Recruiting Agriculture Teachers: Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?
Bridges, Chip, The Agricultural Education Magazine
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Picture the following scenario if you will: A well respected and dedicated agriculture teacher is conducting a routine Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) visit. The student being visited is at the top of the class in an average sized high school. This eleventh grade student has been an outstanding FFA member and is sure to pursue some type of career in agriculture. During the SAE visit, the teacher and student begin discussing the future plans of the student beyond high school. The student says to the teacher, "You know, I am thinking about becoming an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor." The teacher's response in this situation is critical. In this scenario the teacher's response is not as unusual as you may think. The teacher may say something like this: "Are you crazy? You have so much potential. You could become a veterinarian, or an agricultural scientist, or something far more exciting that just an agriculture teacher."
The teacher means well and feels like this advice is in the best interest of the student; but the fact is, many agricultural education professionals do not focus on recruiting. We let our best students consider many great options for a future career in agriculture without even planting the seed that teaching agriculture and becoming an FFA advisor is a rewarding and challenging career choice.
The topic of recruiting agriculture teachers is not new. This issue has been around for a while. In the March, 1995 edition of the Agricultural Education Magazine, Allison Touchstone reflected on her initial perception of agricultural education as she entered the course as a high school freshman. As she recalled, "My initial perception of agricultural science and technology was greatly influenced by my first instructor, and that perception was a poor one to say the least." It is an incredible responsibility that agriculture teachers have each and every day. Not only do we impact a student's perception of agriculture, but we also have the power to mold and shape the students' decisions about future careers in agriculture.
When Ms. Touchstone recalls her years in high school, it is inspiring to find out that a new agriculture teacher began teaching during her second year which she says "helped me to change my perception of agriculture and agricultural education." She recalls that her new agriculture teacher "became a role model" and also "influenced and helped me to define my perceptions and opinions about agriculture." We need teachers like this in our profession who inspire and encourage students, and perhaps even motivate them to consider a career in agricultural education. Two years later, in the March - April 1997 edition of the Agricultural Education Magazine, Allison Touchstone once again challenged our profession to focus on recruiting agriculture teachers by asking the question, "Why not become an Agriculture Instructor?"
Ms. Touchstone's commentary ten years ago still applies today. She remarked, "I don't think that there is a limit on the students who can, and should be recruited to become agriculture teachers." She states that she was once asked, "You could become anything in the world, and you are going to be a teacher? Why?" It is not unreasonable to review those concerns from ten years ago and ask ourselves, have we gotten any better at recruiting teachers? We could spend years talking about the shortage of agriculture teachers (and we have). We could address every issue that impacts the supply and demand of quality agriculture teachers (and continue to do so). But the most important thing that we can do as a profession is to provide focus on recruiting agriculture teachers. What are we doing today that will inspire the next great agriculture teacher and FFA advisor? Are the teachers at the local level given incentive to focus on recruiting future teachers? And most importantly, do we give the perception that teaching agricultural education and serving as an FFA advisor is a worthy profession? …