By Gerald Barlowe, Agricultural Education Teacher, Union High School, Rose Hill, North Carolina
Often when I am greeted by my co-workers early each day and they ask how I’m doing, I respond with a line from the old Gus Kahn song, “Carolina in the Morning”:
“Nothing could be finer then to be in Carolina in the morning.”
I realized a long time ago that I am truly blessed to live in a nation where I am afforded the opportunity to be an agriculture educator. I also realize how fortunate I was that an agriculture educator, Mack Edwards, touched my life more than 30 years ago in his agricultural education/FFA program and secretly guided me into this profession.
I say secretly because Mr. Edwards didn’t tell me I was going to be an agricultural education teacher; he just gently led me, without my knowledge, until I found myself at North Carolina State University with plans to follow in his footsteps in my own agricultural education program. Therein lies one formula for the success in recruiting the next generation of teachers: We must lead. In serving a leadership role in recruiting this next generation, I believe there are five steps that we must follow to be successful.
Step one: Have fun and enjoy your careers. We teach the most interesting and important subject on this planet. Make it fun and show your students by your attitude and actions that you love what you do.
Step two: Identify potential teachers. I want to share a secret that many of you probably have already figured out: not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. It takes a special person with certain qualities and a special personality to be a truly successful teacher. Identify students that have the necessary traits and secretly point or lead them toward our profession.
Step three: Encourage students to pursue a career as an agricultural education teacher. A simple suggestion for some is all it may take while with others it may require a more direct persistent approach.
Step four: Serve as a positive role model for your students. Talk positively about your profession. Many of today’s current agricultural education teachers never considered teaching while in high school but later reflected on the positive role model of service that their agriculture teacher provided and chose to follow in their footsteps. We never know the impact we can and do have each and every day.
Step five: Be a professional. One of the professional responsibilities of an agriculture educator is the recruiting of new teachers. If during our careers we could all produce just two new agriculture teachers that would work for a full career then we would have our replacements and enough to double the current number of agriculture educators around the nation.
Recruiting future teachers is the biggest challenge we face in agricultural education. We all need to follow these five simple steps as we lead for our future. Maybe it is time that I change my morning greeting to reflect the positive way I feel about my chosen career. So if you ask, expect “Nothing could be finer then to be an agriculture educator in the morning.”