Friday, February 24, 2012

FFA Week

This week is National FFA Week. FFA is an organization that changes lives. I know, because it changed mine.

It was this time of year 11 years ago when I zipped up the blue and gold jacket for the first time. My ag teacher, like I'm sure he had done many times before and many times since, had talked me into participating in the FFA Creed Contest. I thought it was just a speaking contest, but I've realized since that it was a public testimony of my commitment to an incredible organization and a kick-start to a passion of America's most important industry: agriculture. Five simple paragraphs would change my life forever. 

As I zipped up that stiff corduroy jacket, straight from the shipping box, I had no idea what would lie ahead of me. Even if I would have, I probably wouldn't have believed it. Over the next four years, I gained a wealth of knowledge about the world around me, but more importantly, about myself. I entered FFA as a shy, young girl, unsure of who she was or where she was going. I left with self-confidence that I carry with me today and an understanding of who I am, what I stand for, and what I want to accomplish in life. Not every club can offer you that, but FFA is more than a club; it's a family who cares for you, encourages you, supports you, and pushes you to be your best. 

Every day, I have the opportunity to give back to an organization that gave me so much, including an opportunity to meet my husband (but that's a story for another time), by teaching amazing young men and women and pushing them to succeed personally and professionally through their involvement in FFA. As FFA Week comes to a close, I am humbled to be a part of something so much bigger than you or me.

Happy FFA Week.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Simple Welcome Plaque

I've been seeing all of these cute Valentine's wreaths on Pinterest, but I haven't being feeling all that motivated to try one. Nonetheless, I have been thinking our front door needs a little somethin', somethin'. I was cleaning the garage the other day, when I found these 1/8in plywood pieces I had cut down for another project. I had a pinkish colored spray paint, so I figured I could do something with them. I was right!

The best part of this project is that I had everything I needed on hand. After spray painting the plywood, I picked out a lighter pink sheet of scrapbook paper and some white cardstock. I freehanded the biggest heart, and then I traced it on the white paper and trimmed it smaller. I repeated the process with the third heart. I glued the three together and onto the plywood with a glue stick. I pulled out the white letters from my scrapbook goodies, and I glued them to the plywood with a glue stick also. I put a couple layers of Modge Podge over the whole thing. The white ribbon was in my scrap drawer, and I put it on the back with my trusty glue gun. I also glued a strip of scrap felt on the back at the bottom, so when the wind blew, the plywood didn't knock on the door.

Up went a wreath hanger on the door. On went the plaque. Project finished!

What I've Been Up To

I've been super-busy at school the last two weeks. 'Tis the season for contests, award evaluations, and community service projects. These are the things that teachers outside of the ag and FFA world don't understand, but they're things I love about my job.

My week started out with some cool topics in class. I said I love all the other stuff, but the classroom is pretty cool too. Fresh out of college, one of my biggest mentors told me, "There is absolutely no substitute for good classroom instruction." I'll be honest, some days I slack more than I should, but I try to follow his advice and be prepared for my classes each day. 

The first period of the day is Environmental Systems Management. Right now, we are exploring soil conservation. For my non-ag friends, there are four main factors that affect how fast soil erodes: climatic influences (rain, wind, etc.), slope and terrain of the soil, vegetative cover (grass, plants, shrubs, trees), and soil types. The students broke into groups and designed their own experiments to test one of the factors. We started by walking through the scientific method, and the rest of the week has been spent conducting trials. In my own opinion, students learn so much better when they're in control. It's fun watching them grasp the concepts and see how it can play out in real life.

After the juniors leave, I get a bunch of sophomores for Animal Science and Technology. With 16 kids, it's my biggest class of the day. Last week, we learned about different types of animal feeds. On Tuesday, thanks to my wonderful husband who collected feed samples from the farm for me while I was at a FFA contest, we did a "what the heck is it" feed challenge. We passed around 18 different feedstuffs, feeds, and minerals, and the kids made observations about them and tried to identify them. Not all of them smelled pretty, like the distiller's grain, which is a by-product of beer production, so it was fun to see some of their reactions. Nutrition is one of my favorite units to teach. 

Next up are my fun seniors. I like each grade level, because they're all different. I enjoy the seniors, because they're almost adults ready to go out in the world, but they're still looking for guidance. We tend to get off task more than my other classes, but we have a lot of great conversations about life. The senior class is Ag Business Management. We're studying personal finance now, like banking accounts and paychecks. They ask some great questions. Most of these kids have jobs on their family farms, so they never see a pay stub. When discussing taxes today, they were floored that so much of their earnings go straight out in taxes. Yep, welcome to the real world.

11 squirrelly freshmen hit the door next. The first-level course I teach is Ag, Food, and Natural Resources, which is a survey of all sorts of topics in agriculture. Most of these kids don't live on a farm, which makes conversations interesting. We've been investigating basic principles of animal science, such as gender terminology. This week, as I held up a very obvious picture of a bull (an intact, male in the cattle species), I nearly lost it when a student said, "Wow! Check out the uterus on that cow!" I very delicately tried to explain that a uterus is actually internal, so you wouldn't be able to see it in a picture, and that wasn't really a female. The uterus he was referring to was a large, noticeable set of testicles. I maintained my composure to the best of my ability while suggesting that he go home and have a conversation with his parents. I'm glad he's in health class this quarter.

My students frustrate the heck out of me some times, annoy me to wits end other times, but at the end of the day, they're a good group of young men and women, and I'm glad the classroom is fun for me and hopefully for them.