Skip navigation

Sweet Summer Time

Posted by Josh Dahlem Jul 6, 2012

With exactly a month until students come back to school in my district its time to get back to the grind.


Wait, the grind never stopped.


As many teachers have not set foot back in their school all summer, I have been there weekly looking at the progression summer work done by contractors and janitors. Its amazing what they can get done with no students around. As I am planning my curriculum for the upcoming semester, I am faced with he choice of reusing my lessons from last year or modifying them to make them better. Its easy for teachers to just teach the same thing at the same time each year, but is this really the best practices?


NO!, it is not.


To be effective in the classroom, teachers must step back and reflect on their lessons and activities daily and weekly, and make notes about what could have been done better. The students change each year, and what worked for one group will not work for another. This year, I am blessed with the construction of a new classroom, but am doomed by being in an alternative classroom setting until Christmas. This will be a challenge keeping students motivated without the "Carrot" of shop work in front of them but they must be taught none the less. Like most Ag teachers, I don't like working in the classroom if I don't have to. To make these lessons more effective, I have begun utilizing student driven/led activities. This has made my job easier and led to the students learning more. If you still teach in the old teacher led, factory style instruction, I challenge you to choose one lesson and rewrite it so that the students lead the instructional process and you serve as the guide. You will be amazed at what they can accomplish.

Little Moments

Posted by Josh Dahlem Apr 10, 2012

Spring is our busy time in Louisiana with CDEs and testing. We recently held our Area and State competitions, we did great. I only took a meats team, and, considering we only had 3 practices and I didn’t have the students this semester due to block scheduling, we qualified for state. This shows that if the students are committed, they can still achieve despite having formal practices and training. I was so proud to see their faces when they realized they had placed at Area and would get to compete at state. They worked hard training each other and met various weekends on their own. It was truly the best moment of the year so far.


Sometimes it’s the awards that are awesome, but other times its little moments during class that make teaching Ag great. The one liners that the kids come up with are priceless. Over the years, I have found that freshman animal reproduction is better than Christmas at getting you some awesome quotes. From not knowing how to properly spell terms to just being completely clueless about the process. It makes for a good week. Every teacher out there has a funny quote from a student that no matter what brightens your day. Remember as we work towards the end of school, that laughter is an instant vacation.


Feel free to share those quotes and maybe we can get a laugh or 2.


Quote of the day-Student A arguing with Student B as they are walking into class. A-“Bunnies come from eggs” B-“Why is that” A-“Well look at Easter. We had Easter bunnies laying eggs and hiding them for my brothers and sisters”

We have all been there, you are doing paperwork and lookup and it’s already 6, 7, 8 o’clock and there is still an application that needs to be completed or lesson plans need to be written. This isn’t a onetime thing but it happens monthly or even weekly to some teachers. After a while, you realize that you are spending more time focused on training CDEs, doing SAE visits, and paperwork than you are at home. A recent study showed that 1 in 5 teachers are Gen Y (30 or younger). These Gen Y teachers are 51% more likely to quit the profession within 5 years of starting and 91% more likely to transfer to different schools than older teachers. I am a Gen Y teacher and I am one of those 91% who have already transferred schools once in my 4 years of teaching. I transferred in district to be happier. That being said, the first thing my supervisor told me when I was hired back in 2008 was to put my family first. This was after my college advisor, who was a former Ag Teacher, and another fellow Ag Teacher told me the same thing. With multiple people telling me this, I figured it was important.



Until recently, I have had no problem putting family first. We recently had our first child and with that, I have started working on my masters. I found myself struggling to train CDE teams, work with students on applications, complete school paperwork, and spend time with my family. When I started teaching, I made it my goal not to train students during class time and found myself thinking how much easier it would be if I did. So I contacted some other teachers for some of their sage advice. What I got was some sage advice and some paprika. This is the advice they gave to help prevent burnout. I know from data that other teachers are struggling with burnout but may not be searching for ways to help it. I hope these tips will help.



1st -Set boundaries- Set a reminder on your phone or computer that pops up every day to tell you to wrap it up to make it home. Talk with your family about what time would be best and come to a compromise. If students contact you, tell them that after 5, it is family time do not contact me with questions unless it is important.



2nd-Ask yourself why you are training 10 different CDEs. Are you doing it to stroke your ego and win banners or because the kids want to? Come up with an answer that will make you and your family the happiest. Your frustration with work will show up at home. 



3rd-We are teachers; therefore, a curriculum will suit students better than just training for one CDE after another. Our purpose is to give students a well rounded education, not just skills in Forestry and Nursery/Landscape After all, CDEs are supposed to be extension of classroom instruction.



