From Substitute Teacher to Full-Fledged Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor

Shooting Star by Juskteez Vu
Shooting Star by Juskteez Vu

On our way home from the district FFA kick-off last night, I saw a shooting star.

I leaned back in my bus seat and smiled. Shooting stars, to me, have always meant hope, home, life, God is listening. Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved looking up at the sky, especially after the chores were done on the coldest winter nights, and spying the showers of shooting stars streaking across the black bowl above.

And last night’s was a long one, burning bright for several seconds before fading out, far away.

Just that little light brightened much.

Lately, writing publicly has been on the back burner as life took a turn. My plans for international travel didn’t work out, and within a week and a half, I had been contacted about, interviewed for and was offered a job as an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor for the high school from which I graduated. I accepted 10 days before school started and scrambled to get my room and the first couple of days’ lessons together. We’ve now been in school for five-and-a-half weeks, and I’ve made it through the exhaustion point and am working to get a system down.

That’s been the most difficult part of this new job, organizing my system. Grading has been piling up, and I haven’t figured out how to reduce the size of the chaotic mess on my desk before assigning more. My prep period is my time for travel between two schools, and it has just been a challenge to figure out how I’m going to do everything that needs done.

I am passionate about education, but I still possess a communicator’s mind. At Purdue (and several other universities), agricultural education and agricultural communication are in the same department, but the mindset and personalities are different. I run into difficulties when I find errors in textbooks, especially with homework keys, and finding them really bothers me. For example, I was grading agribusiness management homework one Friday afternoon, and the key was wrong in several spots. The answer to the question of who developed a certain tractor was “output.” So I had to go back through the book and double check the key, adding about 10 minutes to my task of grading, loudly protesting and saying, “Where was the copy editor?!?”

I also remember an article I read at Penn State for one of my research classes that discussed the ways that an agriculture educator’s brain worked. A person could be Concrete Sequential (CS), Abstract Sequential (AS), Abstract Random (AR), or Concrete Random (CR). Concrete and abstract examine the way a person sees concepts. Linear or random talks about the way that a person thinks of a process, either in a straight line or all over the place. Engineers are most likely linear thinkers; artists are most likely random thinkers.

In the sample, there were around 20 ag educators. Almost all of them were Concrete Sequential.

Only one was Abstract Random.

And despite my beliefs in diversity and doing things differently and not caring what other people are trying, I said to myself, That’s why I shouldn’t be in ag ed, my brain just doesn’t work that way. I am definitely abstract and random. 

Yet, here I am.

So there’s what I’m doing now. It’s a 180 from my previous plans that took a lot of adjusting, but it’s working out. I’ve been able to stay in my community, and the students are just cool people. I have TweetDeck set to follow hashtags from other countries, like #sheepchat, #agchatoz, #agrichatuk and others. (I should note I also added #agedu, so I guess I’m in deep now.) So that is helping. The travel bug is still there; I don’t know how to get it out, nor do I really want to.

Despite the desire to travel and experience agriculture in other countries, for now, I’ll be where home is, and that is where roots run deep through the Indiana soil — the clay, sand and silt I’ve been teaching my students about over the last two weeks.

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4 thoughts on “From Substitute Teacher to Full-Fledged Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor

  1. lindsaychichester September 16, 2015 / 3:55 pm

    Elise – I am sure you are a great FFA Advisor that the students are lucky to have. Without having taken the test, I would say that I am also an abstract random. 🙂 Maybe you can fit travel in with the students? It will be fun to read about these adventures.

    • Elise September 16, 2015 / 3:57 pm

      Thanks so much, Lindsay. I like field trips a lot, so perhaps something will fall into place and we can take a big trip : )

  2. Anna Ariens September 22, 2015 / 12:54 pm

    Elise, your students are lucky to have you! Please don’t forget it! Maybe your way of doing things will be a better fit for your classroom, never know you may be the change that Ag Ed may need.

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