Monday, November 29, 2010

Optimism and Teaching, Where's the Line?

As a second year teacher, but first year at my current school, there are still basic obstacles to overcome. Most experienced teachers will tell you that when you are at a new school to focus most of your energy towards your younger students, and less on the upperclassmen. Now, I am an extreme realist and understand this notion, but I also have a small bit of optimism in me at times. Taking this bit of optimism I worked with my varsity Parliamentary Procedure team, which consisted of four seniors,  three sophomores, and one freshmen. Because of this mix in ages, I thought they would be a fairly easy group to coach and motivate, having various levels of experience that they could share with one another.

 Outside of some limited class time work on Parli Pro, I had scheduled four other practices before school to get this varied group of students into a groove with one another. When the first practice rolled around only four out of eight students showed up. At the second practice six students showed up. And for the third only two showed up and the fourth got canceled due to their lack of motivation.

 At this point, lets say I was a little bit more than upset with this team, because I also had to find a replacement for a student who quit the team the night before contest. That same day I had found out from members on my JV team that the upperclassmen on varsity had told the younger members to not show for practice because they didn't want to practice. In this particular week I had a lot of things going on outside of my FFA responsibilities, and only briefly addressed this situation to the team. When contest rolled around, needless to say, they didn't do the greatest. I wasn't upset in the least to, be honest. I figure, if they want to do well, they'll show, if not, they won't.

Reading this, I guess the question I am raising in telling this story is, where do you give up that tiny bit of optimism and put it to use somewhere else? And for that matter, once you begin the cycle of letting go of that optimism towards a certain group of students, are you ever going to stop? Isn't it my responsibility as an educator to help every student learn and have opportunities at experiences that will help them later in life and broaden their horizons? Or do I only focus my energy on those kids who already have the motivation to do this things on their own, because it's not as exhausting or poor use of my time?

After reviewing what I have already written, I know these are loaded questions, and that each situation is different and circumstantial for everyone. So how do you go about finding how you'll handle these situations without making crucial and/or repetitive mistakes?

Post by Katy McGovern

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Expectations of a Student in a Leadership Role

This week a had a regularly scheduled meeting with my FFA chapter officer team.  We always have a meeting a week before our general FFA meeting with the whole chapter to discuss upcoming events and other items. 

One important item that I have been working on is building our chapter Program of Activities (POA).  This is an important document that will have information about our local FFA chapter such as: a record of our chapter rosters, budget, all activities broken down by committee and class, and other information about the National FFA Organization.  Our most important item in our POA is the chapter's Constitution and Bylaws.

Just for your information, the previous teacher had no idea where previous copies of their Constitution and Bylaws or POA were. So I was pretty much going from scratch on building this document. Luckily, I had a few samples from some other chapters to go by.

I began by going through the POA with the students and just showing them what information will be found in the document and pointing out which officers I will need to work with to finish it.  As we got to the Constitution and Bylaws, I assigned an officer a section to read over and instructed them if they saw something that they had a question or thought needed changed to mark it.  Well after a few minutes we all as a group started to go through the document.  We only got halfway though by the end of the meeting because we had some issues.

The first was requiring FFA members to exhibit a project at our local county fair.  I did not think this would be a big deal since all students would be making projects for our chapter's FFA booth at the fair anyhow.  They were arguing that its not fair for students to be required to do this and that some parents don't want their students at the fair.  So, after a few minutes of discussion with the kids I let it go and crossed it out since we weren't getting anywhere.

The second issue pertained to the officer team. As a teacher, I do try to hold my officers to a higher standard since they are in that leadership role. I believe they should be role models to other students and that they represent the chapter well in the community. 

The other item some of them had issues with was- Having a "C" grade point average while being an officer and/or apply to be an officer.  They started joking that "D"s equal degrees. I asked them that as role models, should they show others that a "D" is all that they should strive for and if that is a good representation of the hardwork of our FFA chapter.  They just shrugged it off saying it doesn't matter because noone will see there grades anyways.  My chapter President turns around to his sister who is our Reporter and just tells her to shut-up and quit complaining because they all have poor grades because they are all just lazy.  We ran out of time a few minutes after that so I told them we will continue later.

On my way home I was thinking to myself, if athletes have to have a "C" or better to play should I have the same rules for the officers? Should I just make the rule that if they have below a "C" they can't participate as a chapter officer until they get there grades up?  What should the expectations of a chapter officer be?  What do other teachers, administrators, and community members think the expectations of a chapter officer should be?

I am not sure what those answers are, but I do know that I want to find out now. 

What do you all think should be the expecatations of a student in a leadership position for a student organization? Feel free to leave a comment.

Post by Drew Bender