Monday, April 24, 2017

The Interviewing Experience

One week ago I was given the opportunity to participate in a mock interview for the position of an agricultural educator at Mifflinburg Area High School. Ms. Shearer, the principle, was more than happy to take the time to meet with me. I really appreciate all the great advice she gave. This interview lasted the full 40 minutes of 1st period.

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1. What questions did the administrator ask you?

The questions that were asked were pretty straightforward but really took some thought. One question was "What experiences do you have that would qualify you for this position?"
I responded by talking about my experiences coordinating the Badlands Jackpot Show and all the planning that goes along with that. It is also a necessity that you communicate well with all the stakeholders so "everyone is happy".

Ms. Shear told me to also make sure I talk about my experiences landscaping. By looking at my resume she could see I have worked there for 9 years. She also stressed to communicate what all I had done in the company. My experiences stretch from repairing trucks to planting flowers. She stressed the importance of industry experience, especially in agricultural education.

2. Do you feel you were prepared for the questions?  Why or why not?  In other words, how would you evaluate your responses to the questions?

I feel that I did well with the responses, however I need a lot of polish. I believe my answers are good but they don't sound the best. I do not like to talk myself up or make people think I am something I am not. I answer each question honestly. Sometimes that isn't exactly what people want to hear, but I need to be true to them and myself.

3. What questions did you ask the administrator?

I asked what their vision of the agricultural program looked like in the future. What will this program look like in 5 years? Where do you want the focal point of the agriculture program?

4. What impressed you the most about the interview?

The time that Ms. Shearer was willing to spend with me was really impressive. We talked for a full 40 minutes and would have went longer if I didn't have to teach 2nd period. We tried to schedule another time slot but it just wouldn't work with our schedules.

5. What impressed you the least about the interview?

The only detail I could comment on here was, it was difficult to set up the experience. It took a while to hear back and there was little imput on what exactly I should bring.

6. In what areas do you need to prepare prior to an interview for a “real” teaching position?

I need to read through some questions and really think about what I would say when asked that. How would I respond when asked a question of the same type.

I thought this was a great experience and will definitely help me in my future interviewing.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Student Teaching Week 15: The End of the Beginning

As I reflect on this past week and my experiences I can finally say that it is all worth it. There have been many bumps along the road over the past year. The struggle has been real at times. However, that is the journey and it is what keeps things interesting. We learn best from our struggles and failures. It is okay to fail as long as you don't make that mistake again.

Students have pushed my limits and provided many interesting situations. When faced with these situations you need to do what you think is right. I have had several discussions with Mr. Kessler and Ms. Spurrier on how to handle these hairy situations. At the end of the day we need to be able to live with ourselves. If we handle situations the best we can and in the best interests of our students we did no wrong. It is important that we are also mindful of how students look up to us. As educators and role models we need to ensure we are being positive role models and showing students the right way to do things in life. Whether it is volunteering after hours or attending church on sunday morning, they are watching.
Next Year's Seniors.

This Year's Freshman.

During the last period, of the day, yesterday my students threw a surprise going away party for me and thanked me for my time and commitment. At that moment I finally realized that these students do appreciate my effort and actually like me as a teacher. Students pay attention to us and what we do more than we realize.

I asked a retired ag teacher for some advice because I am just starting out. He said to teach them what they need to know after graduation. Teach them how to work hard and pay their taxes. But more importantly make it fun. Be a positive impact on their life and teach them some content along the way. I focused on taking a step back and enjoying my last week student teaching. Harassing some students and laughing with them the next minutes. That's what they enjoy.

The Mifflinburg Experience

Yesterday I closed another chapter along my journey. My post secondary education has forced me to experience new things and take on new challenges. This has shaped me into who I am today. 

The Mifflinburg Experience extends far beyond the school walls. It stretches from the West End, through the Buffalo Creek Valley, and down to the powerful Susquehanna. I’ve witnessed it on Sunday mornings as everyone travels to share in faith and fellowship. It becomes a part of you and who you are. I’ve had some great experiences and have reflected deeply upon each one.

