So, this week was my last week of student teaching, which is so hard to believe, a few more days, weeks, months, etc. would be great but at least I need to start a new chapter in my own story. Looking back it has been quiet a chapter, in the beginning it is easy to say Derry was my only choice for a cooperative site and to some it was thought to be the wrong choice, only for geological convenience. But that was definitely not the case!
Coming from an area that doesn't have a school based Agriculture Education Program in the whole county the only experience I had, that was my driving force to be an Agriculture Educator, was through the county extension office, therefore, any school based Ag program would be a new experience for me, but keeping in mind I wish to work in a rural area very similar to the make up of Derry School District. Having an abundant amount of rural area and yet still has a large population of students from the near by urban and suburban areas enabling teachers with the ability to connect the same content and material to a variety of student backgrounds and mindsets. One of the biggest challenges I faced during my student teaching would be that same challenge I so desperately wanted form a cooperative site.
Observing my cooperating teacher for the first week and then transitioning my self into the role of instructor allowed me to see first hand a variety of teaching methods and strategies. The availability of different lab areas (food science, animal science, mechanics, floral, and greenhouse) aided in the way the content was presented to the students. The routine at Derry is consistent by having the in class content (lecture) along with the hands on component (labs). Presenting the lessons in two different ways,insures that all students (8 multiple intelligences ) receive the content in an applicable form for their thought process.
Yet some students still were not getting the content, going back to the challenge I so desperately wanted, this was do to the students attitudes about Agriculture and what they thought the class was going to be (blow off). This led to my action research study of The Effects of Students’ Attitudes on Learning; given two sections of the same course (Introduction to Agriculture & Horticulture) with the same number of students (18), but every different attitudes for the cores and its content, will the way the content is presented have an affect on student performance or will their attitudes play the bigger ruler in their academic performance for the cores. This challenge allowed me to test out my pedagogical tool belt to its fullest existent, inquiry, lecturer, place based, and problem solving.Staying with the students attitudes classroom management was definitely a learning experience having a class that requires all three department staff to be present in the classroom, to keep the class under control.
The size of the facilities also allowed me to use/try out my tool belt to its fullest extent in terms of having animals in the classroom or having class in the barn ( a comfortable setting for me to get started). It also allowed me to farther my own education as far as the horticulture side of things (plant identification, planting, seeding, etc.) I revised any help I need with lesson ideas for reevaluating lessons to fit students needs or feedback on how a lesson went or did go. So I contently had professional development.
On the FFA section of Agriculture Education I had very little understanding be owned the classroom, by my experience at Derry had every thing explained to me on a much simpler/comprehensive level. Before the State went to affiliate membership, all the students at Derry were members of the FFA. The chapter has officer meetings every other Tuesday, to review their POA and discuss any other information that needs to be discussed. On the alternating Tuesdays there is an all members meeting to keep all members informed. Derry's FFA year kicks off with the chapter officers developing an extensive POA from there its presented to the instructor and then put in to action , after their summer retreat/debriefing . FLC is one of the big events for the freshmen members, all the freshman( first year members) that they can take go to be introduced to the extensiveness of the FFA organization in PA. I have had the opportunity to go with 14 students to the ACES conference, and more recently with 6 students to SLLC. All these experiences have shown me how the organization helps to develop the students' leadership and career skills as well as how it works to supplement the curriculum at the same time.
In addition to the instruction received all the students take part in a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), offered as a credited course for Senior and Junior that have schedule conflicts ( help students reach becoming a completer). With 95% of students participating in an SAE their is quite the variety. Derry SAEs range from the traditional production Ag enterprise and placement experiences to more innovative experiences , such as Food Science Research, Volunteer Fireman Experiential, and many more. Each student has two scheduled visits to the site of their SAE with their Ag instructor. Additional visits are scheduled on an as needed bases. This summer I had the opportunity to go along on some of these visits. The SAEs I visited were all traditional enterprise( market animals, gardens, laying hens, and horses). During my internship I have had several opportunities to talk to all the students about their SAEs and conduct a few visits with some nontraditional programs (Fireman , Hydroponics, Demolition tractors, Feedlot employment). Along with the SAEs participation all of the students were encouraged and coached one on one to prepare and send their record books to the state contest ( AET up date day is every Friday) as well as all the upperclassman were encouraged and coached one on one for their Proficiency awards.
My last day was very emotional as the students surprised me with a good by party, card, and chocolate dairy cow. The students, Mr. Campbell, Mrs.Campbell, and Mrs.Reed have taught me so much Thank you just doesn't seem like enough for all they have given me. I would highly recommend any other student teacher who want a great and developing student teaching experience to consider DERRY!!