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

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