The School Environment
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From day one I have been impressed with how the Mifflinburg High School Administration puts emphasis on the agriculture program. Mr. Kessler and Ms. Spurrier have done a great job over the years. The administration recognizes this and sees the importance in the agricultural program. Both teachers have continued to impress me with their expertise in all subjects and more importantly their rapport with their students.

I have also been very impressed with the students in the agriculture program. It has been an easy transition for me into the classroom and I feel that I have established great classroom rapport. I was welcomed and respected from day one. These students continue to impress me with their knowledge and skills in certain areas. Some kids already have skills laying block because their dads are masons and have taught them the trade. These students are well on their way to excelling in whatever they decide to do after high school.

Students Layer Barn Placement.

I feel that I have done well teaching and the students have learned a lot, but we all have things that we would do differently in the future. Individual classes change a lot from year to year, so we must always be adapting. The biggest lessons come from our largest failures. I am excited to make changes after this experience and continue to evolve as an educator.

The Community Involvement
Before arriving in Mifflinburg, I had no idea that agriculture was so huge in Union County. The heart of Union County is nested in the numerous chicken houses and thousands of acres utilized for crop production. Agriculture is always evolving and so are these farmers. The Young Farmers Program here in Mifflinburg has continued to impress me with their dedication to agriculture and the success of all farmers. The Young Farmers Program also provides farmers with great social interactions which generate partnerships between Union County Farmers. Just last night, one of the members had a tour of their brand-new hog barn. Afterwards we had our meeting and meal as a community, for anyone, free of charge. Farmers can accomplish so much more when they work together. 
Thank you Mr. Kessler for all the advice and support.

My experience student teaching has extended much farther than the school walls. I have gotten to see how much the community values agriculture and agricultural education. Meeting with the Young Farmers at meetings and banquets, talking with the Pikrite manufacturing team, and visiting hog and chicken farms has really opened my eyes and inspired me to be a great teacher. Mifflinburg was and still may be the perfect fit for me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Action Research Project: Determining the Power of Previous Experiences

When brainstorming ideas on what would be beneficial to research, I began to think of my freshman class and the different experiences each of those students have had. Throughout my student teaching experience I have been in charge of grading the freshman SAE books. This has given me a sneak peak into their interest areas and where they spend time outside of school.

I wanted to design a research project that would determine the effect that previous experiences have on new learning. A large portion of my freshman class have livestock entrepreneurship SAE projects, so I saw my livestock judging unit as a good match. On the first day, students were given a survey asking questions on what experiences they have had with pigs, lambs, steers, and dairy cattle. These are the species we discussed in this unit. The numbers worked out perfectly. My section of 12 students were divided equally. Six students had prior experiences with these species and six students had no prior experience with the animals. The groups were arranged as follows: 2 teams with 2 experienced students, 2 teams with 2 inexperienced students, 2 teams with 1 experienced student and 1 inexperienced student.
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Students were all given the same instruction while I introduced the different species so limit the variables. At the end of the unit, students were evaluated in their groups on their ability to judge classes of the four species. The scores for each team were recorded and graphed to search for any trends.

I found that in this case previous experiences had little effect on the students performance level. This is not what I had expected at all. At the beginning of this study, my hypothesis was that the students who had raised market animals before would preform better that students who haven't had any experiences yet. Although the students did not perform better overall, they were noticeably more familiar with the anatomy of the four different species. I believe this did have a positive influence on the quality of the reasons students gave. You need to know the language in order to talk evaluation.
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I would like to conduct another study the same way but assess the students before the unit as well. This would give me a baseline starting point as to where all students began knowledge wise. This would allow me to see the growth of all the students and further determine the effects of prior knowledge.

