacher

Posted by Tiffany Morey Jun 22, 2017

Dear Ag Teacher,

 

I never got to meet you, but you are pretty dang lucky. Why, you might ask? You were the person chosen to replace me as the ag teacher here and to take over an amazing program. I'm sorry I never got a chance to sit down with you and tell you all the things I am about to write. I hope that you are reading this, and if not, that someone will pass these words onto you.

 

Let's start with the classroom. You have inherited the largest, nicest, most modern room in the school. It has everything you could possibly need to teach your CASE courses. I worked really hard to create the ideal ag learning facility and sat down with the architects to design the layout of the room and wrote a grant to make it happen. Believe me when I say, it is much better than the former tiny fishbowl of a classroom and the district storage depot of a shop that the ag program used to have. You will never get to experience the joy of coming into a room full of broken furniture only to find a tractor, golf cart, Gator, mini van, or lawnmower in your teaching space. You also won’t ever have to worry about your class being interrupted by a delivery and the room becoming freezing cold from the garage door being open. For these things, you are very lucky.

 

Your closets and cabinets are stocked with the  non-consumable supplies and LabAids kits needed for each CASE course as well as lots of extra items. The cabinets and closets also all lock, which means nobody will steal your stuff. Each student lab station, as well as the teacher demo table at the front of the room, are fully equipped with the basics needed for science experiments, including LabQuests, electronics, and glassware. The drawers have lab coats, aprons, glasses, and disposable gloves in all different sizes. The goggle cabinet at the back of the room has splash goggles for every student, and the UV light works when it comes time to disinfect them. The fridge and stove are new and work perfectly. The incubator and water bath also are in full working order. The microwave is for science use only. I've seen the things that have been in there and believe me, you don't want to ingest anything that's been heated up in it. You also have three working sinks with hot and cold water. The cabinets closest to the door are loaded with every type of arts and craft supply you could ever need, and the pencil sharpener works like a charm. For these things, you are lucky.

 

The greenhouse is in better shape than when I got here. The water pipes were replaced last year. Be glad you weren’t here when they burst  the week before Christmas and turned the greenhouse and staff parking lot into an ice skating rink. The heating system probably won’t work the first time you put it on. Maintenance knows what to do to fix this. The ventilation system is automatic and should work fine. The shed next to the greenhouse has pots and planting supplies. The aquaculture tank needs to be fixed. The students cleaned everything this spring. For this, you are lucky.

The FFA chapters are in good standing with the state. All paperwork has been submitted, and all the bills are paid. Both accounts have some money in them to get you through the first part of next year. The metal cabinet in the closet has the jackets for both chapters, as well as scarves, ties, and extra chapter t-shirts. There are multiple types of station markers for the officers when it comes time for meetings, and the officer team is of a quality that I dreamed of working with for my entire career. The members are the best you could ever ask for. They’re dedicated, passionate, reliable, and aren’t afraid to try new things. Both chapters have members who radiate their love for FFA, and they will work hard to make their chapter the best it can be. For these things, you are lucky.

 

Your students are the best. They are the coolest, kindest, most hard working kids I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. They LOVE ag and enjoy the challenges presented to them by the CASE curriculum. Their creativity and ability to solve problems will blow your mind. Teaching them has been the greatest experience of my life. Leaving them is the hardest part of losing my job. For having the chance to work with students like them, you are insanely lucky.

 

The program is in your hands now. I left it far better than I found it. Hundreds of pounds of trash and junk and thousands of hours of hard work later, it is clean, organized, and well stocked.  It is the product of 4 years of my blood (literally-I have the scar from where I had stitches), sweat (the room didn’t used to have air conditioning), and tears. I wish you good luck, and I hope you will take good care of it. You have inherited something wonderful, and the sky's the limit in terms of it’s potential.

 

As for me, I’m still searching for where my road leads to next. Know that my time in the position that you now occupy was the best I’ve ever had. It not only taught me to teach, but to teach well. I hope it treats you the same way.

 

Wishing you the best,

 

The Former Ag Teacher

 

This is by far the most difficult blog post I've had to write. After 4 years and countless hours of hard work, my district decided not to renew my contract and to let me go at the end of this school year. This means that as of June 30th, I will be without the job title that has defined my identity for almost a decade: agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. After seven years of devoting myself to my profession, building two amazing ag program, helping others, and serving as a superhero to my students, I am unable to use my super powers to preserve and save the one thing that allowed me to use them in the first place.

