Think long and hard before you answer that question. Do you really believe in agricultural education for every student that walks through your door? Or do you focus your time and energy on the few that are easy, and let the less-motivated students sleep, doodle, etc., so they don't interrupt you? I had a great teacher tell me early in my career that he believed that every kid could learn, and he was a good enough teacher to teach them. I always admired him for that philosophy and confidence but didn't adopt it until years later. We've all vented at meetings, conferences and on the sidelines at FFA activities about how we're the “dumping ground”: “My classes would be so great if I didn't have all the ‘low-level' students;” “Those counselors must hate me because they never send me any ‘good' kids.” The reality is that parents aren't keeping the good ones at home! They're sending us the best that they've got, and it's our responsibility to try to reach them all.
If we truly believe that agricultural education is a great program, why shouldn't every walk of student grace our door? Why do we take the easy road and only teach instruction to those that learn easily? Why do we only have a few students with SAEs? Why do we only collect dues from a handful of our students? I know we're not scared of a challenge. I know we're not faint of heart when it comes to hard work. I know we're not quitters. So, why don't we pull up our boot straps and start teaching every kid, regardless of abilities, potential or motivations? Why don't we require every student to have an SAE, not just the livestock kids or the ones that work at the local feed store? Why don't we provide leadership opportunities for every student in our program?
Understand that I'm a realist. I've had an entire welding class that was either receiving special education or had been at one point. I've had the greenhouse management class that behaved so poorly, I was afraid to actually let them see the greenhouse. I've had the biotechnology class where the only motivator was lunch. It's not easy to teach every student, every day. But we didn't sign up for “easy.” This is a philosophy shown from us as undergraduates but has been dulled by daily struggles just to survive in the classroom.
Going back to that wise colleague of mine, you'll notice that he said, “Every student could learn, and I'm a good enough teacher to teach them.” He didn't say every student could learn every thing! That realization hit me about year seven of teaching. It was at that point that I started hitting the ground running because I understood that every student could learn something, and I'm a good enough teacher to teach them. I can teach every one of them some technical content, some experiential learning exercises and some leadership. Every student could come away from agricultural education having learned something that would improve their life now or in the future.
This month's theme is “Engaging Students,” and the question I pose to you is, “Do you believe there are three circles of agricultural education for all students or just for some selected students?” Please post your comments on to the NAAE Communities of Practice at http://naae.ca.uky.edu:8080/clearspacex/thread/1180 on the “Question for the Profession” community.