Ag Teacher’s Guide to FFA LDEs

Untitled Design (1)I am super passionate about FFA LDEs, y’all. I love training kids in these speaking events because I find that it pushes them more than any of the other FFA contests. Personally, this is one of my favorite parts about being an ag teacher: watching kids bloom! If you have ever trained your students to compete in LDEs before, you have probably also witnessed how they come out of their shells more, and they gain more confidence, self-esteem, and friends.

I was on a podcast called Ag with Ms. Wedger, and she sent me the following questions before we talked for the episode. I wanted to make the written content available to y’all in case you couldn’t take notes while listening to the podcast or if you aren’t much of a podcast listener (I still recommend listening to it though)! It was a fun experience for me. I’m not much of a podcast listener myself, but there are several that I constantly lean towards…Ag with Ms. Wedger is one of the few!

I hope that you are able to implement some of these ideas in your LDE training and practice sessions or in the classroom. If you have any suggestions or additions, please feel free to email me at mrscooperffa@gmail.com!

1. How do you introduce LDE’s to your students? 

I show the students a list of all the LDEs they can participate in and briefly describe them during my Intro to FFA Unit. I show them the banners they can win by participating in these contests. During this unit, the students are assigned officer parts for opening ceremonies which is how we begin class for the first couple of weeks. I show them a video of the National FFA Officers saying opening ceremonies. Some of the students will try to imitate how the officers said their parts which I have always found entertaining. This allows for students to become more comfortable with public speaking and creating the culture of the classroom. Then, we read the FFA Creed together as a class. I typically choose one person to read each paragraph out loud. They are given copies at their desks. They star their favorite paragraphs, circle words they don’t know, and box off each time the phrase “I believe” is in the FFA Creed. I separate them into pairs after this where they have to answer questions about the FFA Creed. We discuss their answers and the words they don’t know. Then, I tell them they can choose any paragraph of the FFA Creed and deliver it in class. I also show them a video of the national winning FFA Creed speaker as an example. I tell them to write down 3-5 things that they observed from the speaker. We then discuss and share our thoughts about the delivery. Students have a week to memorize their paragraph. When the students deliver the creed, I pay very close attention to their confidence, poise, and natural speaking ability. I grade them using the FFA Creed speaking rubric. I make sure to advertise the FFA Creed Speaking LDE Contest by telling students “you already have one paragraph memorized!” I usually pull aside the students who exhibited good public speaking skills to encourage them and ask them personally if they would be interested in participating. For employment skills, I give students index cards with different careers on the cards. Some of them are fun ones like background vocalist for Taylor Swift, bee keeper, or hair stylist. I call random students to go up before the class and pretend it is a real job interview for that position. I tell the other students (employers) that they have to come up with one question they would need to know about this person before they hire them. You would be surprised at the questions the students think to ask and the eloquent and sometimes, funny answers you receive from the student being interviewed. I place a time limit for each student. I advertise employment skills following this activity.

2. How do you encourage your young students to “dig deeper” with their LDE’s? 

  • Claps like cow clap, firework clap, power clap etc after they read in class and during opening ceremonies to give them a boost of confidence and make them want to volunteer/not be afraid of public speaking. This helps set up my classroom to be a positive environment!
  • Give them two positives and one SUGGESTION *never too harsh about improvement
  • Focus on improving one particular area for each practice like time, word memorization, voice inflection in certain places, movements, hand gestures, etc. 
  • I ask them, “what do you think you can do to improve?” Reflection on their presentation and practice session is very important to their growth!
  • Watch videos of national competitors giving speeches
  • I try to be a constant source for ideas but when I give them ideas, I always remind them that this is THEIRS and is up to them what they want to do with it
  • One-on-one time with me

3. How do you structure your LDEs and practicing for middle school students?

  • Guideline packets for each LDE were a lifesaver for me last year and available on my TPT store. My ag students are given a choice of which LDE they would like to compete in even if they aren’t a FFA member. Every student must pick one they are most interested in. They complete a certain amount of objectives that are listed on the packet each week, and I check in with each student as they complete the objectives. I get more participation from students this way since they realize that they are doing this for a grade. When they are given a choice of which LDE they would like to compete in and do the work to get the grade, some of them decide to go ahead and try to compete! It’s easy to see which students really want to compete by the effort they put into their work.
  • I practice with one/two particular LDEs once a week after school. I don’t schedule too many different LDE practices on one day because I feel like I am spread too thin. I like to spend as much one-on-one time with the students to help them prepare as much as possible.