 

The news hit me like a shockwave and has rattled my co-workers, students, and community supporters. During my time here, the ag program was transformed into one of the best in the state and our FFA chapter experienced unparalleled levels of success. The students grew tremendously and developed into the type of young adults that our agriculture industry needs. Over a hundred thousand dollars of grant money was secured for new curriculum, supplies, and a brand new state of the art agricultural science lab. Enrollment in ag classes soared, articulation agreements were established, countless community projects were performed, and the program hosted our first student teacher. However, when it came down to it, it was not enough for me to keep my job as an ag teacher.

 

Change is hard for many people, and in a traditional agricultural community like the one I work in, the change was too much for some. There was much focus on how I was not like past teachers and doing things the way "they had always been done".  Instead of people seeing all of the amazing things the students were doing, all they saw was how it was different from what had been done in the past. While the changes to the program were necessary to prepare students for the ever changing and evolving field of agriculture and reflected the agricultural needs of our state as a whole, not everyone saw it that way. Unfortunately, there was a lot of negative backlash related to the positive changes made to the ag program, and that ultimately cost me my job.

 

For a while, I wallowed and almost drowned in the negativity and anger over what my district had done to me. But then I realized that what happened to me had nothing to do with my abilities as a teacher or FFA advisor. and everything to do with how the changes to the program were perceived.  Ever since I started here, I have been like Superman, or in my case Superwoman and work tirelessly to promote positive change, help others, and do the right thing. As fellow ag teachers, you understand this because you are the same type of teaching superhero. You understand the sacrifices, hard work, and dedication it takes to do this job. Like me, you have sacrificed nights, weekends, holidays, summers, time with family and friends, and a good chunk of your personal life for this amazing profession. And also like me, you did these things willingly and with a smile because you knew how important it was to your students and what a positive difference it made for them.

 

But like in the Superman comics and movies, not everyone can appreciate the superhero efforts that we ag teachers make. Not everyone understands how much extra we do for our students, and how hard we work behind the scenes to make our ag programs function and our FFA chapters run smoothly. In his quest for justice and doing what's right, Superman runs into challenges from others who don't support his efforts or who won't support the actions and decisions he makes, even if they are for the ultimate good of everyone. This is what happened to me. Despite my best efforts to save and positively transform the ag program and FFA chapters here, which I did successfully, those who didn't support the changes ultimately prevailed. My heart is sad that they can't appreciate the amazing things that were happening, and that as a result of their actions, my students, the future of agriculture, are the ones who will suffer most.

 

While my teaching superpowers will be on hold until I can find a new ag teaching job, I'm never going to forget that they exist or stop putting them to use whenever the situation calls for it. I know I am an  innovative and effective agriculture teacher, an outstanding FFA advisor, and a positive mentor for my students. I will never forget the things I have accomplished so far in my career, and I will never stop striving for continued personal and professional growth and success. I will continue to strive to offer the highest quality agricultural education and FFA experiences to my past, present, and future students and will keep working to make positive changes in the lives of those I educate and work with. Every superhero needs to take a rest once in a while, and I guess this is my time.

 

I'm not disappearing from teaching ag, but I am taking some time to figure out what comes next. I'm excited to explore all of my options and to see what comes next. I can't wait to see where my next program and FFA chapter will be, and to meet all of my future students.The future is bright and this is merely the closing of one chapter in my teach ag superhero story, and not the end of my book.

 

Thank you all for your continued support over the past few years, and I look forward to sharing my teach ag adventures of the next chapter of my teaching career. Have an amazing rest of your school year and keep using your teach ag superpowers!

 

-TM

My Next Thirty Years

Posted by Tiffany Morey Feb 6, 2017

I recently hit a birthday milestone and this was the blog that evolved from it.

 

My Next Thirty Years (of Teaching Ag)

 

I think I’ll take a moment, to celebrate that teaching ag is not a phase

But a lifetime endeavour and story, with each year being a new page

Now it’s time to focus in on how to make the best of this career

I plan on doing it for my next thirty years

 

In my next thirty years I’m gonna have some teaching fun

Leave lasting memories with my students of all the educational things we’ve done

Hopefully I’ve gotten some of them over their dissection related fears

And I can come up with fun new ways to teach ag in my next thirty years

 

My next thirty years I’m going to participate in PD more

Let teaching out stress me out less, and not let the challenges make me bitter and sore

Make my classroom a place full of happiness and cheer

And have it a place where my students want to study every year

 

Oh my next thirty years, I’m going to get more efficient with how I grade

Continue to share my passion and get my students involved in FFA

Leave a lasting legacy on this job that I hold dear

And try not to get burnt out during my next thirty years

 

My next thirty years will be the best years of my professional life

I’ll help students to find success in ag and school, instead of strife

Hopefully I can convince some of them to make ag their career

And inspire at least one to one day want to teach ag here, in my next thirty years

This year, our school had pajama day as part of the homecoming spirit days. Staff were allowed to participate, and I enjoyed a day of being comfortable at work. This level of physical comfort is similar to how I've recently started to feel while teaching. Maybe it's having a student teacher that makes me strive to be my best, or maybe it's just time, maturity, and number of years in the profession. Regardless, it's a wonderful feeling to finally have!

