Virtual Learning. Online education. Zoom meetings. Virtual State Conventions. Google classroom. These words have become common terminology to describe the last few months of learning during a pandemic. While the coronavirus seems to be on the rise again in several states, it has many school districts scrambling to set a plan for the 2020-21 school year. As a result, the status of many extracurricular activities are up in air, including FFA.
As a daughter of a school counselor and former teacher, my heart goes out to every teacher and school administrator who is working behind the scenes devising a detailed plan to navigate the pandemic. Another issue with tackling the upcoming school year and dealing with extracurriculars is that not every school district is in the same boat. There will be some schools going back in person to the classroom and some will be online only, while others will be a hybrid between the two. Whatever the school district decides to do, we know that a lot of hard decisions will have to be made.
While FFA could be an easier extracurricular to implement social distancing regulations, at least compared with sports such as basketball or football, there are still important aspects that will need extra guidance. No matter what happens, it is still important to continue the three pillars of agricultural education– Classroom/Laboratory instruction, Supervised Agricultural Experience program, and Student leadership organizations — in any way we can.
For example, here are just a few ways the ag classroom could be different when students return to school:
- The overall classroom set up will be different — no gathering places and desk setup will have optimal spacing. In addition, students should be prepared to see seating charts to help with contact tracing in the instance someone does test positive.
- Ag students who take shop might have to check out/disinfect every tool they touch.
- In addition checking out tools, individualized PPE for students, like gloves and glasses, is to be expected as well.
- Some schools are allowing for hybrid classes, so not everyone will be in the classroom at the same time.
Although that is just a few ways ag classes will look different, it is certainly not the only issue when it comes to continuing the FFA tradition. What happens when you have some officers in school while others are remote learning? Clear, concise communication will be more important than ever this year. No longer will ag advisers be able to relay messages in the hallways or on bulletin boards. But one thing is clear, ag advisors will continue to educate students throughout the year whether online or in person, FFA will continue to be there.
Although things are still a work in progress, it will ultimately be different this year — be kind and understanding as we all figure out the next steps in this journey.
While no one knows for sure what the future holds, we do know that ag advisers, teachers, and school administrators are doing everything they can to put the students’ needs first. Regardless of how you learn or teach this year, be sure to give a little extra grace during this difficult situation. No matter what the future holds, the National FFA Organization and its members will always make the best of their circumstances.