Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Connecting Educators through Twitter using #AgEduChat

As you all know, education is an everchanging field. Instructional strategies, assessments, and technologies are much different than what was used 5-10 years ago.  5-10 years from now education is going to be much different than today even. It is changing so fast it is sometimes hard for teachers young and old or even students learning to be teachers to keep up with the new trends.

I am sure we all want an easier way to locate and begin interacting with one another to ask questions and share teaching ideas, resources, and other tips and tricks for others. With those in mind, some of us involved in agricultural education across the nation have decided to start #AgEduChat* and we want you to join us.

#AgEduChat will be a bi-weekly fast-paced, thought provoking chat using Twitter to stream the discussion.  We will use #AgEduChat to discuss and address what is going on in education and specifically agricultural education.  Topics will range from classroom management to student motivation to FFA to parent/community involvement and many others. We are looking forward to addressing any topics or issues that you may have questions about or expertise in that we can share with others.

Our first #AgEduChat will be Sunday November 7th from 7:00-8:00 PM EST.

If you have any questions please contact, via Twitter, @DrewBender or, via GMail, if you do not have a Twitter account - bender.140@gmail.com to learn how to set up an account.

Also, for tips and tricks on to set-up a Twitter account or to better understand how to use it, please use the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation's Social Media Guide.

*#AgEduChat is what is considered a hashtag used on Twitter to allow users to tag a post and share a personal perspective on a topic. They are designated by the "#", followed by a tag.  Using hashtags allows Twitter users to search for the conversation streams and communities on Twitter.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Teaching Will Get Easier Every Year They Say

It is not even halfway through my second year of teaching, but it is going so much better already.  This time last year I was already wore out and just swamped with everything going on.  I would have to explain to my students daily why I wasn't doing things like the previous teacher and that the class is dumb now. Mind you  class before me just consisited of operating chainsaws and cutting firewood unsupervised for the majority of the year with some hunter and trapper safety courses and stream monitoring intermingled. I am moving the course content back to agriscience and agribusiness courses.  The students simply did not understand that there was so much more to agriculture that they have been missing out on.

 My mentors and other teaching friends kept telling last year, "Don't worry. Things will be much better your next year teaching."  I have really looked back during the past couple of months and couldn't believe how I survived parts of last year when compared to how much better they are this year.  Here is a comparison of now vs. last year:

Last year - Got hired 10 days before school started with just a couple days to then prepare.
This year - Was able to spend most of the summer preparing units and lessons for this year.

Last year - Couldn't get hardly any students interested in participating in competitions.
This year - We will be participating in our third competition of the year coming up in a few weeks.

Last year - Handed out about 15 detentions by this time last year.
This year - Haven't had to hand out any yet...

Last year - Was staying at school working till 5-6:00 p.m. cleaning and organizing my teaching facility to suit my needs.
This year - Usually leave school around 3:30-4:00 or stay longer for competition practices or other FFA activities with students.

Last year - Staying up late every night scrambing to prepare lessons for the next day and thinking how long I could stretch lessons to have time to prepare more.
This year - Have lessons ready to go and a plan for the remainder of the year.

Last year - Caught off-guard on how fast our annual Fruit Sales and National FFA Convention trip came up.  Found out how much planning and paperwork goes with both events.
This year- Knew what to expect so I was able to have paperwork and sales information ready to go early.

As I explained how things were going for me last year to a couple of my mentors, they told me the following that was very true:

"The college or university you graduate from does not prepare you to be a great teacher. They prepare you with the tools to be a first-year teacher, it is up to YOU to be a great teacher."

I realized how true that statement was at that point last year.  Even with trying to do everything the "right" way from other ag ed teachers and my professors I have talked with, I needed to do things my way and work towards becoming a GREAT teacher in my own way.

So first, second, third teachers or those of you in school preparing to become teachers, I can tell you from my experience and I am sure our older mentor teachers can tell us too, teaching WILL get a little easier every year.