 

For years, I was teaching to survive. Lately, I've noticed that my teaching technique has evolved and I'm really starting to thrive. Instead of just trying to make it through each class, lab, and lesson, and constantly stressing about grading, having the needed materials, and content delivery, it feels as if I've found a rhythm. I no longer need to consult the teacher notes for each CASE lesson, my classroom is organized, materials and supplies are easily accessible for my own as well as student use, and I've finally devised an efficient grading system. Classroom management is a no longer an issue, and students are clearly aware of expectations and procedures and are cooperative about following them. All of my classes are ahead of where they have been in the past, labs and lessons are flowing smoothly, grading is no longer a major stressor, and best of all, the students come to class excited for what each new day will bring.

 

IMG_2648.JPG

My punny solution to students using their cell phones in class

 

 

Having a student teacher has also helped me to focus on how and why I teach the way I do. Instead of just teaching to get through each lesson, I've learned to focus and refine my technique to make it as student friendly as possible. It's wonderful to have someone to talk about educational theory and practices with, and who is as passionate as I am about what I do. My student teacher helps me to continuously push myself to be the best ag educator I can be, and to want to refine and hone my craft to make it an art form. I might be the cooperating teacher, but they have taught me equally as much about how to be the best ag teacher that I can be. My purpose for the profession has been renewed, and I find myself looking forward to the challenges of each new day at school.

 

This year also brought a change in administration to my school. My new principal is so supportive of the ag program, and goes out of her way to help our FFA members. She helped make our trip to the Big E possible, attends our meetings and events, and is truly committed to our members. It's not often that you feel appreciated for the hard work that you do as an ag teacher, but she makes me feel that way every single day. With her support, I know the program is going to continue to grow and accomplish great things.

 

IMG_2593.JPG

A wonderful surprise gift of some great TAg swag

 

 

Hope everyone is having a good year thus far and safe travels home to all those that were at National Convention.

 

Until next time,

 

-TM

Pay It Forward

Posted by Tiffany Morey Sep 4, 2016

School officially starts this Tuesday. With every new year, comes new changes. This year things are changing in a huge and exciting way. My big news?

 

I'm getting a student teacher! That's right, they are letting me mentor an aspiring teacher and teach them the tricks of the trade. Being entrusted to do this is a great honor, and I only hope I can do a great job.

 

I've already met my student teacher, and he's awesome. Not only does he have a true love of agriculture, but he has a genuine passion for sharing it with others. He is enthusiastic about exploring all of the facets of being an ag teacher, including learning to be an FFA advisor, and about utilizing the CASE curriculum. As for me, I'm equal parts excited and terrified by this new opportunity.

 

I'm excited to open my classroom to an aspiring ag teacher to allow them to experience the magic of our wonderful profession. I'm excited to share all the knowledge, tips, and tricks that I've learned over the years, and that others have passed on to me. I'm excited to allow them to learn how to be an FFA advisor and work with our FFA members. I'm excited to watch my student teacher succeed and their passion for teaching ag increase as the semester progresses. Most of all, I'm excited to be able to do my part in passing the torch of teaching ag to a future teacher who will hopefully be entering their very own classroom at this time next year.

 

On the other hand, I'm terrified that my student teacher will not have the amazing experience that they deserve. I'm terrified that I won't be able to be the mentor they need to succeed. I'm terrified that they will find student teaching to be a negative experience and that they will struggle more than necessary. Most of all, I'm terrified that at the end of their internship, they will choose not to continue on the path to becoming an ag teacher.

 

My own student teaching experience was not exactly a great one. My first placement ended up being a total disaster, and I was ultimately removed from it after a month and a half. I was left in limbo for several months after that as my program weighed the options of either removing me from the teaching track altogether, or finding me a new placement. Luckily, my guardian angel showed up just in time in the form of an ag teacher that I had never heard of before who volunteered to take me into his program for the remainder of my internship.

 

That teacher literally turned into my guardian angel. Under his tutelage, I bloomed, blossomed, and grew into a confident and competent ag teacher. Gone were all my insecurities about my ability to teach ag, and in their place, was a passion and excitement for the job. Because of him, my student teaching internship went from a total failure to a total success story.

