If your summer was anything like most, it went something like this: mayjunejuly. Somehow, we are now mid-way through August! As teachers finish hanging their last decorations, they are also getting ready to welcome students back to school.
Whitney Dyess, FFA Advisor at Enterprise High School in Alabama, and Justin Mauss, Carthage Technical Center Agriculture Teacher, from Missouri, gave us some of their best advice for starting the school year off on the right foot.
We asked both teachers how they get their students excited for a new year. Mauss said, “With my freshman classes, I always try to get them excited by showing them all of the possibilities, opportunities, and hands-on lessons that they will get to be a part of throughout the year. For a lot of these students, this will be the first time they will have had the opportunity to be in a hands-on classroom environment. So naturally they are excited about that.”
Mauss continued, “For my advanced classes and students, we use goals. I will sit down with the class and make goals, both individual and class, that we want to accomplish for the year. Whether that goal is to be a state winning public speaker or have a news article published in the school paper, we will sit down and make a plan on how we get that goal accomplished. When the students realize that you care about their individual goals, they will work with you to get your goals accomplished too.”
Dyess said, “I think the most important thing about the first few days of school is getting to know my students. On the first day, I play an adjective name (it’s extremely repetitive) game to learn all of their names. The second day, we ‘Speed Friending’, it’s like speed dating, but with friends instead. This allows me to have a 90 second conversation with each child in my class. It’s all about relationships, and paperwork can wait until I know their name and a little about them!”
After a successful first, day the next step is welcoming Greenhands to their new home. How do you start off motivating your Greenhands. Mauss said, “Motivating Greenhands is one of my highest priorities when we come back to school. I teach an extensive FFA unit where we do several hands-on activities about the opportunities and experiences, they can gain by joining the FFA and becoming active in our chapter. When they realize all the possibilities that available to them, they really flourish.”
In addition to motivating Greenhands, FFA advisors also support their older students with advice on how to step up as role models. Dyess said, “I make the older students “Foreman” or “Supervisors.” They know how most things operate, so giving them the title of leadership empowers them, and allows them to lead the younger students.”
Both advisors had great advice for students who are starting their FFA journey. Mauss said, “Get involved. Go to everything that you can. Meet everyone that you can. Do things in the FFA that you never thought you would do. Break out of your comfort zone. I have never had a student do all of those things and then tell me they regretted it. I have had dozens of students do those things and then tell me that it was the best decision they made.
Dyess said, “Take advantage of EVERY opportunity. You never know what door will be opened to you because of the opportunity you have taken. It’s okay to fail, the important part is that you go back and fix what didn’t work, and keep plugging along. This is an organization that can and will change your life if you allow it!”
No matter what stage you are in on your FFA journey, be open to new opportunities. Mauss said, “If you’re a new advisor, remember to relax. It’s so easy to try and get everything perfect in all of the responsibilities that are expected of an ag teacher. But it’s okay if the lesson didn’t go perfectly. It’s okay that there’s ‘that kid’ that is not clicking with you yet. That comes with the territory. Focus on your strengths first. Show the kids and community how much you care. Most importantly, remember to take a breather and relax.”
Dyess said, “Love your kids! Try it, do it, whatever it is! It’s OK if you don’t know everything about it or you don’t place the first time, give those kids opportunities!! Learn for your experiences and get better. Also, you have the greatest job in the world! :)”