Even though it feels like summer just began, a new school year is just around the corner. With every new school year comes new adventures and for some agricultural programs, that includes a new FFA advisor! In 2020, there were over 13,250 agriculture teachers. Of those, 242 were new positions along with 250 new programs. For new advisors, it can be overwhelming to start in a new position, but it is important to realize you are never alone within the National FFA Organization.
FFA advisors are the glue that holds one of the largest student-run organizations together. For many FFA members, their advisors act as a role model, a teacher, a confidant, a counselor, a friend, and so much more.
However, as a new FFA advisor, trying to make that connection with the students while also starting a new job can seem overwhelming. Thankfully, there is the FFAmily to help you through this new experience.
Any job can seem overwhelming when you first start out. However, you were made to be an FFA advisor and agriculture teacher. You have the training, now you just need the experience! We have rounded up some of the best advice for new FFA advisors as they start this journey.
- Have realistic expectations — Many first time advisors have so many ideas and paths they want to pursue within their first year of teaching — and understandably so. This is the first time you are in charge and have a say in what happens. However, it is important to set strong goals. For example, instead of trying to start ten new projects within the first year, really focus on projects you are passionate about. It is all about quality over quantity in the beginning. As time goes by and you have more experience, it is always easier to add new things instead of having to remove.
- Be ready to be an improv expert — Any teacher will tell you that half of the job is going with the flow, but that rings true especially as an FFA advisor. Even when you have a plan, expect to use Plan B, C, D … or just plan to be flexible. Even with the best organization and plans, things can change quickly and you have to adapt. But that is what makes it fun, right?
- Be OK with asking for help — This is where your FFAmily comes into play! Find your community — whether that is in person from surrounding schools or finding support from Facebook groups of advisors from all over the country. In addition to finding support and asking questions from your FFA community, make sure to make connections with your administrators, secretaries, janitors and anyone else in your district who can help you through these initial hurtles.
- Involve your students — As a first time teacher, resources can be abundant, but it is also important to ask your students what they want the program to look like and add that to your vision. If you tweak your goals to include theirs it will help them be more passionate about the program and curriculum throughout the year.
- Learn how to say no — Any time you take a new position, you might find yourself wanting to be a people pleaser. However, as a teacher and FFA advisor you will quickly find out that you have to say no. Instead of spreading yourself too thin with projects and commitments, find a good balance and stick to it — even if that means saying no to someone. Having a strong backbone is crucial in this job.
- Strong community relationships — This one in particular is important if you are also starting a chapter for the first time as well. Making connections to local businesses and community members will be vital for future successes. These relationships will provide financial support, community service projects, friendships, and connections for your students to have hands-on experiences.
As an agriculture educator and FFA advisor, you have the potential to leave a major impact on your students. The best thing you can do is to show excitement for the program, don’t put too much on your plate, and enjoy your time navigating your new role. As an FFA advisor, you will have to spend extra time to become the teacher and role model that you want to be, but it is worth the hard work. It takes one passionate and spirited teacher to shape the minds of future generations of agriculture — and there is no better person than you!
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