 

You may wonder why I am sharing this story of my own experience. The reason? My former cooperating teacher is the university supervisor of my student teacher.

 

At first, I was unsure as to whether or not I was ready for a student teacher.  When I heard how things were going to play out with my mentor being involved in the process, the answer was clear. He mentored me, now I have the opportunity to mentor my student teacher, and he will give the feedback needed to make everyone succeed. I couldn't have asked for a better sign that taking my student teacher was the right thing to do.

 

All of this reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies: "when someone does you a big favor, don't pay it back... pay it forward." My mentor went out of his way when I needed someone to help me be successful on my journey to becoming an ag teacher. The Teach Ag Campaign gave me this amazing opportunity to start sharing my teach ag story at a time when I was seriously considering quitting the profession. Had it not been for them doing me a big favor by believing in me and encouraging me to keep going, I would never be the ag teacher I am today. Now it's my turn to pay it forward and help new and future ag teachers.

 

Wishing you all the best as your begin another year!

 

-TM

Who Are You?

Posted by Tiffany Morey Apr 29, 2016

We all know that ag teachers wear many hats  in their classroom, school, and community. We also know that ag teachers are superheroes, because what other types of teachers juggle so many different classes, topics, SAE projects, community commitments, and everything that comes along with an FFA chapter? Ag teachers spend a tremendous amount of time with their students, and in doing so, have the potential to impact them and influence them in many ways. This leads to the students seeing many different sides of ag educators and all of the different roles they play to do their job. The question is, as an ag teacher, who are you as you assume those roles?

 

Are you a leader or a boss?

Leaders lead by example. They aren't afraid to step in when work needs to be done, or to step up when they need to. They delegate instead of telling people what to do. As ag teachers, we lead our our classrooms and our students on adventures in learning. Sometimes, it may mean explaining or demonstrating the same thing over and over, or pitching in to get a big project done on time. People respect and listen to leaders, and are more likely to work with and for them. In the classroom, teachers who are leaders have the power to impact their students the most. Be a leader, not a boss.

 

Are you an empowerer or an enabler?

When things get tough or we are on a tight deadline, it is easy to just do things for our students instead of waiting for them to do it themselves. But, if we enable our students, they will never learn the life lessons we actually want to teach them. By empowering our students to take risks, keep going when things get difficult, and assisting them in finding solutions to their problems, we are teaching them valuable life skills that they need to be successful adults. Empowering students is difficult, frustrating, and time consuming but it is far more valuable to students than enabling them and doing everything for them.

 

Are you a cheerleader or a fair weather fan?

Cheerleaders support and are there for their teams no matter what. Whether their team wins or loses, they never stop cheering them on. Fair weather fans only support their team when they are winning. If ag teachers were like these fans, their programs would quickly lose students and support. Instead, they must strive to keep cheering for their students and advocating for what they believe in. From preserving ag programs to inspiring others to pursue opportunities like CASE, ag teachers must never stop supporting their home team.

 

Are you a Susie Sunshine or a Debbie Downer?

It's hard to stay positive all the time, but at the same time, it's hard to be around someone who is constantly negative. When things get rough or we get stressed, it's easy to become a Debbie Downer and focus on everything that is going wrong. However, if we stay in this frame of mind, it will become difficult for us to inspire others to pursue a future in agriculture or to convince students to sign up for our classes. Focusing on the positive inspires others to do the same, and creates a healthy classroom and educational environment for our students. They are way more likely to want to work with and learn from Susie Sunshine over Debbie Downer.

 

Are you a rockstar or a one hit wonder?

One hit wonders live on their one success story, while rockstars build on that story to continue to be successful and innovative. It's easy to keep doing the same thing over and over again each year in our classrooms, but as agriculture changes, so must ag teachers. Ag teachers are constantly having to adapt to changes in the field, new technologies, and new demands for what their students need for a career in the field. From incorporating innovative curriculums like CASE, to adding iPads and 1:1 computers in the classroom, they have to keep finding new ways to keep their programs current and interesting to students. Like rockstars, they never stop looking for new ways to be successful and attract new fans.

 

So, who are you? How do you see yourself, and more importantly, how do you students see you? We are all already super heroes just for our choice in profession, so let's strive to become positive empowering cheerleader ag teacher rockstars!