4th – Allow your students to take ownership of their CDEs. With the internet, students can now study more on their own. If they want to win, they will study and work for it. You still have to give guidance, but they are capable of more than most teachers/parents think they are.



5th-Buy a planner – Use it like your bible, write down notes, to do lists, and other important info. Sit down with your family and plan out the week. It sounds bad, but schedule family time if you have too, they are more important than your job. 427003_834945006848_49705287_35991523_1672168690_n.jpg

New Pair Shoes

Posted by Josh Dahlem Jan 18, 2012

“Mr. D, What are you wearing?”



This was the first thing I have heard the last two days when students have walked into class. No, the student’s were not talking about pants or jeans, but my shoes. Who would have thought that wearing something other than work boots would gain so much attention?


If students pay that make such a big deal about my footwear, I wonder what they think about my curriculum. This has made me wonder if I changed some of my curriculum what students would say. When I came to my current school 3 years ago, I brought with me the CASE curriculum, this added rigor and relevance to my plant science course, but not others. Over the years, I have struggled raising the rigor in my other courses for various reasons from student pushback to lack of adequate planning on my side. With the new semester, I began teaching 2 new classes of Ag I. I have made a conscience effort to raise the standards for these students. With the exception of a few, the students are completing the assignments to higher standards and at a quicker pace than my previous classes.


I would like to think it’s the new mindset I have taken with my Ag I courses in that all activities, projects, and problems they have completed so far have been relevant and student driven. This has increased their involvement and allowed for more hands on learning. Maybe it’s a fluke and will go downhill after another week or two, but we, as Ag teachers, have it easy when relating our material to real life situations and ensuring that students taste success. Every day when we enter the classroom, we set our expectations for students, by setting them high; they will work to reach our expectations and when the material they are learning about is relevant, they will be more engaged. Some may not make it, but I am willing to bet they learned more than if the expectations were set to low.


So the next time you are planning activities for your class change your shoes, see if your students notice. By developing activities that are more rigorous, your boots may get a little dirty, but the students will rise to the occasion.



Posted by Josh Dahlem Dec 13, 2011

I recently spent the evening talking to a welding instructor from north Louisiana about our roles in school and Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T came on in and our conversation led to this. .


He was facing a problem with getting respect from teachers and administrators as being a legitimate teacher. He was having issues of being left out of the loop and was always the last to be told of happenings in the school, but the first to be called on to fix someone else’s problem or equipment.  As an ag teacher, I could relate to him in some points but also shared my point of view


As a non tested subject, we are often pushed to the back of school improvement agendas and fight the ongoing battle of showing our programs worth. The advice I gave him was to document everything, explain how the welding skills he teaches his students, puts them a step ahead of the average student in the job market. I highlighted my success with CASE and showed him how students who enrolled in that course scored 10% better on their Biology End of Course Exam and 31 pts higher on their 11th grade Science Graduate Exit Exam. This data has helped to show that Ag in my school plays a vital role by improving test scores.


Please share you advice on how you prove to administrators and teachers that your program is an important part of the school and not that place to get things fixed?


Something said on this thread could help a struggling teacher.

Hello From Louisiana

Posted by Josh Dahlem Nov 29, 2011

I am Josh Dahlem and have been privileged enough to be asked to participate in this blog over the next year. This is my 4th year teaching and 3rd at my current school, Stanley High School in Logansport Louisiana. We are a very rural school district in Northwest Louisiana that has reaped the benefits of the oil and natural gas boom. With this money, our district has purchased Ipads for ever freshman and enacted various other programs including planning a new Career Tech Center. At Stanley, we have 376 students in Pre-K-12 and I currently run between 40 and 50 students a semester through my program. The FFA chapter currently has 35 members.



During the past 4 years,2011-11-04_13-50-44_866.jpg I have been trying to change the mentality of the ag programs I have been involved with to not just be a shop class. I am currently a CASE Plant Science Lead Teacher and implement the curriculum throughout my various classes. Since our biggest industry is the oil field, many of my students graduate and go straight to work. For these students, I concentrate on building skills for them to excel in the career they choose because, as we know, not every student is college material but will still make a positive impact on society. Our biggest event each year is the state fair, yet this was the first year I have had a student show animals. We construct projects for the Ag mechanics Show and Auction and compete in various other mechanics contests at the fair. The money received from these projects goes back to the students.



Over the next year I hope to showcase a little bit of my program and highlight this great profession we all take part in.

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: