During all my years of teaching, I was always looking for the “silver bullet”—that one thing that would help me increase student learning, help me be a better teacher, and help me be in two places at once. I didn’t realize that the silver bullet was right there in front of me the entire time. All I had to do was look for it, embrace it and utilize it. That silver bullet took the form of the many supporters I had for my program. Those supporters included current students and their parents, program graduates, the parents of graduates, the agriculture professionals in the community, community leaders, fellow teachers and, yes, even my school administrators.
You know that saying about how you can’t see the forest for the trees? Well, I couldn’t see the silver bullet for all the shell casings from all the “shooting from the hip” I was doing every day. If only I had really embraced the idea of utilizing an alumni affiliate! Oh sure, I had them help me occasionally, usually when it was fundraiser time; but that’s only a very small portion of what they can do for a weary agriculture teacher. The one time I managed to get my electricity CDE team to the state level was when I turned over their training to a licensed electrician. He was more than happy to take those four boys two nights a week, use the training materials I provided, and turn them into quality novice electricians. Why didn’t I do that for the rest of my CDE teams? Why didn’t I get the livestock experts in the area to help manage the hog weighing every two weeks so that I could focus on creating engaging instructional units? Why didn’t I place my horticulture students as interns with master gardeners so they’d get real experience and learn to develop relationships with people in the community? Why didn’t I have someone at every school board meeting who understood the agriculture program and could advocate on our behalf?
The only answer I have is that I was too busy littering the floor with shell casings to take the time to really plan and to see the shine the silver bullet could give my program. As I lament my ways of the past, I know there are thousands of agriculture educators in the profession who are using their silver bullets effectively to provide support for their program, to teach students the value of community and spread their work load. I know there are teachers out there who have an alumni affiliate or other support group who have a plethora of individuals that serve as resources for SAEs, guest speakers, demonstrators and fellow educators. The question for the profession this month is, “How do you use your silver bullet?” Please share what you are doing so that we may all benefit from your experiences and techniques. We pride ourselves on the ability to take another teacher’s idea and use it to help our own students. Take a few minutes and post your ideas and thoughts about effectively utilizing your alumni affiliate or other support group on the NAAE Communities of Practice page. Help everyone embrace their silver bullet!