-TM

The 20/20 Experience

Posted by Tiffany Morey Mar 21, 2016

They say that hindsight is 20/20. As the end of my 6th year of teaching looms closer and closer, I've been taking some time to reflect on all of the things I know now that I wish I could go back and tell my new teacher self. While some of the things I've learned had to come with time, there are a few things that make life and teaching so much easier that I would have loved to have been practicing and doing all along. Turning time would be great, albeit impossible, so I've decided to share them in hopes that a new ag teacher or two will read this and find them helpful as they begin their career. (Please excuse the orientation of some of the photos-despite my best attempt. I could not get them to upload correctly)

 

1. Organize your teaching materials

From cabinets to for each class to labeled files and folders, being organized will save you from wasting time trying to find things.

IMG_2347.JPG

 

2. Provide a designated space for students to submit and keep their work

This will save you (and them) a lot of headaches when it comes to finding assignments that need to be graded. It also helps your students from losing things!

 

tiffany1.png

3. Make commonly used items easily accessible and easy to find

This majorly cuts down on the commonly asked question of "where is the (insert item here)?"

tiffany2.png

 

tiffany3.png

tiffany4.png

4. Label cabinets for students

Another way to make it easier for the students to find things they need.I like to do it using posters with words on them (ie. the positivity cabinet).

IMG_2353.JPG

5. Motivational posters

Totally cheesy, but the students like them for some reason. (Fun fact: I got these 1980s gems from my mom when she retired from teaching.)

IMG_2351.JPG

IMG_2352.JPG

6. Get a class pet

It will make your students happy and the popularity rating of your classes go up.

 

tiffany5.png

7. Student bulletin boards

Students like to show off their work. I even let them decorate their board (hence the tie-dye border).

IMG_2348.JPG

8. Have your own "personal space" to share info

This is a great way for you to be able to keep track of your teaching schedule, hang things that students make/give you, and post pertinent info like the bell schedule and safety drill protocols.

IMG_2355.JPG

9. Hall Passes

Each of my students get 2 of these each marking period to use for anything except the nurse. At the end of the year, they can cash in unused passes for prizes. This has totally reduced the number of students leaving class on a daily basis.

 

tiffany6.png

10. Stickers

It doesn't matter how old they are, there is something about getting a sticker that makes students happy.

 

tiffany7.png

Hope you all enjoy/are enjoying/have enjoyed your spring break!

 

-TM

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.


what-you-wanted.jpg


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.”


c61a6ca9474a0ab17f06f5cd7a259490.jpg


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

Many of you are familiar with the movie Mary Poppins. In one iconic scene, Mary Poppins shows the children her magic carpet bag and much to their amazement, begins pulling out all kinds of crazy items such as as lamp and a plant that they never thought could possibly fit in there. As ag teachers, we aren't all that different from Mary Poppins at times and we often amaze our students with our resourcefulness and our ability to make things happen. We too, possess our own magic bags that contain the necessary items our students need to succeed, whether they be real bags with actual items or our toolkits of knowledge and information.

 

The real Mary Poppins with her magical carpet bag

http://www.lifesucksinastraplessbra.com/files/2015/06/mary-poppins-bag.jpg

 

I'd like to share the story of my own Mary Poppins bag. While it may not be magical, it is special because it was given to me on the last day of student teaching by my cooperating teacher with the message "every young ag teacher needs a bag to carry all of the important stuff". Over the years, my bag has gotten A LOT of use from being trucked to school everyday and also to FFA events like CDEs and State Convention. It's straps have become frayed, and its print may not be as bright as it was, but it still continues to carry any and all of the things I need to teach ag each day. On CDE days it does double duty and serves as a survival kit for my members with a sewing kit, extra CDE materials, clipboards, calculators, and a place for them to stow their stuff while they are competing. Many of the items in it are mundane and ordinary: lunchbox, wallet, cell phone, chapstick, hair brush, coat/sweater/umbrella etc., but it does have its share of unique things that can be found in it. Please see below for a few of my favorites.

 

 

My Mary Poppins bag

IMG_2201.JPG

 

The keys to everything ag: classroom, school, supply cabinets, Gator, tractor, golf cart etc.

IMG_2207.JPG


When accidents happen, ag teachers are prepared.

IMG_2202.JPG

 

You never know when you will need your PPE (not pictured: the ear plugs that are hiding somewhere in the bag)

IMG_2206.JPG


A nostalgic reminder of the place where my ag ed journey began.

IMG_2205.JPG

 

For the student (or teacher) that needs a writing utensil at an FFA event: my bag has you covered.

IMG_2204.JPG

 

Sometimes, you just need a reminder.

IMG_2203.jpg

 

If you have the time, please share what is in your Mary Poppins bag for teaching ag. Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday! Keep being the magical and awesome ag teachers that you are!

