Personally, I have a lot of recharging to do. I don’t know about you, but I had some crazy happenings this past school year. Among the craziest was a situation where a young man in one of my classes became very angry with his project and threw a hammer across the lab.
Fortunately, no other student was struck and injured. However, it is obvious that the young man is dealing with more than enough hurt of his own. You see, this wasn’t his first outburst. Over the course of his high school career, this young man had several emotional situations.
While this particular student showed his pain during highly visible displays, many others suffer in silence. Accordingly, as educators we have a responsibility to be beacons of kindness and stability for our students. We don’t know all the battles that our students are fighting.
Some struggle with hunger. Others are fighting to fit in because they feel different from the other students. Still more go home to struggling family situations.
As Ag educators, we don’t have the luxury of a handy reference manual for how to deal with every possible situation we may encounter with our students. Furthermore, we are likely not all equipped to be therapists and counselors. What we do have, though is an amazing 3 circle model to engage students and improve their lives.
Just this week at the Region II Conference, I got to see first hand the impact of animal science education on criminal offenders at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Offenders volunteer their time for the PAWS program by training service dogs for veterans in need. The veterans benefit by receiving well-trained dogs. The offenders benefit from the interaction with the dogs and the rigorous training process.
Clearly, our students (hopefully) aren’t criminal offenders. However, the lessons we can learn from the PAWS program are applicable to all of our students.
Have you ever taken students off site to work with animals? What unfolds is amazing. Shy students begin to smile and come out of their shells as lambs approach the fence where they stand. Boisterous students are humbled by the gentle interaction with a well behaved puppy that wants to play. A grumpy teacher can’t help but soften up a bit when a dairy cow comes over and gives him cow kisses.
These are regular occurrences in many of our programs. Whether we teach animal science, horticulture, natural resources, or business, we all have unique opportunities to engage students in meaningful experiences.
By providing meaning to our students, we are giving them a precious gift. However, we have a responsibility to make sure that all students feel like they are in an environment in which they can learn.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a perfect example of this. Sometimes I’m grumpy. Sometimes I don’t choose my words carefully enough. I’m human. However, I really do want my program to be a place where students feel free to be themselves...a place where they can express and challenge ideas.
That’s where it starts. I look forward to what we continue to do as a profession to make every student feel welcome in every classroom, every day.