Monday, February 7
Today was a pretty typical day of school. A highlight in my freshmen classes was that Di Schroeder spoke to them about how to handle rabbits and how to identify signs of good or poor health in rabbits. Di visited each class and explained in detail how to hold, carry, and flip each rabbit. As part of their grade for the rabbit project, students will be expected to perform these tasks effectively. Each student had the opportunity to practice doing so today, and they were able to ask questions and get input from Di. It is extremely important to both me and Di that the students handle the animals correctly, and that they can identify health problems that may arise. Therefore, in addition to handling the rabbits, Di also discussed indicators of stress or sickness in the animals. Students will be responsible for reporting on the animals’ health and well-being each time they care for the rabbits. In previous years of the rabbit project, students have been able to point out several common illnesses that occurred, and on one occasion also discovered a tumor in a rabbit that required immediate attention.
Tuesday, February 8
Today is scheduled to be an election day, which means that students are not in the building. Several years ago, our school district made the decision to not hold classes on election days as a measure to ensure the safety and security of our students. Our school buildings are used as polling sites, which means that hundreds of visitors pass through them on election days. With the ever-growing concerns about safety, I believe our district has made a wise decision to not have students in the building on such days. Our district chose to use today as a staff inservice day instead. Inservice days like this provide an opportunity for professional development, and today’s was particularly thought-provoking. We learned about educational options that our school can implement to better meet the needs of our students. Some ideas included offering early bird or evening classes, implementing a “no fail” grading system, and coordinating a “freshman academy” in our building. The ideas were exciting and frightening at the same time, as implementing such initiatives would totally change the system that we know today. My reaction to these ideas is yet another reminder of why I will never be an entrepreneur, let alone a farmer, like the rest of my family! Taking risks is not something that I do well, and I know that taking risks is a daily activity for farmers. I’ll leave the risk-taking to those who can manage it well!
Wednesday, February 9
If I were to describe today using one word, it would be “BUSY.” My students had a lot going on today as they put final preparations into their officer books and degree applications before they are to be evaluated tomorrow. My students were also busy working on preparations for their FFA banquet and their upcoming FFA meetings. But this was all done outside of class. Today we also had a productive day in class. I was excited to start working with my Ag Business students on creating resumes and cover letters. The Ag Ed curriculum is as diverse as the agriculture industry is….ranging from animal and plant science to sales and public speaking. One area of career preparation in the curriculum is teaching students how to prepare resumes, cover letters, follow-up letters, and job applications. The purpose of doing so is to give them a jumpstart in the hiring process, as many will never learn these skills elsewhere. This presents the classic debate in Ag Education: should the focus be on technical agricultural knowledge/skills, or on general life knowledge/skills. I have always done my best to teach from both sides of the debate so that my students are as prepared as possible for what they will encounter after high school.
Thursday, February 10
I spent the day at the District FFA Evaluation at Wilmington College. Since I was not at school, my students had a substitute teacher. The assignments that I left for them included reading about the debate over antibiotic use in animals, preparing resumes, taking a quiz over soil composition and profiles, and researching potential science fair projects to complete in class this semester. Since my students were in good hands and plenty busy, I was able to focus on the task at hand for me, which was evaluating award applications for students from District 9 (southwest Ohio). Our FFA chapter had two students submit applications for the American FFA Degree, 1 student submit an application for the State FFA Degree, and three students submit officer books for evaluation. Teachers from throughout the district met and evaluated the Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) record books, as well as their award applications. No matter how long I teach, this will always be a highlight of my year. Many students learn the value of accurate record-keeping, organization, and dedication by compiling their work for these awards. It is exciting to see such outstanding work being done by students. The best part of the day is at the end when I can let my students know that their hard work has paid off and that their application or officer book has been approved. This year I texted my students since they are now allowed to have cell phones at school. When I informed one student that her officer book received a Gold rating (the best possible), she responded, “Oh my gosh, that’s fantastic! I can’t believe it!” And that simple response of true joy makes all of the time that I’ve spent over the past year helping her to prepare her book completely worthwhile!
Friday, February 11
A typical Friday involves a bit of “brain fog,” and today was certainly no exception. Even though I was only in the classroom for three days this week, I had a couple of meetings that lasted well into the evening this week, as well as several after-school meetings with students. When the pace is constantly set on high speed, I’m exhausted by the end of the week! An exciting part of the day today was beginning to work on Agriscience Fair projects with the sophomores my Ag Science classes. Students will choose a topic of interest that they would like to research that is related to soil and/or plant growth. Then, they will design and conduct their own research project/experiment to test a hypothesis that they set, and report the results when finished. Along the way we will discuss proper research methods, as well as how such an experience relates to the agriculture industry. When many people think of agriculture, they relate it to a farm that they may have associated with many years ago. I want my students to experience all aspects of the industry, and conducting research is an extremely vital component. From a farmer testing a new variety of seed in his field, to a lab researcher creating new forms of biofuels, research and experimentation have been and will continue to be important to the development of the industry. Some of the research topics that students chose included comparing how pH impacts plant growth, which groundcovers best protect soil from erosion, and comparing plants grown in soil and those grown hydroponically. I enjoyed working with students on this project, as it’s always exciting to see them work on something that they have complete ownership of. The research projects will span the next couple of months, so I am excited to see where they lead!
Saturday, February 12
The last day that I did nothing for school was on Jan. 16. Every once in a while I need to take a break, and today was the perfect day for just that! I kept busy taking care of things around the house, catching up on emails, and doing anything that came to mind that was not school related. I did have to go to school to feed/water the rabbits. But, I don’t see that as school work! More than anything, today gave me a mental break, and I know this will pay off in the days to come!
Sunday, February 13
I followed the Sunday routine today, which includes: doing things around the house, going to church, going grocery shopping, working at school for a while, and wrapping up the day with grading and preparing for the week ahead. Sunday is probably the most predictable day of the week for me, as it almost always follows that routine. It’s a day of preparation and anticipation for what is to come. I enjoy having the time to research, analyze, and plan lessons and activities for the coming week. The week ahead will be a busy one with at least one meeting after school each day, and on some days 2-3 meetings. It’s bound to be a whirlwind of activity!