4. What are 5 tips and tricks you have for middle school LDEs and/or LDEs in general?

  • Focus on quality > quantity
    • Try to slow down the new FFA kids who want to compete in every single contest and make them realize that they need to put forth a lot of work into just one for now!
    • You don’t need to overload/overwork yourself.
  • Encourage students to practice in class before the contest. Most are scared to death to do this but have the class give them positive feedback ONLY! It’s an instant confidence boost and if you make the other students write five positive things about their presentation/delivery, it keeps them engaged.
  • Set up your classroom to be a positive environment so students will become comfortable with the idea of public speaking at the start of the year. The biggest effect of this is that more students will gain the confidence to participate in LDEs.
  • EXAMPLES and clear, specific steps are EVERYTHING especially in middle school. Middle schoolers become easily overwhelmed and high schoolers can also get the idea that a contest seems like it will be “too much work.” You have to ease them into the LDE. If you feed them just a little bit of information at a time like the requirements of the contest and the workload, it’s less daunting to them. If they can see an example of a speech, resume, cover letter, good interview, bad interview, etc, they will be able to have a better idea of where to start and won’t completely shut down. YOU, the teacher, can also be an example. Show them how they can change their voice a certain way in the speech or how they can emphasize words. Use hand gestures that you may be suggesting in certain places by reading their speech to them and showing them what they could do to improve.
  • The teacher should constantly remind the students competing that this is supposed to be fun and the placing they receive does not define who they are as a person. It does not mean that they are terrible if they lose or that they are the best if they win! If the kids win, I remind them to stay humble and keep working hard to push towards the next level. I ask, “What can we do better next time? There’s room for improvement and we should try to keep growing.” I also ask students what they learned and if they made any new friends! This keeps everything in perspective and takes the pressure off.

5.What are some examples of LDE’s that have been done really well at this age level? 

  • 7th Grade State Champion and Top Middle Schooler in Geaux Teach Ag Contest (Louisiana based)//before this level, the student achieved top ranks at the parish, district, and area levels
  • 7th Grade State Top Middle Schooler Prepared Public Speaking Contest (had to beat 50% of high schoolers to achieve this at the state level)// 2nd place at the area level and top middle schooler
  • 7th Grade 2nd place Employment Skills and Top Middle School at the area level qualifying for state
  • 7th Grade 4th place at the District level in Gulf of Mexico Speaking (Louisiana based) and qualified for area

6. What are some specific roadblocks to watch out for?

  • Giving too much criticism at one time or not focusing on the positives! This results in students not wanting to participate, giving up, or losing confidence.
  • If you refuse to put in the time, work, and/or give advice to your students, they won’t perform well. Let them see your dedication to them. It is absolutely amazing what this can do! If you don’t care, they won’t either!
  • Make sure that the parents are aware of practices by sending home permission slips or calling home.
  • Cell phones! Make a cell phone rule when practicing. They’ll be more focused if you don’t let them on their cell phone for the one hour you are practicing with them.
  • Don’t make practices too long.

7. What support and/or resources are available?

 

 

Backslider

Backsliding is what I call this. I’m a teacher maybe grading papers on a messy desk which only stays clean for one hour tops btw. But you can’t see my heart or where I stand with God and that’s where the backsliding is happening. I am annoyed with myself + feel guilty + am convicted.
I have my reasons for it and excuses but nothing can justify why I haven’t read my Bible in five days. Yeah, five days.
The pattern is very apparent to me. When I don’t stay in the Word like I should, I become easily exhausted and not filled. I run out of fuel, and today, I was running on empty. I am not surprised when I wear out quickly on a week like this week and don’t pick up the Bible once. I should’ve prepared myself for each day and what was to come, but I didn’t do it. I prepared lessons-not myself.
Don’t do what I did this week. It’s so much easier to not set aside time to spend with God because everything else seems to be looming over your head and you want to get it all done. If you can barely function from being exhausted, don’t expect good results. Running around like crazy trying to get everything in order in a chaotic setting was totally me all week & I don’t see how that’s a good example. The truth of the matter is that it wasn’t. It’s really hard to spot Christ in someone’s life if they aren’t spending necessary time with Him. To pour out, we must always be filled up.

What I Learned My First Year of Teaching

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My first year of teaching has come and gone in a flash. I honestly can’t believe it is over already. Even though I was the teacher, I felt like my students taught me just as much as I taught them throughout the year. I was willing to grow and looked for areas that I could become a better teacher. I was always searching for ways that I could improve my methods or make a note of how I could teach a unit differently for the next year. If I noticed that something wasn’t working for me, I would change it whether in the middle of the year or not. I would explain to the students why I had to change this and that, and they were all understanding about changing up the procedure or routine. I would even ask my students how they noticed other teachers completing a procedure in their classroom.