Post by Drew Bender

Thursday, October 14, 2010


DISCLAIMER: I am not conceited. My pants go on one leg at a time. I am however a confident man. I am also a very positive person. I also have a lot of patience. People have said that I have an ideal personality to be a teacher. I won’t argue any of that, quite flattered in fact especially the last one. I’d like to think that God has blessed me with the talents necessary to do what I do well, and I sure will do it well. It would be a shame to not use talents from God as best as I can.

So what do I do well? Well, in four years of being an Agricultural Educator and an FFA Advisor hopefully my job! There would be a large majority of my peers and my community that sees improvement in my current school district; hopefully I have had a hand in that. They hopefully would see the steady increase of State FFA Degrees, CDE participation, a large presence at county fair and other volunteer functions, and variety of curriculum offered and they would be pleased with the direction of the program, again I hope I have played even a small part in that. The fact that our FFA Banquet in May is so pain fully long is a testament to just how many things my students do….well.

Today’s blog post (my first one) is about the mythical word PERFECTION. Just looking at those ten letters together seems awesome, times new roman has never seemed as un-boring as when it is written with PERFECTION. After the above paragraphs, perhaps I am the perfect ag teacher? Although impossible to measure, from the outside looking in I am doing a pretty nice job. A perfect score is a 100% last I checked, so that’s what I’m shooting for. Why shouldn’t I work my tail off and try to be perfect? Again, I feel as though if I’m not working hard at something, if I am not getting ready for this next CDE or this next class coming in the room or this meeting that is happening soon, then I am wasting my talents. I refuse to be a talent-waster.

I teach 92 students in a day this first semester. My teaching partner and I share students (kids want to take more than one ag class, cool!) but I teach 92 personally in a given day currently. 8 in my animal science elective, three Ag Ed I classes of 23, 16, and 12, and two Ag Ed II classes of 16 and 17. I looked at my alphabetized master class roster, and what I have just done is think of the first memory that came to my mind about each student. The memory leads to an emotion on my part, and I have tallied my emotions. The memory had to be from this school year only, and it had to be 100% related to Ag Ed and/or FFA. As I went through each name, I put a tally mark beside one of three words POSITIVE, INDIFFERENT, and NEGATIVE. Many smiles (positives) came to mind quite quickly. Teaching some greenhands how to shoot archery and rifle, seeing confidence on faces of soil judgers after a state contest that they knew they nailed, these are two quick examples of happy thoughts and tally marks. My students aren’t angels by any means, ornery sophomore boys and prissy upperclass girls also come to mind with negative thoughts, but these negatives also turn out to be positives most of the time so I put those in the “indifferent” column.


POSITIVE: 36                                    INDIFFERENT: 54                            NEGATIVE: 2

PERFECTION. That mythical word that I and many of you shoot for. I know I can’t reach that. None of us can. Nowhere close. Why do I still try? The proof is in the pudding as they say, take a look at the scoreboard. What draws the outsiders’ eye? Wow, He thinks pretty high of his students, and they in turn have done at least one thing good to warrant that emotion. He has some awesome students that I just bet think he’s pretty awesome as well. What draws my eye?

36+54=90…90/92=99.9783                           99.9783 good emotions

2/92 = 0.0217%                                               0.0217% of the focus of this post

One was a kid lying about an assignment to her mother. I do a good job of being up front with my grading, so I knew something wasn’t right when she didn’t turn in a project. The allotted two days go by and still nothing. In her defense, I had the kids take pictures on a camera, bring the pictures in, and classify them (weeds for an agronomy field guide and accompanying dichotomous key) and the first nasty email I received was describing why the project was not done, camera had personal pictures on it. I don’t want to get into a complaining session, but I finally got a “project” about two weeks late. I caught kid in a lie twice, but the kicker is that I know that kid jumbled the story and told Mom what Mom wanted to hear. I have lost that kid and that family for the year for sure.

The other was a kid who’s situation, admittedly, I could have handled better if I wasn’t pressed for time. I don’t let my students drop a showmanship class, end of story. Showmanship is a part of an SAE project that you have at the fair, you better believe you are showing. When I saw a late scratch, I snuck out from my station lining up the cattle for the incoming classes and b-lined for his stalls. With about five family members there and a barn full of listening ears I raised my voice and “explained” why we don’t drop showmanship. I then hustled back to the show and lined up the next class. Dad found me the next day. This one hurts, and I hope my relationship with the family isn’t forever tarnished, because they are excellent supporters and true agricultural leaders in the community.