 

-TM

Home Sweet Home

Posted by Tiffany Morey Oct 20, 2015

Last spring, it was announced that the ag classroom would be undergoing a full renovation to make it more ideal for teaching the current course offerings. The classroom hadn't been changed since the school was built back in the 1950s and was still set up for a program specializing in landscaping and ag mechanics/farm machinery maintenance. It was comprised of a large shop area and small classroom outfitted with a random assortment of furniture and equipment that had been recycled from other classrooms.

 

Over the years the maintenance department had taken over much of the shop area to use for storage of supplies and broken furniture, and it was very cluttered and crammed. On occasion, it was also used to store vehicles and it wasn't uncommon to come in in the morning to find John Deere Gators, golf carts, tractors, and even mini vans parked in the middle of my classroom. These vehicular surprises led us to lovingly nickname the room "the ag garage" and led the school to refer to it simply as the ag shop. Thanks to a wonderfully committed administrative team who truly believes in the benefits of agricultural education, and a generous grant from a local donor, the classroom has been completely transformed from the ag shop into the ag classroom. We even have a sign for the door to signify the transformation.

 

However, the move into the new room wasn't without it's share of complications. Renovations were supposed to be completed by August 1st to allow for a month to install the furniture, get the CO, and give me a chance to unpack and move. In a perfect world, this would have allowed for us to start school in our brand new room. The world is not perfect, and the room wasn't even close to being done until the end of September. After several crazy and difficult weeks without a classroom, desk, or computer and having to teach CASE/ag on a cart in a variety of different classrooms, we finally moved in at the beginning of October. The new facility is everything we could have wanted and then some. The students love their new home and having everything they need to learn in a space where they have lots of freedom and flexibility. They were also given a rabbit for a classroom pet from a local family as a "housewarming" present. Gus has quickly become a fabulous addition to our classroom and the students love taking care of him and snuggling with him.  As for me, I am thrilled to finally have a classroom that is outfitted for CASE and not for storing mini vans!


Food Science and Safety students utilizing their new lab facilities

IMG_2113.JPG

 

IMG_2114.JPG

 

IMG_2101.JPG

 

IMG_2099.JPG


The view of the new classroom

IMG_1335.JPG

 

IMG_1336.JPG

 

IMG_1346.JPG


The newest member of the classroom-Gus the rabbit!

IMG_1357.JPG

 

Have fun at National Convention to all those who are attending!

 

-TM

Wild Times in MN

Posted by Tiffany Morey Aug 11, 2015

This summer I was able to travel to Minnesota to attend the CASE Food Science and Safety Institute hosted by South Central College. It was by far the neatest and most fun CI I've ever been to, and the people were some of the best I've ever met. Staying at the Center - CVM - Dairy Education Center, University of Minnesota located at New Sweden Dairy, was an unforgettable experience. Watching calves be born 24 hours a day on COW TV was our favorite form of entertainment, and the picturesque scenery around the farm made for some relaxing runs.

 

Not only was the curriculum interesting and something I know my students will absolutely love, but my fellow participants made conducting the APPs tons of fun. Our hosts made sure that we got out to see the area, and planned fun activities such as visiting a local butcher for a tour and tasting, and going out for bowling and laser tag. We found ways to amuse ourselves on the weekend by touring a local brewery, sampling local cuisine, posing with Hermann the German, seeing the largest glockenspiel in MN, and visiting a local ag teacher whose husband keeps exotic animals at the family farm. It was also nice to catch up with old CASE friends like Kimberly Fogle  make new friends, and to finally meet some of the ag teachers I've come to know from CoP like Kellie Claflin in person. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will let them tell the rest of the story. Thanks to Kellie Claflin and The Southern Minnesota Center for Agriculture for letting me use their pictures!

 

11760177_10101193706884226_952972941741661383_n.jpg

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 6.33.14 PM.png

11705263_10153464912578794_8087743779670748169_n.jpg

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 6.31.43 PM.png

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 6.32.09 PM.png

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 6.32.59 PM.png

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 6.27.38 PM.png

11204469_10101197702886206_1476692403109443988_n.jpg

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 6.28.26 PM.png

11800447_10105395652740539_5212827062619535494_n.jpg

 

Hope everyone is enjoying their last bit of summer and is feeling refreshed and ready for the year ahead. Good luck as you head back to school!

