Thursday, March 24, 2011

Do What You Love - Love What You Do

"The mediocre teacher tells. The teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires."
- William Arthur Ward
First off, HAPPY TEACH AG DAY!!!! If you didn't know, today was National Teach Ag Day. I must admit I was quite pumped all day to share my passion for teaching with my students. As I tell my students, there is nothing else I would rather be doing than to be a teacher of agriculture.

I was set becoming an Ag Education teacher even before I was in high school. My family has had a little history in the field of agricultural education with my father who taught Vo-Ag for 15 years and my great-uncle who finished his career by serving as Department Chair for the Agricultural Education Dept. at The Ohio State University.  So, I was quite aware of how the life of an Ag Education teacher was early on.

When I was in high school, I had one of the best teachers in the nation as my Ag teacher. She possessed all of the great qualities you would expect an Agricultural Education teacher should have.  I have thanked her many times for always pushing me to strive to do my best and for all the hard work she did to help our FFA Chapter reach #1 in the state.

It is because of my father and my Ag Ed teacher I am the teacher I am today. I set the standards high for my students. My classmates and I were held to high standards when we were in class and it paid off greatly. I know my students can achieve success too. I will bend over backwards and do everything I can do to help my students succeed. I know that even though I spend endless hours at school for FFA activities, competition practices or just planning lessons for the next day, that it is all worth it. I really enjoy seeing my students succeed and having those "ohhh now I get it" moments. 

I have been fortunate to see a big change in my students over the past two years from when I walked in Day 1 to now.  It is amazing to see them from being shy freshman or stubborn sophmores to leading others by becoming an officer and by participating in Career Development Events and encouraging others to join them. 

I can't wait to see what the next few years will bring for me and my students. It hard to imagine that I am training them for jobs that have not been created and for skills that have not yet been needed. All I can do is help them find their passion and guide them to the tools that will help them succeed.

Here are some interesting statistics about Agricultural Education via National FFA
  • There are about 8,200 Agricultural Education programs across the U.S. and Puerto Rico
  • Within those programs there are around 12,000 educators employed
  • 23% of teachers have five or fewer years of teaching experience
  • Of all the programs - 92% offer Agriscience; 71% offer advanced agriscience and biotechnology; 59% offer agricultural mechanics, 49% offer horticulture; 43% offer animal science; and 24% offer environmental science.
How has a teacher that you've had inspired or has had an impact on who you are today?? Leave a comment and share.

Blog post by Drew Bender

Sunday, March 20, 2011

140 Characters. Really? That is all? I have SO much more to say!

As an agricultural science instructor in Texas I began to wonder what would happen if I used Twitter to teach my class?  Most of my students are completely unfamiliar with the platform because they too believe they have WAY more than 140 characters on their mind.  And most of them do. So they use Facebook or MySpace or YouTube to put themselves before the world.  In an attempt to allow them to metacognate and develop their self-editorial skills, I decided on Twitter.

Our school saw fit to buy 5 iPads for the AG department ( So the officers and I set up 4 Twitter accounts.  I “pre-followed” several people I knew would consistently put up great information, links to really good online articles, and would interact with my students.

Then to plan the lesson. 

Day 1: Learn to use the basics of Twitter. Tweet, re-tweet, direct message, hashtag. If my students knew these basic tools, we could begin teaching via twitter.

Day 1 Result: Kids enjoyed learning about the new tool, but need more specific direction.

Day 2: Find an article that has been tweeted. Summarize in less than 140 characters. Use to shorten the URL and include it in your tweet. Then tweet your summary.

Day 2 Result: Life had ended!: “140 Characters?!” “NO WAY!” “We need more space”…”Nope, that is all you have, learn the power of brevity...GO! We only have 45 minutes remaining.” Many (not all) students were successful.

Day 3: Find an article that is related to Agriculture Education (required more digging and more specific). Summarize, read 5 articles that have been tweeted by classmates and re-tweet your favorite!

