FFA is grounded in tradition; wearing our blue and gold jacket, reciting of the FFA Creed and closing all meetings with the phrase "let us be diligent in labor, just in our dealings, courteous to everyone and, above all, honest and fair in the game of life." In addition to these national traditions, there are many local traditions. As a teacher of agriculture and FFA advisor at Rockcastle County High School for the past eighteen years, I have been able to foster success and utilize tradition in Kentucky's State Small Power Equipment Career Development Event (CDE) by winning the state contest seven out of the last eight years. Through that time I have had to field a variety of questions about the reasons my teams have been so successful. I believe it is a combination of philosophy, instruction, tradition, recruitment, and support.
As an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Kentucky, I was blessed to have had Dr. Charles Byers and Dr. Rodney Tulloch as my primary agriculture education instructors. They helped shape my philosophy for contests and agriculture education as a whole. One of the most important items to consider when deciding to participate in a contest is if the contest fits in the curriculum that I am teaching within the given year. I don't base my curriculum around the contest but rather the contest around my curriculum. The year we failed to win the state contest was because we did not have a course in small engines that year, thus we didn't field a team. It is imperative that the event meets the needs of the instruction and not the other way around. I also inform all the students in my small engines class on day one how the team members will be determined. The selection of the team is based completely on the local contest scores where each student has an equal chance at making the team. The local contest consists of four different parts which occur over the course of the semester. The local contest also serves as the unit exams in the small engine class. When each student realizes he/she has a fair opportunity to make the team, and not that team members are predetermined, the motivation for the entire class increases.
The second component to success is instruction. Some people will say you are just teaching FFA, but if you are teaching the content outlined in state and/or national standards, you will be teaching what is needed to be successful in the CDE. We are fortunate that the individuals who designed our FFA CDEs aligned them with the content that should be taught within our agriculture classes. With eighteen weeks of small engines instruction my students have a huge advantage in knowledge and confidence over most students who have received little to no instruction. There is no secret to instruction; it is simply working hard every day to prepare and present a quality lesson. Anyone can present a great lesson occasionally when the principal is scheduled to observe but the truly committed teachers teach every block, every day. If you take of care of instruction on a daily basis then success in CDEs will soon follow.
Success and tradition is much like the chicken and the egg argument. With success comes tradition which in turn leads to more success. A tradition is only as meaningful as it is presented to the students. What may be considered a sacred tradition at one school may be laughed at in another school, depending on how it is handled. At Rockcastle County High School, we have several traditions that relate to the small engines team. Articles about the results of our CDEs appear in the local paper and on the school's district website. Announcements are read over the school's intercom and awards are …