By Katy Mumaw, education specialist, National FFA Organization
Continuous improvement is a key to practicing premier leadership. Stephen R. Covey, in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, introduces the concept of “sharpening the saw.” Using a saw to cut wood daily will eventually dull the blades and decrease the effectiveness of the saw. Sharpening the saw gives the tool new life and increases its productivity, effectiveness and efficiency. Leaders must sharpen the saw in order to stay effective.
Teacher’s can inspire their students to enter agricultural education by modeling the elements of the continuous improvement precept.
For teacher effectiveness, this may mean having and enacting a plan for personal growth, seeking mentors, adding to an arsenal of problem-solving strategies and staying current so that we can adapt with new technologies. In order to prepare young people to influence in a continually changing world, we must prepare leaders who practice the skills associated with continuous improvement.
Continuous improvement is a skill we want to display for our students. We want to lead by example. We want them to desire and pursue learning and growth, both personally and professionally. Our attitude can make or break their interest in the agricultural education profession. Let's take a look at a sampling of the different behaviors we demonstrate to students in developing mastery of the skills associated with continuous improvement.
Those with an awareness of the skills associated with continuous improvement should be able to…
- Explain why they need to have a personal growth plan.
- Define a mentor's role and explain how a mentor may contribute to personal improvement.
- Identify new technologies and knowledge that may improve their leadership.
Those who currently interact with the skills associated with continuous improvement should be able to…
- Develop and enact a personal growth plan.
- Identify a person to be their mentor and set up a regular time to meet with that person.
- Demonstrate how to solve a problem in a new and innovative way.
Those who have mastered the skills associated with continuous improvement should be able to…
- Evaluate their leadership and personal growth plan and make changes as necessary.
- Analyze and apply mentor's advice.
- Mentor their peers.
As we demonstrate these skills, we do a service to our students. In return, whatever professions our students choose to pursue, these skills and behaviors will be beneficial.
LifeKnowledge Lessons on Continuous Improvement:
HS.48 – The Role of Mentors and Coaches
HS.49 – Building a Relationship with a Mentor/Coach
AHS.13 - Identifying resources for continued growth
AHS.17 - Developing professional growth plans
AHS.38 – Serving as a Mentor
AHS.39 – Becoming a Mentor to Others
AHS.43 – Identifying Others to Grow and Develop
Recommend resources for veteran teachers considering mentoring:
Portner, H. (2003). Mentoring new teachers, (updated ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Pelletier, C. (2006). Mentoring in action: A month-by-month curriculum for mentors and their new teachers. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.