The first year for any teacher isn’t easy. In my case, it was very difficult especially at the beginning of the year. I had to learn how to manage an FFA chapter plus a Jr. Beta Club all while making most of my materials from scratch for the three subjects I taught each day. My planning hour was packed full of a to-do list which spilled over into after-school hours. I spent hours and hours after school making materials and grading papers in the beginning of the year. When I wasn’t after school doing things for school, I was staying after school for FFA practices. Every teacher has their own unique experiences during their first year, and all of those experiences allowed them to grow and flourish for their future teaching years. The first part of the year I was stressed, constantly felt behind in paperwork, and wondered if this was as good as it was going to get. This just so happened to be one of those unique experiences to push me to grow not only as a teacher but as a person.

I realized that I was focusing too much on the problems I was experiencing than solving the problems. My major problem was overwhelming myself with excessive paperwork and not having the time to grade it all. I realized very quickly that taking home papers to grade was not okay. Thankfully, a scantron machine made its appearance in my life, and it has saved me so much time. I started to grade assignments as students worked on them to make grading easier on myself, and I could also penalize them when the hour passed and they didn’t even start on their independent assignment.

Now, that it is nearing the end of my first year, I can say that it improved dramatically because of what I previously mentioned and more. I began to figure out paperwork organization, researched for more pre-made materials by using Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest, and created a nice daily routine for myself.

I am more prepared for next year. I will have my materials ready as both hardcopies and electronic copies, I will know the procedures to take for filling out fundraiser forms and coordinating field trips, I will know the prime times to schedule computer labs, and I will have my grading system down pat!

So, now onto why you are here: the list of what I’ve learned in my first year of teaching and my advice to a future new teacher! Like I said before, the first year for every teacher is different. For some it is more challenging than others. Each teacher also has to play with various strategies and methods that work for them and their students as well. This is a mini-challenge in itself. I hope that this list encourages you and helps you for your first year, second year, and every other year ahead. 😊

