Division Report: Agricultural Education Division

Article excerpt

Are Our Best Teachers Different?

Agricultural education is fortunate to have many talented and successful teachers across the country-teachers who are committed to educational excellence and making a difference in the lives of students. They engage and involve students, balance discipline and fun, and juggle the multiple roles and responsibilities of an agriculture teacher. So what makes them so good at what they do? What enables them to stay in the field, while many leave within five years? Are there common talents among successful teachers?

To respond to these questions, The Gallup Organization conducted a study on the "talents" of the top 10 percent of agriculture teachers. The findings reveal distinct commonalities, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, department size, school region, marital status or type of certification.

First, out of four major categories of talent-"Relating to Others," "Striving" ("Working Hard"), "Impacting Others," and "Thinking"-the "Striving" or "Working Hard" theme is most dominant. Simply, talented teachers are high achievers. They approach their work with self-confidence and belief in their capabilities. They find it easy to push themselves and be a positive influence upon others. While "significance" is an important characteristic that energizes them, those teachers focus on their contribution to others rather than gains of a personal, self-interested nature. Their capacity to work hard is enhanced by their discipline; they establish objectives and work to bring structure and consistency to their activities.

In addition to being "Strivers," they have multiple talents that "Impact Others." Although competitive, their impact is greatest through the role of developer. They offer encouragement to those who need it, while working hard at winning others over. It is not surprising to see them as positive individuals who are aware of their own needs for affirmation and who readily affirm those with whom they come into contact.

The capacity for "Relating to Others" ranks third; but despite this, "Relating" has a profound effect upon their success. They are naturally inclusive people who find it easy to get along with others and can quickly establish rapport. Talented teachers tend to be agreeable and "down to earth." They are adept at self-expression and have effective verbal skills.

Gallup also found that these talented teachers are more involved in school and community activities. They may work more hours than other teachers but are able to balance the demands of their personal and work lives, resulting in greater satisfaction.

Agricultural education leaders are now exploring ways to use this information to address the teacher shortage. For example, can we identify potential teachers with similar talent profiles and recruit them into university teacher education programs? Can we assist teachers without this talent profile to partner with others in their schools and local communities who have these talents? If we can use this tool to enhance the capacity of our teachers, the result will be a long and rewarding career for the individual. For the profession, the result will be increased recruitment and retention of successful and satisfied teachers.

Prepared by Ms. Anna Melodia, Director, Education Division, National FFA Organization, and Bernie Staller, Chief Operating Officer, National FFA Foundation and National FFA Organization. …