Guardian, Part 2

Guardian, Part 2

It’s been difficult to sit down and write the continuation of my last blog post because I’ve known what it has to be about. I cannot compose another blog post until I write about this. I have told some of these stories on Facebook, on Twitter, but not here. For some reason, writing it here, admitting here that it happened, makes it even more real than I want it to be. It wasn’t what I planned Part 2 to be, but this is how it turned out.

On September 20, two days after posting Guardian, one of my best friends collapsed during a CrossFit session and died of cardiac arrest. He was three days older than me and seemingly in the best shape of his life.

His name was Rob, and he was one of my teammates during my Indiana FFA State Officer year. Each of us played a role on the team, both in an official capacity and as a team member. Officially, he was stationed by the flag as the reporter, writing stories and taking pictures that would inform others about the FFA. As a team member, he was our encourager, whether he was sitting up late to help us with speeches or giving us directions over the phone when we became lost on a back road. He dreamed up crazy ideas and persuaded us to follow him in implementing them. Rob encouraged us to be ourselves and saw potential in everyone he met.

The last picture Rob and I took together, on the stage at Purdue University’s Elliott Hall of Music after the final gavel tap at the 2016 Indiana FFA State Convention. I had just finished up my year of teaching agriculture and was six days away from leaving for New Zealand. Funny how you never know when a picture is going to be the last one.

And, in some ways, he was a guardian.

Continue reading “Guardian, Part 2”

“The Greatest of These is Love”: Reflections on the 2016 Indiana FFA State Convention and Teaching Agriculture

Last year, thoughts on the 86th Indiana FFA State Convention ricocheted violently through my head for two days before I forced myself to sit down at 10:30 at night, write reflections on the convention and press “Publish.” I was sharing too much of myself, being too vulnerable. I didn’t want to put it all out there.

But I did.

The state officers performing opening ceremonies on stage in Elliott Hall of Music during the 87th Indiana FFA State Convention.

This year, I started forming this post in my head during convention and knew there was no choice: I had to write it when I returned home. No longer did the vulnerability of revealing so much of myself make me tremble. As an agriculture teacher, I had become used to being vulnerable. I had learned early on I needed to let my guard down, needed to let people in, if this teaching thing was going to be any success at all.

But, when I first began, I did not want to. I did not want them to know me. Not the me who squealed in excitement over ice cream flavors, not the me who tripped and fell over pebbles, not the me who jumped when snuck up on, not the me who loved hobbits and X-wing fighters and The TARDIS. I was going to be calm and confident, always knowing the answers to my students’ questions, always replying to arguments with wit and good humor, never letting my flaws show and most of all, never letting them see that the last four years had been rough and that my confidence was shot because of it. I didn’t know how to smile anymore. Letting anyone in, especially 90 complete strangers, was the last thing I wanted to do.

But it was the first thing I needed to do.

I didn’t.

So for the first month and a half of school, Miss Brown was a character far away from who Elise was. It stressed me out, and I would come home absolutely drained.

Worst of all, I hated myself because of it. Continue reading ““The Greatest of These is Love”: Reflections on the 2016 Indiana FFA State Convention and Teaching Agriculture”

Livestock Judging and Baby Clydesdale Pictures

Along with my Spring Fest adventure, my April highlight was a first place win in the area livestock judging contest. I’ve always wanted to be a part of a winning livestock judging team, and now I can say I was the coach for one.

We were unable to stay for the awards ceremony, so never officially heard our name called, but heard the story later. When a team that normally won was announced as second place, the room fell silent. And when our chapter’s name was called, they said you could hear a pin drop as the question was asked, “Who? Who is this who won?”

So our team will be competing in the state livestock judging contest on May 21 up at the Purdue University Animal Science Research and Education Center. The top ten teams there travel to national shows.


On March 30, our first Clydesdale foal was born. Continue reading “Livestock Judging and Baby Clydesdale Pictures”

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. Continue reading “Updates, Many of Which Happily Deal with Writing and Communications”

Fish Sticks and Concrete: An Update from the Ag Shop

I’ve discovered that even though I can stay engaged at an all-day seminar full of talking and presentations as long as I have a notebook and pen, I hate teaching like that. I just don’t like talking all day. I’ve had a few days where I talk in all four of my morning classes, and I’m zapped by noon. So I’ve started planning better so I do less of that.

This morning, after presentations given by the high school students, I was asking how things went for them. As they were discussing, I gathered they did not enjoy presenting. One student asked, “How do you teach? How do you stand up there all the time?”

I appreciated the question and was, in a way, touched the student asked me. I thought, “I have no idea some days.”  Continue reading “Fish Sticks and Concrete: An Update from the Ag Shop”

Shorts for the New Year

Happy 2016! Here, it has been warm with a couple of days of extreme cold and slick conditions. There’s been only one two-hour delay, and I’ve only had to break the ice on the cattle water tanks once. The first day all winter I had to pull out my Carhartt coveralls was January 11. Weatherbug shows temperatures hovering around freezing this next week with a bit of snow on Wednesday.


Thursday’s class. Special note: All students in the following convo are male.

Student A: “Why do you still play VHS?”
Student B: “Because most of the videos she has are still VHS.”
Student C: “I still have a VHS.”
Student A: “Wow, do you use it?”
Student C: “Yeah, I watch Winnie the Pooh.”


Our baritone players were unavailable during the high school homecoming game last night, so I filled in.


It was a lot of fun, and I sounded a lot better than I did last year when I played for Alumni and Friends Night. That was encouraging. Continue reading “Shorts for the New Year”

Brownies, the Most Beautiful Marquee Ever and Almost Crying in Walmart

Brownies, the Most Beautiful Marquee Ever and Almost Crying in Walmart

We are at last into Christmas break. Yesterday was our final day before a week and a half of staying home and eating a lot of cookies. As always, I will have to do some grading, but I will at least be able to do so at my own pace, a little each day.

Monday was a nice, relaxing day at work because I stayed in one place rather than traveling between school buildings. Last week, I graded stacks of homework as students worked on their final projects, and I felt more at ease because I had all that done.

During third hour, my 8th graders were quite comical. Continue reading “Brownies, the Most Beautiful Marquee Ever and Almost Crying in Walmart”