Day 3 Results: SUCCESS!  Kids finally got “it”. They learned that if they wanted their tweet re-tweeted they had to do something different, be quirky, have some fun.

Recently we had our Bridgeport ISD Elective Fair.  All the student organizations set up around the high school gym with booths displaying pictures from the previous year, awards won, and successes in the classroom all in an effort to lure as many of the right students into their classes as possible (I am a fan of the “Good to Great” book by Jim Collins….get the right kids on the bus and the wrong kids off the bus). We set out the 5 ipads, 2 with pictures rolling and 3 with twitter up….you should have seen the kids and parents scrolling through our twitter feed…checking out the tweets and direct messages. AMAZING!

Long story short, in my 3 years at Bridgeport ISD – With my Teaching Partner Cody McCauley, we have gone from 65 FFA members to 414. Our students have won 3 state championships. More importantly than anything, our Students are engaged in learning and love using technology to foster their metacognative ability!

Agriculture Science teacher at Bridgeport High School. Taught previously at Lubbock-Cooper ISD. 8 years total teaching experience. Graduate of Texas Tech University. Past state officer, background in leadership development, sheep, and angora and boer goats.  Will be married for for 8 years in april.  Have 3 wonderful Children (1 boy and 2 girls) ages 6, 4, and 19 months.  Grew up in Lometa, Texas raising sheep and goats on our ranch in the Hill Country. Really love teaching, watching college sports and being a dad!
Twitter - @jeffreyklose

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fighting Discrimination as an Agricultural Educator

Discrimination happens every day to every person ever created. I am sure of it. Those of us such as myself in a classroom with students can see this, however it is not uncommon for discrimination to happen everywhere those students go. Looking around my classroom I wish that my students did not have to deal with this but I know that wish would fall in vain. Also in that classroom of discrimination however is an educator, me. Do I feel discrimination? How does this make me feel? Am I changed because of it? The answers are in order; all the time, motivated, and emphatically yes.
In my fourth year of education at the same school district, parents and community leaders recognize me and trust me to do a good job with my classroom program. Perhaps just as important is the rapport with other faculty members in the High School. Prejudice usually companies my title, especially for a certain coo of faculty and a certain set of parents. The fact that I teach courses called “Agricultural Education”, in the minds of some, obviously means that I am less of an educator than others.  I teach elective classes, obviously meaning that students do not have to take my classes. I immediately get very offensive when I hear slangs from other teachers in my building and from parents of children who would not allow their kids to take my classes because “they would not benefit from it.” I need to be recognized as a professional educator, unbiased and fair, and not a teacher of nothing. Granted there are “bad” teachers out there, an unfortunate product of the comfort of the education system, but I am not one of them. I am a skilled craftsman of my chosen profession with a skilled niche for agriculture. I can, and do, teach my students how to think with common sense and teach them life knowledge. Nevertheless, I feel discrimination oftentimes at the work place. Furthermore, the students that some of the others do not want end up in my classes because they get to work with their hands in my class. I can help them develop trades and learn basic remedial skills, however I feel discriminated when my department is treated like a dumping ground for the learners that “don’t fit” other places.
Discrimination changes people. It leaves a callous, makes it hard and tough, and not really that easy to remove. When it comes time for students to schedule classes for the upcoming year, for that entire week I teach with a chip on my shoulder. I try to keep the students that I have, and for the most part I do, as they understand that my classes are not “easy A’s”.  They understand that they learn practical knowledge in my classes, and I can only assume they like me as a teacher as well. The callous that the chip leaves when it is not scheduling season seems to get larger each year.
When all is said and done, discrimination happens. It is how I react to it that I can control. “Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it” says a poster in my classroom, and those words hold true in this instance as well. I cannot control how others view me and my program, but I can control how I react to it. I choose to react with compassion.

Post written by Mike Derringer