8 ways to become a better teacher and FFA advisor this summer

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It goes without saying that teaching agriculture and advising FFA is not only our job but often our hobby as well. As a result, we need to be mindful of taking time to recharge ourselves, mentally and physically, rather than dedicating every hour of every day to the profession. Look for ways to improve your practice but also improve your personal life. Here are some ways to do both.

  1. Tour local agriculture companies and businesses
    Make contacts with local businesses and industries related to your curriculum, and arrange tours to develop a better idea of the skills needed for your students to earn jobs in those fields. The process could generate more local support for your agriculture program. At the same time you’ll find it reinvigorates your love for the agriculture industry.
  2. Get social with agriculture teachers from nearby schools
    Whether you host a cookout, meet for breakfast at a local diner or gather in a central location, summertime offers a great chance to build a network with your professional peers. It’s important to carve out time to develop a collegial relationship with other agriculture teachers. You will find inspiration from each other’s skills, learn from shared personal and professional success and laugh at one another’s worst experiences. Too often we operate like Lone Rangers in the agriculture department and it’s important to have a sense of community to support one another. That sense of community may be the one thing that sustains you someday.
  3. Take a vacation
    You know you need it after months of teaching, leading, refereeing, organizing and doing everything else to make your agriculture program operate like a well-oiled machine. Whether it’s a one-tank getaway to spend a weekend relaxing or just taking some “me” time at home, recharge your batteries a bit. You deserve it and shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty about taking it. The rest of the world understands the importance of designating time away from work for sustaining good physical and mental health. You should too.
  4. Get involved in agricultural education professional organizations
    There is real value in being an active participant and member of both state and national agriculture teacher organizations. You’ll gain untold benefits from contact with like-minded professionals, gain access to teacher resources, discover innovative teaching strategies, bring home more efficient practices and more. If you stay inside your classroom walls you will never have the room to grow as a professional. If you stay inside your state you’ll never see different ways of approaching the same issue or find possible innovative solutions.
  5. Get trained as a CASE certified instructor
    Twenty sites across the nation will offer training this summer to agriculture teachers looking for certification in the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education. CASE is turn-key curriculum for agriscience and serves as a model for elevating the rigor and relevance of agricultural education. Many participants say it kept them in the profession because it made teaching agriculture easier. Courses are limited to 20 participants and are filling up fast. Visit http://www.case4learning.org for more.
  6. Check out some great profession-related blogs
    New Jersey agriculture teacher Robin McLean suggests taking a look at several great blogs that provide tips, stories, inspiration and more to improve your teaching skills. Check out Free Technology for Teachers (http://www.freetech4teachers.com) to improve your classroom experience, the Gillett Ag Ed blog (http://gillettageducation.wordpress.com/) for an inside look at one Wisconsin program and Penn State Ag Ed ROARS! (http://teachagpsu.blogspot.com/) for personal stories from current agriculture education students.
  7. Engage in professional development opportunities
    Take a summer course (traditional or online) that interests you as a refresher or for a way to learn something new and totally unrelated to what you teach. Everything we learn does not have to be centered on agriculture and teaching. When you do need to center on your subject matter, be sure to take advantage of your state agricultural education conferences focused on technical skill development. Even consider outlining a professional growth plan with your principal that will facilitate improving student performance. They’ll be impressed you engaged them and excited to not have to make multiple observations of your classes this year.
  8. Take stock of your agriculture program, and set goals for where you want it go
    Make a complete assessment of your program using the National Quality Program Standards (https://ffa.learn.com/learncenter.asp?id=178418) Then ask yourself if you are happy with your results. Where do you need to improve the most? What works? What doesn’t? Write it down, and set goals to improve – whether that’s instruction, SAE, program planning or another area. Do not try to improve every area in the same year, you’ll increase your stress level rather than reduce it! Set that target, then you can evaluate if the little things you do every day in the classroom are moving you towards or away from that goal.