LifeKnowledge and National FFA Convention

By Christine White


Each year we are faced with last-minute details such as rooming lists, transportation, schedules, parent meetings, substitute lesson plans and all the other things that pop up before convention. Sometimes we get so caught up with the day-to-day activities that we miss the chance to expose our students to leadership opportunities along the way. What if you were able to teach students – those attending convention as well as those who are not – valuable leadership lessons focused around convention? Here are a few ways to infuse purposeful leadership before, during and after convention.


Share the planning responsibility with your students.


As an advisor, you are responsible for making sure all the kinks are worked out and a plan of action is in place prior to arriving in Indianapolis. This can be a very stressful time. Why not turn over some of the responsibilities to the students? You might say to yourself, "My students are not ready for that type of responsibility" or "I have always done the planning and I am not sure I am ready to relinquish it." You're probably right if you just hand them a stack of materials and say, "Plan the week." But with a little guidance, I think you'll be amazed at how they can help you.


Note: By involving students who are going and those not going in the planning process, they can all grow by exercising several LK precepts including communication, decision making and flexibility and adaptability. Integrating LK into your program does not necessarily need to revolve around an organized course lesson. Sometimes teaching leadership during activities such as convention is one of the best ways to help students discover skills they have learned or are acquiring. In addition, involving those students not attending the convention will help attendees participate with intention so they can share experiences with classmates upon returning.


All of the pre-convention planning has finally paid off and now you're in Indianapolis.


Your students will be exposed to various levels of leadership because convention is packed with sessions, workshops, the career show, and educational tours. With all of these opportunities available, sometimes it's expected that students are gaining valuable leadership skills.


However, just because a student has attended a session or a leadership workshop doesn't mean they'll walk away with new skills. The old adage "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" is the same philosophy. Why not guarantee that the students are actively developing leadership skills while at convention? Here are a few examples:

  • Have your students keep an index card in their FFA jacket and during each session, have them capture one or two leadership ideas, interesting points or facts. 
  • During your evening meeting or check-in time, have students share the items they captured during that day. Have them prepare an index card each day.
  • Have your students keep a journal of their experience at convention.

Note: National convention should be a place where students have fun while learning valuable leadership skills. Too many times, we take our students to conventions and conferences and just assume that they are walking away with the skills being taught. Let's make the national FFA convention the place where we are purposefully and strategically teaching leadership to our students.


Continue to build upon the experience at home.


When you're back home, have students sharpen and share skills they developed at convention. The students who attend convention are exposed to awesome experiences for developing premier leadership, personal growth and career success.


Here are a few examples of how you can continue leadership development at home:
Have students share their experiences with targeted audiences such as fellow classmates, administrators, school board members or community groups. Help them develop a meaningful presentation that articulates the skills they gained from convention.


LifeKnowledge Lesson AHS.11- Building Followership: The Leadership Challenge is a great lesson for before or after a convention or leadership program. As students develop from leadership experiences they need to learn and recognize the importance of followership.

Take a look at this lesson to help students plan for state or national convention.


Navigate to LK Online to find this and more than 250 other ready-to-use leadership lessons at

As a result of this lesson, the student will...

  1. Understand the role of leadership and effective followers.
  2. Recognize the characteristics and skills of effective followers.
  3. Form a leader-follower relationship.

This lesson focuses on the following key terms; followership, self-management and self-leadership. These are important terms to focus on before convention to get your students prepared to follow directions, stick together, make group decisions, keep themselves organized and present themselves well taking pride in self-leadership.


The lesson is also a perfect fit to present after convention or revisit. Since not everyone was able to attend convention how can you get the class or FFA chapter back on the same page? Focusing on the importance of both leadership and followership will help students better understand and respect those relationships. Aid your students in understand that being a good follower is a crucial step to being a leader.