Updates, Many of Which Happily Deal with Writing and Communications

Just thought I’d take this opportunity of a two-hour delay (a result of heavy fog) to write down some tidbits from teaching lately.

The most recent happenings were district leadership Career Development Events, competitions where FFA members give speeches or demonstrations, participate in a job interview, write a persuasive essay and more. Five of my students competed, and one won in essay! So he will be competing at state. When I read the essay the next morning before heading to work, I about cried because it was such beautiful writing.

Probably the neatest moment of that was when he was congratulated on stage, one of his best friends was standing there as a district officer, and the look on their faces as they shook hands was priceless.

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A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging about at my second school after the work day without really knowing why. I didn’t have a particular reason that I should be there. So finally, I left, and as I did so, one of the eighth graders that I had as a student last April and May when I subbed for science class for six weeks was walking out of the building with his mom. I walked behind them and overheard a bit of the conversation.

He said, “The first time I really understood science and started to enjoy it was at the end of the year last year.”

That was incredibly encouraging at a time when I needed it.

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The camera on my phone has not been focusing lately, and I’ve been…if you will allow me the term…a “frustrated artist.” I need a DSLR. If anybody knows of someone who has a good one for sale, let me know.

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We had several competitions in class during FFA Week, and on Friday of that week, I gave them a challenge to see how observant they were. I asked them questions about my interests that I would have mentioned in class, details about the school building and so on.

It turned out to be an interesting experience. Here are some of the questions, along with some of the answers I received:

Q: What sport did I play in high school?
A: “*You* played a *sport*?” “Is FFA a sport?” “Volleyball!” (I received that answer a few times, so I suppose I must look like a volleyball player nowadays.)
Some got the right answer: “Tennis!”

Q: In what big parade did I march with the Purdue marching band? (Hint: It’s on TV.)
A: “What channel is this parade on?”
“If the answer is what I think it is, that’s really cool.”
It was, the student jumped up in celebration after the answer was revealed, and I gained some “cool points” for marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Q: In what office did I serve as a state FFA officer?
A: “Jailer.”
OK, then….

Q: In what year did I serve as a state FFA officer?
A: “1771!”
“0 B.C.E.”
Wow, didn’t think I looked that old….

Q: Who is my favorite band?
A: “Nirvana!” “The Who! Look, Who…” “Three Days Grace.” “A band from the ’70s.” “One Direction!” (Shot that one down pretty fast.) “Imagine Dragons!” (That was a highly educated guess since I play their albums all the time.)
One student said as he was reading that question, “Oh, I think I know this one.” And he wrote Coldplay down because he had remembered talking about the Super Bowl. That was pretty cool.

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I’ve started to write for the local paper and had two articles in the most recent edition, one about a town council meeting and the other about FFA Week. When my eighth graders came in to class the day after the paper came out, one came up to me, almost jumping up and down, and said, “Why didn’t you tell us something about you?!?”

I was confused. “What?”

She then told the story of how she was glancing at the newspaper, not really paying attention, and looked just below the fold to the story I had written. Upon seeing the byline, she startled her grandfather when she started yelling, “That’s my teacher, that’s my teacher!”

She then proudly showed me a picture she had taken on her phone of the byline and first column of the story.

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Yesterday, I learned that almost all of the members of one of the eighth grade classes (except for the girl who took the picture of my byline) want to make their agriculture class optional. (I will note that their class is an introductory class meant to explore several different careers and ideas.) We were practicing parliamentary procedure and good debating techniques, and one student brought forth that motion. The reasons that were given by several students included:

  • “We will never need this information again.”
  • “Some of us are interested in other fields and don’t need to learn about agriculture.”
  • “We don’t have to take ag classes in high school and won’t continue learning about it, so why start something we won’t continue?”

I had hoped I did my job better than that….Nah, I think it was more of a mob mentality and going along with the crowd.

But today, I’m going to list all the topics we’ve covered (forestry, concrete, soils, plants, animals and more) and bring in something delicious like ice cream. I’ll ask, “Anyone want ice cream?” Hopefully, they’ll say yes (although with this group, they’ll probably know where we’re headed with this). When they do, I can say, “Ice cream doesn’t exist because agriculture was deemed a useless field yesterday, so no one studied it and no one could make the ice cream.”

Something like that.

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I used to enjoy getting textbooks in school. All that knowledge to gain, all those pictures to look at, all those scientific charts and diagrams….

And then I started teaching, and keys are wrong and the books have factual and grammatical errors….

And then, there’s this statement:

Economic Importance of Sheep

My reply?

Baaaaah humbug.

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