Now here’s the crux of the matter. Both of the above students, I can think of smiles as well. Where did my strive-for-PERFECTION brain go? Mr. Positive, immediately ignoring the many good experiences and highlighting the ONE BAD one. Why must we always be our biggest critics? Why are we so obsessed with doing all the right things and saying all the right things? Why do we try to be everything for everybody? By we of course I mean me, or perhaps me and you? I kinda thought so.

0.0217%. Is that close enough to PERFECTION?

     Livin’ The Dream,

              J. Michael Derringer

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Spouses View of an Ag. Ed. Teacher

          My name is Alison Derringer.  I’m very excited to write for this blog and promote my belief in agricultural education. I will give the reader’s digest version of my experience: I took ag education class for the first time my senior year in high school. I loved the activities, values and the type of people I was around, but there were a lot of issues with the program and those who ran it.
         I decided that I wanted to teach ag ed and be the stability that I wish we had in my program. I met my husband Mike in college and we both took teaching offers 2 ½ hours away from one another after we graduated. We were both excited and I had loved student teaching so much, I thought having my own program would be just like that.
          My first year of teaching I describe as one I never want to relive again. I had issues with students who were use to virtually no structure. I worked so hard to get students involved, but never felt like I was satisfied with my position. I stayed a 2nd year and it was much better (I actually liked most of my students!), but the feelings of lacking knowledge in many areas plus other past failures bothered me too much.
           My husband, on the otherhand, is absolutely awesome at teaching ag and I wanted him to be the one doing something he truly loved.  We married one year ago and I am now active within the FFA Alumni program where Mike teaches and love to chaperone whenever needed. I currently work a part-time job and have a full-time business as a beauty consultant. I am loving life and love the flexibility to support Mike.
            Those of us that are spouses of ag teachers may not always understand why it is necessary for them to go in way early and stay late into the evening. Heck, working 25-30 hours in two days is nothing! But just know that they are making an impact in students’ lives in a way that standard subject teachers may not. Mike told me a few days ago that a student shared their desire to be an ag teacher. That meant more to him than any amount of money or recognition could. The ups and downs of any teaching position are stressful but I believe that ag teachers get the best rewards from their career. I only wish it was in my heart to want to teach again.
         Anyway, this is a busy week for Mike – soils practice and State Soil Judging Saturday since his teams placed 1st for Rural Soils and 2nd for Urban Soils. His school's county fair is this week and he will be at fair all week as he is the superintendent of the swine show along with his teaching partner plus his students are showing the first few days. He’ll need plenty of coffee! Hope all of you have a great week!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Connecting with Students Outside of the Classroom

        One thing I have learned over the past year is the importance of the connections made with students outside of the classroom.  I believe not enough teachers take advantage of opportunities to support their stduents outside of the school day.  Some teachers just show up in the morning, get through their lessons for the day and then just go home. How can you expect to make a sound connection with students with only seeing them for 40-120 minutes a day. Both educators and students need to see another in a different situation. It's funny to say but true, that students sometimes forget that teachers are people too and like to relax and have a life outside of school.
       I try to make it a point to attend a variety of activities put on by the different student groups in the high school even if my students are not in those activities.  It is important to me to be able to support all the students of the high school.  I have had students come up and thank me for coming to see them at their event and ask where I was if I missed.  It is also enjoyable to brighten a students day with just asking how their event went the next day at school.
        I had the opportunity to chaperone the Prom last spring and Homecoming this weekend. It is always great to see all the kids dressed up and having fun with their friends. They really get a smile on their faces when you tell them how nice they look all dressed up.  They are always surprised to see you there but you can tell they appreciate you sharing their special night with them.
        I will always continue to support all the students the best I can. The connections made with students today both inside and outside the classroom will last a lifetime.

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called "truth."  ~Dan Rather