 

-TM

The Long Day Is Over

Posted by Tiffany Morey Jun 15, 2015

Graduation is tonight and caps off the end of a very long year. While there were many successes, there are still many things that need to be improved for the program. However, I made it through the most difficult year of my teaching career thus far, and things are looking bright for next year. When things get tough, it is hard to remember that teaching ag really is a rewarding and important job, and although it might not feel like it at times, we really are planting the seeds of the future and inspiring others to pursue a future in agriculture.

 

The Successes

  • Seniors going into ag-Of the 7 FFA seniors graduating this year, 6 are going on to study agriculture in college! This is very exciting for them and the future of our field, and we wish them the best of luck as they pursue careers in animal science, dairy science, livestock management, landscaping, and veterinary medicine.
  • 1st State Officer-At this year's State Convention, our chapter had it's first member EVER in it's history (60+years) be elected to state office! We are extremely proud of her accomplishments and she is going to do a great job as the 2015-2016 New Jersey FFA State Treasurer!
  • Garden State Stars-This year we had a whopping 7 members receive their Garden State FFA Degrees. We also had members take home the awards for Star State Farmer and Star State in Agribusiness, and both of them will be continuing on to the Big E in September to earn more recognition for their hard work and outstanding SAEs.
  • Winning CDEs-For the first time in many years, South FFA had a winning CDE team. The Ag Mechanics team took first in their event at the state level, and while they won't be going on to represent NJ at nationals, we are still proud of them! We also had the individual winner of 2 different CDEs as well.

 

The Improvements

  • New classroom facility-Goodbye ag shop and hello ag science lab! After years of making it work in the outdated, overcrowded, and messy ag shop, the walls are coming down this summer as it gets renovated and turned into a state of the art ag science laboratory and classroom. Gone are the days of shop tables, clutter, and teaching in the school furniture and equipment storage room. Come September, the room will be outfitted with new desks, lab tables, sinks, cabinets, counters, and technology, and will be the facility we need to continue to offer CASE. I can't wait!
  • CASE Food Science and Safety-Floral Design has been officially removed from the curriculum, and is being replaced by CASE Food Science and Safety. Student interest in this class is high, as we have filled not one, but two sections of this new course! Close to 30 students have already enrolled and numbers continue to increase. I'm headed to MN in July for training, and am looking forward to teaching this exciting new class.
  • Grants-Thanks to grants from the NJOAE/NJDA and a county scholarship foundation, we were able to order everything needed for our CASE classes next year and to outfit and furnish the new classroom. It is good to know that next year's students will have the tools and equipment that they need to succeed.

 

This year may not have been the best ever, but it was a good learning experience. I'm glad it's over, and am looking forward to the summer to relax and reflect. Have a fun and safe summer!

 

-TM

By Choice

Posted by Tiffany Morey May 5, 2015

In a former blog post, I described how I became an ag teacher by chance. Getting into the profession happened by chance. Staying in the profession was a choice.

 

This year was the most difficult of my career thus far, and I seriously considered leaving the profession. I know this isn't something that a Teach Ag blogger should say, but it's something that every ag teacher considers at least once in their career. Ag teachers lead very busy and stressful lives, and the burnout rate is high. I came very close to being a part of that statistic.

 

I thought last year would be the hardest one I faced here in my new job. I was teaching in a new school, living in a new place, was very different from the former teachers, I needed to form a rapport with a whole new group of students, the curriculum I taught was more rigorous, the FFA chapters hadn't been active in past years, and the classroom I inherited was a mess. Every day was a struggle and fraught will new challenges. It couldn't possibly get any worse, right? Wrong.

 

This year dawned with its own new set of challenges and difficulties. While the FFA chapters had shown great improvement, the students and I had developed great rapport, I was no longer new to the school and the area, and students enjoyed CASE, I was still teaching in the ag garage and did not have a proper facility for what I was teaching. Teaching in a small school made it pertinent to constantly market my classes and find students to take them. While they were interested, they only had so many openings in their schedules and many, many choices of classes to take. My new, more modern way of teaching (CASE) and managing the FFA chapter (AET) also did not sit well with members of the community. They constantly compared me to the old teacher, and criticized the job I was doing. It made me doubt myself and my abilities as a teacher, and scramble to find ways to try and please them. I also was not getting much help when it came to being an FFA advisor, and the stress of managing 2 chapters began to take its toll. Every molehill and small problem began to feel like a mountain, and I became overwhelmed. I was devoting all of my time to my job, and very little to myself. It seemed as if there was nobody to help, and there was no way I could ever get everything done by myself. I was stressed to the max and it started to affect my health and well-being. The only solution seemed to be quitting teaching ag and finding a new job.