  1. Stick to what you say. Threats do not work until action is taken.
  2. Treat students equally even if you spend more time with some students. You have to treat everyone the same which means when they break a rule, you must adhere to the consequences. It isn’t fair to other students if the students you have a more personal relationship with get off the hook.
  3. Seating arrangements can change everything. At the beginning of the year, it’s hard to tell who needs to sit where in the room. There will be students who will complain about not being able to see well or they will talk during instruction because they are by friends. Once you figure out the best places for everyone to sit, you’ll notice better grades. This may not work in some classes particularly ones where they are all friends in one class!
  4. Establish paperwork organization. You may think you have a good system at first until you become flooded with paperwork and end up behind in grading. Figure out a system that works for you in each of these areas:
    1. Where do students turn in work
    2. Work that needs grading
    3. Work that needs putting into computer
    4. Unfinished tests
    5. Covered units
    6. Units/paperwork that are currently being taught
    7. Absent work
    8. Travel
    9. Fundraisers
  5. Plan ahead. I planned out my first two months of teaching, and after that, it was a catch-up game. Planning far in advance can help you get into computer labs/science labs when needed. There were several times that I didn’t correctly judge the amount of time of some assignments/units, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Every class and grade moves at a different pace. It’s part of being a teacher which leads up to my next one on the list…
  6. You need to be flexible with the length of time on projects, assignments, and so on the first year of teaching because you’ll realize in the future how long all the assignments and projects actually take on average. However, you need to set deadlines because the students need a deadline to work towards. Think one unit ahead!
  7. Keep a hardcopy and a key of each assignment, quiz, and test. Place all of them in a folder by subject and unit. It will make your life way easier the next year, and there’s less stress in finding it all/if your computer crashes. Eeep.
  8. Make 5 emergency sub plans. You will never know when you’ll have to call in sick last minute or if there’s a family emergency.
  9. Keep word searches, crosswords, and brain teasers on-hand. These are great go-tos for after the kids are finished taking tests.
  10. Play review games. They all love review games especially if there are bonus points involved. My favorite review game is Connect Four. They also make everyone engaged, and it challenges them. As the teacher, you need to establish good rules that keeps them within their excitement boundaries like not repeating a question once it is asked. If they don’t hear it, it floats to the other team, and they get penalized!
  11. Students need to SEE and HEAR study guide answers. It’s very frustrating to keep repeating an answer for both the students and the teacher. Sometimes, the best way to give answers is just putting them on the board/typing up the answer to go on the board after calling on a student. You could also place students in groups and have them rotate. This establishes movement in the classroom and helps them get the right answers. It could also be an awesome way to see what they are struggling with and which questions they need the most help on. Using clock partners is another form of practicing sharing answers. Check study guides at the end of each day that they work on them to keep them motivated and use this to determine their final study guide grade. If they don’t have a certain amount completed, they can’t participate in the partner activity/group activity OR take of a hefty amount of points.
  12. Establish a routine for everything-when to get up, answer, and sharpen a pencil, how to enter and be dismissed from the room, and a procedure for hall passes. You need to establish bell-to-bell routines and procedures. They thrive on this.
  13. Give your students jobs to do. We have a ton on our plates. There are always students in every class that want to help you. Let them pass out papers, collect papers, change the date on the board, write homework on the board, or change the calendar. If they abuse the job, don’t call on them to help again. Your class will notice, and you will have another that volunteers.
  14. No free days. Ever. You can make an easier day for those who may have gone through state testing and are mentally drained but an easier day can still be a productive day.
  15. Make copies of your lesson plans and keep them from year to year as a reference. Also, make copies of your sub plans not only for future reference but in cases where the sub may not have done his/her job correctly.
  16. Make all of your bell work ahead of time. It’s wonderful to have the first 5-10 minutes of the year already planned out.
  17. Get to school 15 minutes early every day to sign in, check your mailbox, and get a bell ringer up on the board.
  18. Lay out what you are going to wear the next day the night before. It saves you time in the morning. Don’t forget to check the weather.
  19. Create mini-lessons for all your classes. They could be subject related or just simple life skills/leadership type lessons. These are amazing to use during those state testing weeks or the days when half of your class is present because everyone else is on a field trip.
  20. Print out personal progress reports for your class every two weeks. I’m going to start this next year. I noticed that when I handed out progress reports, the kids would either act better in class or work harder when they realized their grade was undesirable. It will also keep you sane with the, “What’s my grade in here?” question.
  21. Mark tardies and let them see that you marked them tardy. They’ll magically start appearing to your class on time.
  22. Hand back papers as soon as they are in the computer to clean out your desk/filing area. You could also do this once every 9 weeks. You must keep anything that is considered a test grade though.
  23. Check notes if you’re making them write notes. Do this daily by simply spot checking. I do this for bell ringers, but I am going to start checking notes next year!
  24. Invest in a clipboard and print out attendance. Place an X if they didn’t complete a bell ringer. Mark the days that you check bell ringers by circling them. Print out a separate attendance sheet for each class for notes, study guides, bell ringers, and/or homework. Color coding is a great way to keep track of what you check.
  25. Ask a lot of critical thinking questions and challenging discussion questions.
  26. Have students repeat directions to the class or what they just learned.
  27. Create a “go” word.
  28. Make groups ahead of time and write them down to help with management and learning levels.
  29. Use folders that students leave in your room every day if you teach middle school. They will keep everything in this folder.
  30. Create a pencil system.
  31. Show examples so the students understand what a good and bad example looks like. Otherwise, they won’t know your expectations for them. Rubrics are also important in this case.
  32. Invest in a mini-fridge. It’s great for leftovers and water.
  33. Designate a desk drawer/shelf/area for food. Include disposable cups, forks, spoons, and plates. Make sure to add canned foods that you can heat up for lunch and snacks as well as breakfast foods. You’ll never know the day you may run late and don’t have time for breakfast.
  34. Never let students behind your desk for any reason during school hours. Let this space be your private space and make sure students understand this boundary.
  35. If you know you will be gone and will have a sub, put away anything of value.
  36. Be kind and friendly to other teachers, faculty, and administration. Thank them for what they do every now and then.
  37. It’s better to hold your tongue than to become so angry at a student that you yell at them. The majority of students think it’s funny when a teacher lashes out and gets mad by yelling. Handle your anger differently through punish work like lines or copying a textbook. Write them up. Call home. You are in control of the situation and you control your reaction. Remember that FOREVER.
  38. Air freshener is a requirement in a classroom especially with boys who come straight from PE! Candles and plug-ins are a little more efficient as they last longer, but are more expensive to replace.
  39. Keep a small monthly and weekly planner where you can see it and write on it quickly. Emails will usually have dates that you must remember.
  40. Be on time to duty because you are legally responsible for students at that time.
  41. If you have too much on your brain to function, do a brain dump on paper. Write down all what needs to be done.
  42. Make memories with each class. Laugh with them when the moment is appropriate but don’t laugh AT them. Savor the funny moments and silly things the kids do.
  43. Let the students know you love them and care for them. Discipline can be used to express this as well, but have a conference with students who give you trouble. Sometimes, they’ll let you know if anything is going on personally.
  44. Strive for personal positive relationships. Look for ways to connect to students.
  45. Teach them responsibility by your own systems of making up missed work, pencils, not having other supplies, and forgetting assignments at home. They need to be aware that there will always be consequences when they don’t follow through on their end of the deal.
  46. If a student gets an answer wrong, be gentle about it. No one needs to feel like they could be embarrassed. This goes along with everyone being respectful and listening to their ideas.
  47. Music is a wonderful tool to use depending on the class. There are some classes that will focus better but others may tend to be noisier.
  48. Don’t bring papers home to grade unless you absolutely have to. Scantrons are amazing. If you don’t have a scantron machine, make three different keys and use them for all classes. Just switch them out, and they’ll never know!
  49. Designate a spot in your classroom for permission slips, fundraiser forms, and applications if you are in charge of any sports/clubs. This keeps you from being interrupted about these things-students will know where to get the info!
  50. Take time for yourself. You need pampering and a break sometimes. You can establish a pick-me-up time in your daily/weekly routine to give you a little break and something to look forward to. It could be something as simple as grabbing coffee every Monday morning during your planning hour.
  51. As students complete the work, walk around the room to monitor their progress. They may ask for your help and you can see who’s actually on-task. Make this part of your grading system.
  52. Videos and movies are only to be used for educational purposes and the students need to be working throughout the video/movie. Give them a movie and nothing to do except watch it, and before long, there will be chaos.
  53. Hands-on discussion type learning is proven to stay in a person’s memory for a longer amount of time!

