This is an article from the September 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.
One of my favorite summer activities is attending the county fair. As an agriculture instructor, I get to spend a lot of time in the fair barns watching my students and my children prepare for the shows. Whether it is the occasional water fight at the wash rack, or the fake spider being dropped over the rafters and in front of fair goers, there is never a dull moment.
When you ask the public about their favorite part of the fair, you will have an onslaught of answers ranging from the food to the truck and tractor pulls, but my answer never changes. My favorite part of the fair is watching the 4-H and FFA members helping each other to prepare for the shows. On one end of the barn, an older member can be seen helping clip a first-year member’s calf. In the small animal barn, you can see children helping each other comb out the rabbits. In the swine barn, the exhibitors all grab a pig sorting board and help guide the pigs to the ring. It seems like an "all-hands-on-deck for everyone" kind of atmosphere.
Now this summer, I had an acquaintance that had not been to a lot of county fairs and he insinuated that once the exhibitors entered the ring, the "one-for-all, all-for-one" attitude would end quickly. My response was, "just wait and see." He was amazed that exhibitors would show other members' animals to the best of their ability, even though they had their own animals. Then came the high fives and handshakes of the winner from everyone they just beat. He said, "what is wrong with these children, are they happy about losing?" My response was, "no, they just realize that when one person wins, they all win."
Now the very same thing can be said about agriculture teachers across the country. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times, “you ag teachers are like one big family, you all are in this for the benefit of everyone.” My response is, "yes we are ,and that is what makes us so special."
For the skeptics out there, you have to look no further than the NAAE Communities of Practice website. Teachers from across the country have shared thousands of documents relating to content, useful documents, and Career Development Event training materials. Even though our students will someday be competing against each other in competitions and for jobs, the crazy fact is, just like the showman at the fair, the fierce competitors will be the first to turn and congratulate the winners. You see, we realize that when one person wins, we all win.
If that was not enough evidence, you can look at the ag ed discussion boards, ag teacher share, and lead teacher mentoring programs. All of these avenues are used so that we can train and retain the highest quality of ag teachers in this country.
Even with all the family members helping out, we still we need more to join us every day, if we are to provide a high-quality teacher for every program, in every county, in every state. This challenge makes National Teach Ag Day of utmost importance. On this day, we will take time to celebrate those in the profession, roll out the green carpet for those entering the profession, and show college students why they should join the profession.
I cannot wait to join fellow NAAE members, agriculture students, and sponsors in Chicago. This will be a time to celebrate those in the family and welcome new members into the family. Ellen, Andrea, and Victoria have assembled a schedule that will offer something for everyone, in every stage of their ag teaching career, during the National Teach Ag Day celebration. I am most excited about the agriculture teacher spotlights, which will allow us to highlight some of the best and brightest agriculture teachers in the country.
Along with Ellen, Andrea, and Victoria, the NAAE staff has been very busy working on our behalf. Dr. Jackman spent a few weeks in Uganda as part of the NAAE Farmer to Farmer initiative. Alissa is working on developing high-quality professional development sessions to be held at the National FFA Convention and the NAAE Convention. Julie is working on developing the promotional materials, along with videos that will highlight our members at both conventions. Ashley is busy processing state rosters to ensure our members can take advantage of their membership benefits. Last but far from least, Katie is planning and preparing all the space and facility needs for our conventions.
As I exit the county fair for the evening, I cannot help but wonder if the county fair exhibitors act the way they do as a result of the influence they see on a daily basis from their agriculture teachers. I am convinced that is the case, and this is just another one of my observations from my side of the barnyard.
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