Monday, April 17, 2017

SLLC 2017

Several weeks ago I was given the opportunity to travel to the SLLC Conference in Harrisburg with Mr. Kessler and Ms. Spurrier. We made the trip down on a Sunday to grade state proficiency awards for the previous year. This was a great experience that will benefit my future students. Just seeing and witnessing how the proficiencies are graded gives me a much better understanding on what is evaluated. These are graded the same at the national level as well.

There are a couple different stances you could take on volunteering to help with this. Some people believe that teachers only do this so they can see exactly what their kids need to do in order to win. The amount of state winners is seen to reflect the quality of the program. I mean, what teacher doesn't want a lot of winners? However, this is not entirely true. For myself, I see this as an opportunity to determine the most important parts of the application. This provides more guidance as to what is seen as important and what is not. You can then stress the importance of each portion respectively.

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As educators we are always looking to better our instruction for our students. You would be surprised by the many different ideas that are developed by our students. Each of these proficiencies provides a story that we could take ideas from for future students. Taking advantage of opportunities like this allow for growth as teachers and facilitators. I look forward to helping with this process in the future and continuing to learn.

PAAE North Region Meeting

Attending the regional PAAE meeting stimulated my reflection on how much can be done when great agriculture teachers get together. During the meeting fellow educators met to discuss different competitions and opportunities for their students at the regional and state levels. The following areas struck me the most as a future educator.

1) This group of teachers are extremely supportive of each other. Everyone wants to see students become successful no matter what school they attend. I felt this at the area CDE contests. There were a couple students from other schools that I wanted to give advice to. I had to hold myself back because this was a competition.

2) This network of teachers are very resourceful and can get things done. They are "movers and shakers" so to say. When you bring this many knowledgeable agricultural leaders together and compile their resources and resource people, tasks can be accomplished quickly. These tasks could range from finding judges for public speaking contests to sharing lesson plans as a community.

3) This is a great place to talk with people just like you! Everyone here knows the struggles that teachers go through on a day to day basis. This is a great place to crack a few jokes or share some stories that only Ag teachers will relate.

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Going forward I believe that it is essential to remain an active member of the PAAE. Membership provides countless benefits for not only the teacher but all the students as well. This association provides many opportunities for improvement in the world of agricultural education. It is important that we take contribute and take from these opportunities.

Student Teaching Week 14: Tying it All Together

Over our Easter Weekend, I spent a lot of time reflecting on just how important education is. A person’s education, formal or informal, will contribute to their success no matter what they choose as a career. The knowledge students grow through high school will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Knowledge looks many different ways. If you are knowledgeable in mechanics you may be able to repair your car, saving you money. If you are knowledgeable in health and fitness you may be able to remain in shape and live longer. If you are knowledgeable in the stock market you may be able to make money through investments. There are benefits for all types of education.

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It continues to bewilder me on how some students do not see the value in education. But then I take a step back and think about my high school days. Was I the same type of student? Did I try my best and understand how my education will affect my future career? The honest answer is; I was in the exact same shoes. So how do I blame the student? Pretty hypocritical right? I did what was needed to get good grades, but I did not work to reach my full potential. Looking back, I wish I applied myself more than I really did.

So what can I do to expand the students’ perspective of high school education? As agriculture teachers we have an upper hand because of ag education’s “hands on nature.” Our instruction is infused with hands on experiences whether it be completing a butt weld or making cheese. All of these experiences can help our students determine what their interests are.

I could see field trips to different industries being beneficial to developing our students’ perspective on education. Maybe I take students interested in machining and welding to a fabrication shop, such as Pikrite. Maybe I take my students interested in plant science to the local greenhouse to hear from the operators. These people who are already in the industry are generally more than willing to share their educational experiences and provide advice.
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It is important that our students see how their education will help them in the future. Often times we get wrapped up in “Covering” material we deem important. This material is important, however we need to make sure we back up and address the “Why” for each lesson. Make the material relatable for each student. If they see it as adding value to their life they will be much more engaged. As I enter my last week of student teaching I want to address the “Why” in every lesson.