I know that this blog post was VERY long (haha), but I wanted to share everything that I’ve learned throughout my first year of teaching and pass it along to y’all! Thanks for reading and please share with any new future teachers out there!

XOXO,

Emily

How Teaching is a Mission Field

Teaching is indeed the most exhausting profession physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually but it is the most rewarding profession in the universe. There are ups and downs, misbehavior, times when you laugh with the students, times when you become disappointed because you expect so much out of them, and all the time helping them grow as a class and as an individual. It is probably the toughest job I could have chosen, but it is the best one I could I have chosen. In fact, I didn’t choose teaching…teaching chose me! I think if I would have gone into any other career, I would be miserable. Interacting with students and feeling like I’m in a large mission field to witness to them gives me such joy and peace. I still have days when I get home and wonder, “Am I doing anything for them? Are they learning anything from me?” The kind of days when it seems like you can’t calm them down or a kid totally disrespects you and hurts you can make you question why you want to be a teacher and why you are doing this to begin with. It’s the enemy’s way of slithering into this part of your life to destroy it (again). He doesn’t want you in a place where you can minister to people. He wants your hard days to make you think it’s going to be this hard every day. He doesn’t want kids that you teach to succeed in what’s good. Teaching has taught me to remain in the Word. I haven’t been great at memorizing scripture, but it is a habit that I am going to try again…not because it is an option, but because I HAVE to. I realized that if a scripture could have come to mind during certain times, I would have been calmer and more patient. In all reality, teaching others is teaching me spiritual disciplines!!! It was #NationalTeachAgDaythis week & I encourage anyone thinking about becoming an agriculture teacher to place it at the top of your list. I love what I do, so it isn’t technically my “job.” You must be called into education to stay with it though, or otherwise, you will not be happy and that one bad day may ruin it for you. To my fellow teachers & ag teachers, remember why you became a teacher and never lose that passion/fire!

Trusting God with Your Job

I was in 8th grade when I knew I wanted to be a teacher one day but wasn’t exactly sure what content area I wanted to teach or what grade level. In 9th grade, I knew within a month that I was going to become an ag teacher one day. As crazy as it sounds, I never changed my mind. Of course, I studied and researched numerous careers within the agricultural field after I found ag as being the most interesting topic, but NONE of them were as appealing to me. I didn’t change my major at all while I was in college. I was built, made, fashioned, formed, BORN to be an agriculture teacher. It became my dream, and now, my dream has come true. God had this plan for my life, and He knew that I was going to be an ag teacher before I knew. He sent me to Varnado to inspire, educate, discipline, advise, and mentor students. I prayed so much throughout the years for God to give me this opportunity and to place me where He wanted me. Not only has He done these things in my life, but He has allowed me to work alongside my husband. You may not know where you want to go or what you want to do with your life. That’s okay! God will reveal His plan for your life. Keep praying and staying in the Word for Him to make it clearer to you. Don’t ignore the doors He opens for you. God made it apparent to me early in life of His calling for me to be a teacher. I didn’t know where He was going to place me until this summer! You may “figure things out” last minute, but it is all in His timing! Dream big because believe it or not, YOUR God is BIGGER!