Question for the Profession – Getting past "I don't want every kid in FFA"

  • Print this page

  • Tell A friend

by Nina Crutchfield, Local Program Success Specialist - National FFA Organization

It never fails, every time I speak to a group of teachers about the idea, practice, and philosophy of changing from an individual dues structure to paying a chapter affiliation fee, at least one teacher says “I don’t want every kid in FFA.”

Since the idea is that we no longer collect money from students to join FFA, choosing instead to pay a program fee (much like your school pays a fee to the state Athletic Association) so that every student who walks through the ag department door is an automatic FFA member. An affiliation fee virtually removes the barrier of money from the playing field.

Let’s go back to the well-meaning teacher who likes the dues structure. The comment “I don’t want every kid in FFA” is very revealing. It says a couple of things. First, that teacher is using the dues structure as a barrier and excluding students from participating in the amazing opportunities for learning and growth that exists in FFA. Second, that teacher does not subscribe to the three-circle model of a total program where every student is expected to participate in classroom instruction, have an SAE, and develop his or her leadership talents through FFA. Third, that teacher does not believe in nor practice teaching and reaching every student in every class, every day.

I know, I know, I can hear some of you gasp as you read. You’re thinking, “She just doesn’t know what it’s like at my school,” or “she’s never had kids like mine,” or “she’s been out of the classroom, working in the FFA ivory tower too long, and forgot what it’s really like.”

You are right.

I don’t know what it’s like at your school, I’ve never taught the kids you teach, and I’ve even been away from the classroom long enough to only remember the good stuff. But this perspective does give me the unique opportunity act as an outside observer.

Answer these questions truthfully:

  • Do I make an effort to recruit non-traditional agriculture students, looking for diverse backgrounds, ethnicity or students with physical challenges? Or do I just take what walks through my door?
  • Do I truly make an effort to develop our FFA chapter so that all students would want to join? Or am I content to just have the students I consider worth my time join?
  • Am I really trying to teach every student, including the difficult ones? Or am I relieved when some trouble-makers chose not to participate?
  • Am I glad with some students don’t pay dues because I don’t want people to think they’re associated with the values of FFA?

That last question is the real kicker! Those same teachers that say, “I don’t want every kid in FFA” believe that they are protecting reputation and tradition of FFA. I appreciate the sentiment but I cannot condone it. This attitude simply promotes exclusivity and that is not what we are about. We’re about taking every student that walks through our door, developing an appreciation for the industry of agriculture, AND developing even a miniscule potential for leadership. My simple response to that statement is “Don’t you want the values and ideals of FFA in every kid?”

Post your comments and thoughts on the NAAE Communities of Practice.