Perspectives: Tips for starting the school year off right

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Composed by Nina Crutchfield, LPS Specialist, National FFA Organization

Veteran agriculture educators were asked to share their tips for starting off the school year right.

Luke Beam, North Carolina, explains how his chapter members serve as ambassadors on ninth grade orientation day. They act as tour guides and assist the campus newbies in finding their class locations.

Beam tells us “For this day - our members will:

  1. Dress up – in Official Dress or just look nice…depends on group decision.
  2. Show up – be available for holding doors, directing traffic, etc. Kind of like courtesy corps.
  3. Put up – an FFA display that a couple of members will tend to, handing out information and speaking with students. We also will blister the hallways for this orientation with FFA signage so everyone gets the impression quick that FFA is all over the school.
  4. Serve up – cookies, lemonade and candy to give out to parents and new students to get them to our table.
  5. Teach up – start a conversation about schedules, talking agriculture and being in FFA.
  6. Sign up – we take dues for FFA while parents have their check book and we usually give an FFA shirt or discount membership for families with multiple students in the program.

This all builds excitement, serves others and is fun... it gets me pumped for the first day of school!”

Addison Safley, Arkansas, shares how he actually has been able to use his instructional time more efficiently.

“This past year I experimented with a new shop clean-up procedure that worked very well for my program. Now, I know we all love a clean shop but accomplishing that task is somewhat of a challenge and honestly, not really necessary each and every day, every period.

We basically cleaned like most would around your home. At the end of class, students would be asked to perform a quick cleanup of their area with the understanding that one day that week, they would be asked to do a deep clean. This allowed for five to eight more minutes each day of instructional time and only took one day a week to really get things cleaned up and looking good. Five to eight minutes doesn’t sound like much until you add that up for the entire week.

If you schedule things just right, you can rotate your deep cleaning days between classes and basically have your facilities deep cleaned each day. As the instructor, I felt like students were able to complete projects faster this year than last. Now, don’t misunderstand me: If we had a huge mess, we would take the time to clean that up but we always try to keep those to a minimum. The students seemed to like the new procedure. If you set it up and present it to the students just right, it almost seems like a reward system to them for their hard work on the one major cleaning day.”

Donnie Reed, Texas, wanted to be included in what he called the "wise council of owls" and describes how he has improved classroom management.

“I give my students five tickets at the start of each six weeks. I use standard single roll tickets that you can buy at Walmart or other stores. Students can use the tickets for being tardy, missing papers, return trip to lockers and bathroom runs. When they do, the ticket is torn up and thrown away.

At the end of each six weeks, I have the students sign their tickets and put their unused tickets into a bucket. I draw one winner and give a prize. Tickets remain in the bucket and they can add more tickets the next six weeks. Tickets can be sold or traded with other students as well.

Prizes are not elaborate. I use anything I can get donated...meals, movie tickets, Sonic drinks, T-shirts, etc. All the "stuff" we pick up at shows and convention make great prize packages. Fill a drawstring backpack, box or feed sack with some stuff. It's like Christmas morning! They will trade, beg, borrow and steal (watch out for this one) for stuff from that box. Also, be sure you tell your substitutes (if possible) about this system. It helps them when you are gone.”