As a future educator, what is the most important issue facing agriculture teachers?
Perkins funding authorization- if Congress doesn't authorize Perkins funding, we could be facing a 93 million dollar cut just in our state. This would directly affect Professional Technical Education and in turn agricultural education.
I think the most important issue facing us as agriculture teachers is the need to develop the ability to advocate for ourselves and for our programs. If we are not doing this, staff in our school, community members, and the nation won't see the benefits agricultural education provides. They won't know that academic skills are applied through our programs giving more meaning to students, that our students do go on to college, that we develop the 3Rs so often discussed today of rigor, relevance and relationships. There are many issues out there, but if we as educators don't know how to advocate, we run the risk of being powerless to take action.
I would add remaining relevant as a source of job training/skills for students. I've seen several articles in business related journals where manufacturers claim to have thousands jobs they can't fill because no one is qualified to claim these them. Apparently even some of the most basic skills. I don't pretend to believe the Ag. Ed. should be the supplier of automotive assembly line workers or aircraft manufacturing machinists, but a group needs to step up and say we'll be the starting point of that pipeline. We can only do so much in a classroom setting but aligning our curriculum with tech schools so that our students can walk right in and not be intimidated will go a long way.
I spoke with a machine shop manager who is frustrated by what his local tech school turns out with their "welding certificate". He could care less how much theory they know about welding because 18 of the 20 applicants he interviewed could not weld to a minimum standard that he needed. I don't believe that's the fault of a high school level class. We get them excited about the career and send them on to the technical school, but that is where things go awry. However, if they don't look good, we don't look good either. It's in our best interest for them to succeed at the tech school level and be ready to take these jobs that are looking for good workers. This may be as simple as the Ag. teacher saying to prospective high school graduates, "Look I know you want to weld, but the tech school down the road isn't worth your money. X, Y, and Z schools will get you the jobs that you want." Or the Ag. teacher, local machine shops, and other manufacturers get together and lean on your local tech schools to start producing quality tech graduates or you'll start recommending different routes for your graduates.
I use welding as an example, but it applies to all fields. I've heard similar complaints from national forest companies on college level graduates who won't go in the woods. I'll step off my soap box now.
I have to agree with Brian about remaining relevant. I teach in a rural area, yet have only 5 students out of 120ish that have hands on farm experience. Convincing these students, parents, administration etc that agriculture is important, beneficial and affects everyone is a constant battle.
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