Lance Jagers is a champion for a positive work/life balance. The first monthly LK Spotlight feature finds Jagers, in his ninth year of teaching, explaining the importance of balance between work and life and sharing some insight on using LK to help achieve this balance.
Experience. Over the years, I will admit, like most of us, I have had a problem saying no. But we as agriculture teachers choose to be that way; we are more involved in our students’ lives than most teachers which, in itself, demands more time.
It really hit me after my wife and I had our second child. I need to be at home for her and for our kids. I don’t want to miss all the little steps our kids take along the way. Over the last year, I have really been making an effort to keep that balance. I focus on utilizing time management, people in the community and resources.
One resource that is helping me better manage time spent preparing for class is LifeKnowledge. After being exposed four to five years ago at a summer conference in Colorado, I attended a professional development conference where I really had the opportunity to see the new bits and pieces and work hands-on with the tool.
I use LK more for upper-classmen and officers, integrating precepts and assigning them the Precept Indicator. I probably integrate a precept into my lessons on a weekly basis in my freshmen and sophomore classes and more like twice a week for the upper-level students.
The indicator assessment outlines their strengths and areas for improvement. It is a way they can truly take their skills and run with it. It is a confidence builder, encouraging the students to capitalize on their strong points and take more ownership in classroom and FFA functions while improving themselves.
This year I am teaching a leadership communications class. I am going to use LK almost exclusively in that class setting. Using the information from the assessment tool, I can quickly and logically decide which lessons I should be teaching. With this method I have the opportunity to tailor lessons to the students’ needs.
Having the lessons ready is going to lighten the work load, no doubt. They are right there, ready to use. Even though I don’t usually use full LK lessons in my regular classes, I find incorporating parts or ideas into lessons at all levels is handy and saves time.
Goals. Another strategy in maintaining work/life balance is to use the resources I have in my community. The key is finding people who want to help. Using people to organize, sponsor and lead activities is awesome. If I can find willing and motivated volunteers, I do not have to focus all of my energy on planning the entire event and managing duties like making sure kids stay in line.
Chartering an alumni chapter is one activity the chapter officers are focusing on this year. It has taken some time to get the support built up, but it is well into the organizing and planning stages now. It all started by a community member asking me if that is something I’d like to have. After the program standards workshop in St. Louis this past summer; and listening to those chapters who do have an alumni chapter and hearing the significant contributions they make to the chapter, my officers and I decided to pursue it as a major project for this year.
My hope is that the alumni chapter can: 1. Support the organization, giving alumni members the opportunity to choose the activities they will sponsor. It is important to me that they are involved in the decision making process so they can feel a sense of ownership and success. 2. Organize themselves and build camaraderie. Our chapter already uses alumni as volunteers in many events, but if they can organize themselves, that should take away some strain on me.
Advice. Like all agriculture teachers, I want my students to look at me as a hard worker. I think this is why we tend to overload ourselves. We feel like we need to work extra hard to be a good example. What I have come to find is that working hard and doing a quality job includes showing the students where my priorities lie.
Especially in the last year, I hope I have shown them by example that, no matter what, I have to take care of my family first. Sometimes we can’t have a practice or event on a certain night because of a family event. Teaching them to set those priorities in life is part of my job. Hopefully through actions, I show my students that being a good dad is just as important as being successful in your profession.
As we work to balance work and life, having a mentor is a must in our profession. It doesn’t have to be the best teacher in the state—just someone who knows what is going on and is always available to answer questions. With something as simple or complicated as filling out applications, mentors can help in all situations. Having my father and brother in the profession has been a big help. We advise each other even when advice is not wanted; but we are all better teachers and FFA advisors because of it.
Finally, work/life balance can be aided by using resources, especially the ones provided through ffa.org. I think the educator tab should be every agriculture teacher’s homepage! From there I can reach LifeKnowledge and many other resources provided by national FFA. My advice is to admit that you cannot do everything, and learn to accept help from resources, mentors and your community. That is the key to achieving balance.