I recently attended the American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE) conference for teacher educators. While listening to research presentations, one teacher identified a barrier to agricultural educator recruitment and retention as a battle that ensues when “the job” is really “our hobby.”
An example: The job says that we assist a student with a livestock project. The hobby says we travel 800 miles to secure the best animal we can find for a pretty steep price in the hopes of delivering a grand champion at the fair and securing bragging rights among our peers and in the community. The job says that we teach a student sound animal science practices in the hopes of that student getting a decent financial and educational return on their investment. The hobby says that we research feed additives, make appointments to weigh the animal weekly, travel to jackpot shows every weekend, and take students to fitting and showmanship camp, all in the hopes of bringing home that grand champion at the fair.
Another example: The job says that we teach students sound horticultural practices that can be transferred to business and industry. The hobby says we stock the school greenhouse from end to end with commercial bedding plants, turning students into free labor. The job says that we teach students proper techniques of sexual and asexual reproduction. The hobby says that we grow mums through the summer and plant poinsettia liners in August so that the crops can be sold during the appropriate season, gaining funds and recognition for superior plant quality.
What an enlightening and liberating point of view. To really think that there are components of teaching ag that we do just because we like them, not because they are required or part of what is expected. To be able to compartmentalize day-to-day activities into “the job,” “the right-thing-to-do,” and “the things-I-do-because-I-like-it”….
This may seem very cold to many teachers, even heartless. I can just hear it now… “I do it for the kids.” “I don’t want to deprive a student of an opportunity.” “It’s a skill they can use in life.” “If I do this for one, I have to do something for all.” Heck, I’ve said those things! I’m as guilty as the next woman or man. I propose that we’re all really good at justifying our actions so we seem selfless when the reality is that we do it because we like it.
Is teaching ag a job or a hobby that also happens to be your job? Post your thoughts, comments, arguments in the NAAE Communities of Practice.