Gotta Get 'Em There First. Then, Let's Worry about Keeping 'Em!

Article excerpt

Often, when the topic of "issues or challenges facing agricultural education" comes up in professional conversation, the phrase "recruitment and retention" is tossed about. We all realize that something needs to be done - but, it seems that too often we're not sure where to begin our efforts, or if it is even our job. Actually, it is everyone's job - we each need to do what we can to encourage our students to pursue careers in agricultural education and keep them in the profession. It will do little good for the profession if we get 'em there, but can't keep 'em. As a profession, how do we do that?

Getting 'Em

With regard to getting 'em there, let's consider the following proverb and its implications for our profession... Each One Teach One. This proverb originated in the United States during a time when African Americans were denied an education in an effort to keep them obethent. Those in power feared that if African Americans learned to read and write, they could no longer be controlled. However, some individuals, often considered esteemed members of their community, were able to read and write. These brave individuals risked their own lives to educate others in their community. They considered it their duty to teach someone else, thus generating the phrase 'each one teach one.'

In today's society, this proverb has been borrowed time and again to demonstrate the importance of sharing knowledge with others, and has even developed into a teaching strategy used to encourage students to become a part of instruction by sharing their knowledge with peers. However, we propose that this proverb can have even further implications for agricultural education. Imagine if "each one" of us, as agricultural educators took the proverb to heart, and sought to "teach one" about the career opportunities available in agricultural education. Similar to those initial brave African Americans who considered it their duty to teach others to read, agricultural educators should consider it their duty to teach and encourage future agriculture teachers.

The most recent supply and demand study conducted by Kantrovich (2010) indicates that teacher preparation institutions are graduating fewer students in agricultural education than there are jobs available. Further concerns arise as another 25% of qualified graduates choose careers outside of teaching (Kantrovich). While we certainly can't expect 100% of Ag Ed graduates to enter the teaching field, efforts to increase the number of students entering post-secondary programs in Agricultural Education would definitely help counteract the shortages we face. Across the nation many veteran agriculture teachers are reaching retirement age. If no suitable candidates are available when those positions are vacated, schools may be forced to shut down programs or fill the open positions with alternatively certified teachers.

Fortunately, we can do something about this situation! The solution begins in our own secondary classrooms and on our college campuses. We don't necessarily need special campaigns or initiatives to solve the challenges we face as a profession; we each need to be working on recruitment every day - through our words and actions. Consider the following:

* Make it a priority to communicate with every student, in every class, every day. Take an interest in and acknowledge the students in your classroom.

* Your relationship with your students sets the tone for the connections you will make with them. Is it positive?

* Make goals challenging, but achievable. In other words, don't set completely unrealistic goals for yourself, your program, and your students. Success breeds success.

* Show your students that you care. When teachers do something special for or with their students, they notice. If these students, later on, are considering careers where they can make a difference - they'll remember when you did.

* Talk about yourself! …