As a beginning teacher, I knew that I wanted every student in my classroom to have a supervised agricultural experience. I wanted them to have a project that they took interest in with a connection to agriculture. Over the next couple of years, students have done well with selecting an SAE and collecting basic data. I set aside each Friday for them to update their journals. I love learning about what students are doing outside of class and what they are learning.
It’s easy to assess how students are feeling about the classroom instruction through body language and class participation. I don’t expect 100% of students to LOVE my class and work hard to try to reach a diverse group of students and learning styles. Even though I teach in a rural community and many students are connected to agriculture, the term is still slightly taboo at school.
AE This makes introducing SAE slightly challenging. I go through examples, have scoured through resources to form a presentation to introduce the four types of projects and my requirements through the Agricultural Experience Tracker - weekly updates with goals and reflections and 7-9 hours a quarter. It wasn’t surprising but it amazed me how many students had projects that they could use, but didn’t connect that the dots.
As the quarter came to an end, life in the ag department was slightly stressful catching up from national convention and getting grades in the gradebook. It seemed that the comments from students regarding SAE were somewhat negative. Over the past week I’ve really struggled with the idea of having every student have a SAE. I decided to put together a survey for students and was actually pretty nervous for the results.
When I checked on the results, I was astounded.
- 68% of students already had an SAE as part of their normal schedule
- 11% of students claim that recording about their SAE is definitely useful
- 68% of students claim that recording about their SAE is somewhat useful
- 22% of students claim that recording about their SAE is not at all useful
How useful has the SAE project been to your life?
- 65% of students rated the usefulness being between a 3-5 (5 = most useful)
- 35% of students rated the usefulness being between a 1-2 (1 = not useful)
The comments from students really touched me and made me feel confident in my inclusion of SAE in the classroom.
- I get to play with my animals and learn about things I didn't know.
- learning more hands on. not all book work
- realizing that I set goals for myself and try to reach them each week (note: yet finds weekly records not useful)
- Getting the chance to have fun with helping the environment.
- I gained more responsibility from doing this project.
- My favorite part is that you can choose what your project is.
- I have learned how to work with another person to create a project and a how to work together with another person to make a sales plan and follow through with it.
- A way to have incentive for taking care of my dog
- Being able to have a break from normal class on Fridays
- Dedication, pretty much every week I have to be on top of things so nothing goes to waste
- being able to look at my progress
But then there were comments like this:
- I have gained nothing from it.
- Nothing I would have done the same thing even if it wasn't worth a grade
- Wellllllllll I don't know because I don't really learn anything and I do it because it is my job.
How do I reach the 1/3 of students who don’t feel like the project is useful? I’m doing much better at not taking lack of interest to heart, but it is hard not to feel like I’m failing them.I also received comments such as these:
- Stop shoving FFA down our throats. Do not get so serious about this class, its a slack class thats why most of us are in it!
- Well it would like to not learn so much about FFA . But that is just my opinion.
Another one of my goals was to promote the FFA more this year. My first two years of teaching I wanted to focus on the classroom as the foundation for my program. For the first time, I completed an FFA activity at the beginning of the year and have done a better job announcing FFA events. During national convention, I included an article on the FFA jacket from FFA New Horizons for them to complete. I figured it was an easy task and as many ag teachers understand it helped save some time in writing sub plans.
I was treated to some serious flack upon return. “Why do we have to learn about FFA?” was repeated over and over. Here I thought I was gaining ground with students verbally discussing joining FFA. I was dreaming about being affiliated chapter and the decrease in headaches it would allow. However, I was definitely awoken from that dream of a perfect 3-circle model.
Is the 3-circle model outdated in how we are told to implement it? It seems like it would be so much easier in the Ag 1, 2, 3, 4 model where you see students on a more consistent basis and it's easier to intertwine everything. With being on semesters and not having a sequential order for students to take classes (mainly to just ensure that I stay full-time), it seems like I'm trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. But that doesn't mean I'm going to quit trying.
My major focus now: How do I reach those students who don’t find the value in SAE and/or FFA? How do I go about diffusing the stigma related to the ag education program? Are there any tips or tricks that are recommended? Because right now, I’m feeling both accomplished and like a failure trying to get all 3 circles in my program.