Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What FFA Awards Are Important For Your Program?

So that's what a blizzard is like,  huh?  I was really expecting worse to be honest with you.  Aside from the 45 mph winds that left 4-5 foot snow drifts covering my entire road, I really didn't think we made out too bad.  So while I was sitting in my living room last night, listening to the wind snap tree branches off and waiting for the power to go out, I started to think about what I was going to try to accomplish the next day; a day when I was pretty certain going into the building to work would be, at best, a bad decision.  So, what do you do on a day when you really can't do anything?

At this point, you shouldn't need to be told to get your work done.  You're adults, not the moron college grads who quit career-path jobs and go running back to grad school because you refuse to mature.  You took a job that will make you grow up, sometimes before you're ready to; so you should have that voice inside your head telling you to get busy.  However, if you are that person and I offended you, good :)

There are 2 things you can be sure of as an Ag Teacher, especially in Ohio.  One, you will miss some days for snow.  Two, those days will come at the most in-opportune time imaginable.  The two go hand-in-hand, because the time of the year when snow becomes an issue is the busiest time of the year too.  Normally I'm not one to let a little snow or fog keep me from trying to get some work done but now, during what I call “application season”, sometimes there isn't much you can do without having students there.  So now we come to the point of having to ask the question, how much is it worth for you run the risk of having a student come to school to work on something on days when the rest of the student body stays home, because it isn't safe to be out? 

That's a fine line to walk for sure, and for me today, the morning after a “blizzard”, I guess I can allow myself to be a little less productive than normal.  As long as you keep your deadlines in mind (for me, D-1 Evaluation is Tuesday, so I have time), it's pretty feasible to manage yourself and your time efficiently to get your work done.  However, I don't particularly see the northwest corner of the state going back to school anymore this week; so I'm going to have to ask myself if I really want a student(s), who have very little driving experience, to venture t the school to work on applications and/or officer books.  I'm afraid I might have to make a decision that decides exactly what awards/applications even get handed in, as a result of the weather being substantially less than cooperative. So here's the $100 question, I would have said million, but we're teachers and let's not kid ourselves, nobody's handing out that kind of cash: what awards are important for your program to get? 

Is it the American Degree, the height of achievement, that you think is the focal point?  Is it the State Degree or Proficiency Awards?  If you look at those, who's not to say that waiting a year is a bad thing, after all you do have 3 years to apply for those....  Is is the Officer Books that are important?  If you think about, that particular student may only have 1 year to work for that Gold Rating....  That might be a lot to have to digest, especially for a young teacher that probably feels like there are certain expectations to live up to when it comes to how many members receive awards in the course of the year.  I can tell you from experience that if you have to make that decision, in the eyes of some, you'll be wrong 10 times out of 10. 

Less than 15 weeks into my teaching career there was an accident involving 4 students from the school (averaging about 75 students/class); 2 were killed and one nearly died and was left in critical condition for weeks.  It happened the weekend before our Parliamentary Procedure Contest.  On the day of the funerals, there were 8 students out of 335 that did not attend.  All school activities for the week were canceled.  Even though neither of the 2 students that died were in my program, I knew that trying to complete would have been useless, some things are just more important; so I never bothered to ask the other 5 schools to reschedule the contest.  When word got out to a parent/board member that we didn't go to that contest, I was crucified at the next board meeting.  I never once thought twice about it, pretty much told the guy he could kiss a particular part of my body, and moved on.  So, just be ready to be the bad guy on occasion, it'll be fine.

Also, for as much as we'd like to see all of our students win as many awards as possible, sometimes you need to know when to say when.  You're time is limited and precious this time of year, make the most of it.  Take the students you have that want  to apply for awards, spend some time really thinking about the ones that have the best shot at being competitive.  That's not to say that at some point they can't all be, but that's kind of the point of the awards process: to show growth with the SAE.

I've evaluated Proficiency Awards at the state level for 8 years; I've had some National Finalists and at least 1 National Winner sit at my interview table.  On the other hand, I've seen some absolutely amazing applications from students that we'd call in for interview, just to have them know absolutely nothing about their project during the interview.  My point is this: you may have to decide to spend your time with the ones that you know deserve it.  Your integrity will get you a long way in this business, and will ultimately serve your students well.  Not everyone can be a National Finalist, that's why it's such an honor to get to that point. 

As the Advisor, it's our job to have our best stuff in the running; not to turn an average project into an amazing application.  A student that raises a pen of 2 market hogs each year for the fair, and has an inflated sale price because of the donation from the sale ring, doesn't necessarily boast of proficiency.  Anyone can get a ton of hours working on a dairy farm milking, scraping the barns, and feeding; or work for a grain farmer driving the tractor for hours on end; but are they really learning the industry?  That's what you have to decide.  I'm not going to tell a student not to take an animal to the fair, or to stop working for the farmer next door; I have students that wash semi-trucks and flip burgers for their SAE's.  Are they good experiences for them to have?  Absolutely.  Are they going to win any awards with that kind of an SAE?  Absolutely not.  It's not a perfect world, all we can do is to try to do the best with what we have.

So anyway, how about this weather huh?  Hopefully the folks that read this aren't quite as snowed in as what we are here in NW Ohio; and hopefully I'll be back in session for at least part of the day Friday.  If not, I'm afraid I might have to make some of those tough decisions discussed above, which in case you were wondering, its State Degrees and Proficiencies for me every time.

Drive safe and stay warm.
Ryan Sell

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your bluntness, Ryan and think you have some great incite into being realistic during awards season. I always said that I wasn't going to do the applications for the student no matter how great their SAE was or if they had the qualifications for the award. I get so frustrated when teachers do these for their students. The kids get nothing out of it + its another student in this generation that gets their 'achievements' handed to them. Continue to keep up the good fight of making them work if they really want the award or degree.

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