"Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance."
Advocacy is often shied away from by Agriculture Teachers. It is often seen as politics, and we have all been disgruntled at one time or another with politics in government, politics in our schools, and the political views and outcomes that affect agriculture. Ag teachers have a very unique view on politics; we are very conservative when the issue is agricultural, but we tend to be on the liberal side when the issues affect education--this usually puts us smack dab in the middle of the road. This gives us two choices; get hit by the truck or jump out of the way! I was asked to serve my state as the political action committee chair--it was an easy committee to chair, because very few came for the discussion. The ones that did come all came to the conclusion that we are not trained to be lobbyists--we are ag teachers; what do we know about advocating for FFA and agricultural education?
The thing is, we must advocate for our career, for our students and for our industry! Advocacy doesn't always mean you have to go to Capital Hill and bang on the doors of politicians--it must first start with your program. How do you currently advocate for your program? We teach in an area that is based on numbers--numbers of students enrolled in our classes and the numbers of dollars spent to support the program. These are the primary concerns of administrators when they assess your program, and in a tough financial year agricultural education always comes to the top of the list as the most expensive program in the school, and if the administrator doesn't know any better, ag is sometimes viewed as an easy program to cut. This is where your advocacy efforts come into play; if the advocacy was started well in advance of the chopping block coming out.
If you think about it, athletics are extremely expensive, but we would never cut the football program from public education. Why? Is it due to the fact that the media creates a story for every football game played, that the community comes out in force to watch, the sports boosters create avenues for financial support and have the ear of the school board and the administration? Isn't that advocacy?
Ag teachers can create the same advocacy efforts for their program. We need to use the media, but more than for successful CDE teams. I believe your chapter reporter may be the most important officer position you have on the FFA leadership team. Entrust the chapter reporter to write stories for the newspaper about the neat things your program does for the community, highlight student SAE projects, or just put in writing a "thank you" to your community that helps out the program.
Another way to advocate for the program is to get that vocal support group. FFA Alumni in my experience are tremendous voices that advocate for the FFA program. Their job is to support you and the students, whether it be to create a scholarship pool, or if you need a community member to have discussions with the administration on the value of the agriculture program. The more an ag teacher can use the community, the louder the voice of the program becomes. Once these things come together, timing is completely up to the ag teacher.
The NAAE Board voted that each of the Board Members develop an Advocacy Plan prior to the Regional Conferences. I challenge each of you to also complete an Advocacy Plan. You can find a worksheet and an example by clicking the link. NAAE: Advocacy Tools