 

Thankfully, some good friends stepped in and helped me prioritize and seek the help and guidance I needed to persevere and succeed as an ag teacher. The administration approved plans to remodel the classroom for next year into a real lab, and we got a grant to furnish and outfit it properly. Guidance is behind me and has done a great job marketing my classes. While the numbers still aren't fantastic, there is a push to make the CASE classes count for science credit, which will help solve the numbers problem. I got a great final observation from my principal, which reaffirmed my belief that I am an effective ag teacher. And while I may never satisfy the members of the community to expect the program to be "like it used to be", I've learned to grow a thicker skin and know that there are enough good, helpful people who are supportive of me. I've gotten better at asking for help, and not being afraid to seek assistance in solving problems.

 

Choosing to stay in the profession was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. However, I'm glad I did. As much as teaching ag makes me crazy and can be tough, I can't imagine doing anything else or anything as meaningful. I became an ag teacher by chance. I am staying an ag teacher by choice.

 

-TM

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

One of the trending topics on social media has been links to pages with various "life hacks". A "life hack" is simply a way to doing something more simply or a way to make it easier. As ag teachers, we are often doing a whole bunch of things at once, and many of us face similar challenges on how to get certain things done in a timely manner.  To help us help each other, I thought it might be interestung for us to share some of our "Teach Ag life hacks". See below for some of my favorites.


1. Let Them Eat Cake

For the longest time, I had trouble getting my students to want to water the greenhouse and take care of the plants. It was a constant struggle to get anyone besides myself to want to do anything with the plants. Then, we got the green wall and planted food crops in it. Suddenly, every student in Plant Science wanted to be caring for the plants that they would someday be able to eat. They got a great sense of pride out of being able to harvest their food crops, give it to the cafeteria or culinary classes to prepare, and then be able to say to their friends "I grew the food you are eating." Now, we no longer have trouble getting students to water the plants and they will even come in during breaks to check the greenhouse. As long as they can snack on a leaf of lettuce or some other type of green while they water, they are happy campers. It might not look or taste like cake, but it sure is sweet to them!


2. Ask Grant

Running an ag program is expensive. The supplies and equipment we need to teach our innovative and fun classes and lessons aren't cheap, and sometimes we don't get budgets big enough to cover the cost of everything. During my first year of teaching, I was introduced to a good friend named Grant. Grant comes in all different forms and sizes and requires some time and effort to get to know, but can be a very rewarding individual to know. Grant has helped me attend CASE institutes, purchase classroom supplies, fund FFA trips and community service activities, and obtain needed equipment for my classroom and greenhouse. I strongly encourage every ag teacher (old and new) to explore Grant's opportunities!


3. Delegation Nation

As ag teachers, we are responsible for paperwork-A LOT of paperwork. In addition to our grading and administrative/school paperwork responsibilities, we are also tasked with all of the paperwork associated with running an FFA chapter. For years I spent countless hours trying to get it all done and completed correctly. Finally, I realized I could delegate some of it to my officers. SAE hours are logged online and members are responsible for submitting reports for their hours. The chapter treasurer handles all banking paperwork and maintaining the ledger.Chapter award applications are completed by the officer team for me to review, or they don't get submitted. Same goes for individual awards. Members are also responsible for entering all of their own info into AgCN before the roster is updated each year. Not only has this cut down on the amount of paperwork, but the officers have gotten a true sense of running their chapter.


4. Power of Persuasion

For many of us, our ag classes are electives and we have to compete with many other classes when it comes to getting students in our chairs. We have to act like salesmen and "pitch" our classes to make them seem like they are the best thing ever. Sometimes, this can be difficult when we are battling against more "fun" electives like culinary or music or art. However, the best candidates to sell our classes are the students themselves. Their ability to convince their friends to take ag classes is truly amazing. They can make everything sound fun and interesting, even to non ag kids. I used to stress over how to get my classes filled. Now, I just ask my students to tell their friends. While it's not a perfect strategy, it's definitely made life a bit easier!


3. The Key to the Elevator

The school where I teach is one floor with two levels. My biotech class is in a lab on the lower level. To get my cart there, I have to use the elevator. The elevator can only be moved by using the call button from the level it is currently located on. I can't tell you how many times I had to walk down the stairs, send the elevator to the level with my cart, and walk back up the stairs only to ride the elevator with my cart back down to the lower one. One day, I remembered I had a key to the elevator that would allow me to call the elevator to the level where I was without having to go up and down the stairs. It was a simple life hack, but boy does it make me happy that I don't have to keep going up and down the stairs!


What are some of your favorite "Teach Ag life hacks"? Feel free to share them in the comments section.


-TM

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: