Sunday, April 22, 2018

All Good Things Must Come To An End!

I've been sitting here the past two days working on wrapping up my assignments and getting ready to head back to Penn State to be with my cohort for the next week and all I can think about is "Wow, how did I actually do all of this in such a short time?!"  If I think back to my very first day in front of my Ag Foundations class, I remember be nervous and anxious and hoping that they wouldn't hate me.  If I think back a short time to Friday which was my last day in front of that same class, I remember be nervous and anxious and hoping that once I leave them and go to my own program, I will do just as well as I did with them.

I really enjoyed my time at Selinsgrove Area High School and learned SO much from Mrs. Fry and Mr. Swineford.  I asked them over and over again, "Do I really have to leave?"  I was so happy there and felt so connected to the students, the staff and the community.  Even though it was hard, I knew that I had to leave:
1. Because I had to come back to finish out the semester to get my degree.
2. Mrs. Fry and Mr. Swineford needed to have their classes back to finish out the year.
3. I have to go and find my place in the Ag Ed world with my own program.
When Miss. Fisher almost drops the cake after the students say Don't drop it Fisher! 
All that being said, I did have an absolute amazing time during my student teaching and feel like I have learn SO much from the students and staff at Selinsgrove.  I have some advice for those who are or think that they want to teach Ag.

There is NO such thing as a dumb question!
There is also no such thing as too many questions.  When you are looking for a place to student teach and once you at finally started into your teaching experience, as any and all questions that you think of.  This is a time that you need to learn as much as you can and questions are the best way to do that.  Also if you don't ask questions yourself, how can you expect your students to ask you questions.

Take Risks!
Don't ever stay in the safe zone!  As a student teacher, this is the time to takes risks and make mistakes.  If these risks go right, then you have an amazing lesson and if it happens to go not as planned, then you get to learn and grow from it.  My cooperating teacher took a risk on me by allowing me to come teach there and it paid off big time!  I took a risk by agreeing to teach ag mechanics and again it majorly paid off!  I loved that class and now I want to teach at least one mechanics class at whatever program I find myself at.

Find a way to connect!
Connect with your students, your cooperating teachers, your school staff and your community.  It will only make your time there easier and more fun!  These are the fun little quirks that make each of the people you work with unique and each of your students an individual.  Find the thing that makes your students them and play that card to your advantage.  A student is much more likely to work with you and do what you ask of them when they know that you care about them.

Always find something to laugh at once a day.  This could be by having the joke of the day, by bringing up a funny story or trusty me your students will say and do the craziest things!  And make sure you right the funny, the sad, the bad and the good memories down.  These are the moments that you will wish that you can remember forever so keep a notepad close by to jot down notes.

I will never be able to say thank you enough to everyone at Selinsgrove Area High School especially Mrs. Fry and Mr. Swineford!  They agreed to take me on and helped me to learn and grow as an educator!

Action Research Project

Please take a look at my first action research project and infographic.  I have learned a lot through this project and realize how important it is for teachers to have clear and well define Student Learning Object project.  This type of research is only beneficial to both teacher and students as it will help teachers to realize where they can improve their teaching methods and where students need more instruction.  Based on my research, I have found that students' test scores are high when they review using a more structured method, such as a lab.  The students who used their creativity to make their own model of a flower still hit the 70% mark on the quiz however, they seemed to be more focused on what their model looked like than learning the parts and functions.  Whereas the flower dissection lab, asked students very specific and content based questions such as, locate the part of the flower that produces the pollen and answer the following questions.  Below you will read more about my Action research project on my infographic.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Another Unique SAE!

For this visit, I decided to visit another very active freshman member, Tony Royer.  Tony has become very active in just a short time and has even been awarded a spot on the 2018-2019 Selinsgrove FFA
officer team as the treasurer.  This seems very fitting as he is learning a lot about money management through his placement SAE at Dressler's Farm.
Tony, left, was just awarded Star
Greenhand Degree at the banquet.

Tony is only one of the high school students that is employed by Dressler's Farm which is owned by Selinsgrove FFA alum, Kevin Dressler.  Kevin's farm is mostly vegetable production where he sells the tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, herbs and much more at local farmer's markets, vegetable auctions and at his own farm stand.  He also has many different small animals that he raises to sell privately or at the local livestock auction.  These include chickens (of all shapes and sizes), rabbits, quail, pheasant, guinea pigs, ducks and goats.  All of these aspects play a part in Tony's SAE. 

Tony has many responsibilities at Dressler's Farm which vary depending on what time of year it is.  During the winter months, there is no field work to be done so most of his job requires him to care for the animals and towards the end of winter start seedlings in the greenhouse.  As the weather warms up, there are more jobs to be done.  Tony helps to prepare the fields by making sure all rows are clear of plastic from the season prior and helps to keep the plants happy by transplanting them into bigger containers until they are ready to hit the soil.  Once the summer is in full swing, Tony works more to help pick the crops and package them for the farm stand.
Field clean up is a lot faster when you can put the plastic in the wagon! 

In AET, Tony keeps track of all the time that he puts in at work and records all of his hourly wages.  This is a great SAE for Tony to have as a freshman and this is an experience that he can continue as long as he is employed there.  This is also a great SAE that will help him to later earn degrees and proficiencies. 
Tony will have lots of work here in a few days when these all need transplanted!  

SAE Visit

At Selinsgrove, the Ag Foundations class is made up of primarily freshman but also has a few sophomores mixed in.  Part of their classwork is learning how to use AET for record keeping which means that everyone must have an SAE that they can add entries for.  I had already seen many of my upperclassman's SAE projects over the summer and talk with them about their goals of how to grow or expand that SAE. 

For this visit I wanted to focus on the student's in the Ag Foundations class and see what it looks like when you are just starting your SAE and beginning that record keeping process.  Now I myself have been through this start up phase of learning the lingo of what is an expense, what is non current capitol, etc. however, when I did record books it was the older versions that were in an excel document; not in AET.  So I wanted to learn my way through AET with one of the students who was just learning it all too.  

I picked to visit with Maddie Haupt who is indeed a freshman at Selinsgrove.  Maddie is new to the
Maddie, center, wants to put the jacket she just go to good use! 
FFA chapter however she has already hit the ground running and has become actively involved.  She even received her FFA jacket at the PA Farm Show in January and hopes to put it to very good use, very soon.  When Maddie was talking with Mrs. Fry about what she should do as her starter SAE, she couldn't think of anything but she knew that she wanted to become even more involved with the chapter and learn all about what the chapter does.  So Mrs. Fry and Maddie decided that her SAE would be completing the Selinsgrove FFA's chapter scrapbook for this year. 

Now this is a pretty unique SAE in my mind but when you think about it, this is a great SAE to start with.  It helps Maddie to record how many hours she is putting into the scrapbook, what type of expenses can be tied up in completing the book and of course helps her to sharpen her record keeping and organization skills.  This SAE falls under the Exploratory SAE category and is a project that Maddie will not be expanding on for next year.  However this works great for both Maddie and the chapter since there is no reporter this year on the officer team.
How many laptops can we use for one SAE visit?! 

The Selinsgrove FFA chapter decided last year that they would steer away from the giant scrapbooks that other chapters usually make.  They have moved their scrapbook to be done completely digitally.  Maddie upload pictures to the chapter's Snapfish account and adds them to digital page templates where she can add captions and digital stickers to embellish.  Once Maddie is finished with the book, she just hits print and in a few days, a package comes to the school.  Inside you would find a book that is reminiscent of a child's hardback book.  It is bright, colorful and has all of the pictures printed right in the book instead of glued to paper or pages in the giant heavy FFA scrapbooks.
Maddie works very hard to make 
sure that the pages are just perfect

Since all of Maddie's work on the scrapbook is done digitally and Selinsgrove is a one-to-one school, we were able to meet for her visit over lunch in the Ag room.  I have an hour long lunch where I was able to sit with Maddie and she showed me how she puts pictures in the book and how to add all the extras to the pages.  We also were able to look at her record book on AET at that time too since it too is digital.  We talked about how many hours she had logged so far and how she never though that it would take so many hours to completing this book.  

I actually really like the idea of having freshman or new students to the program start off their SAE journey with a smaller task that might take only a few weeks or months.  This is a great way for them to learn where to enter things in AET and just be able to click around and get comfortable with the system.  Now that being said, I think that this could have a downfall because depending on what these records are kept on, the student might not be able to apply these hours towards proficiencies or degrees later down the road.  

SAE are graded on two different levels at Selinsgrove.  For the beginners in the Ag Foundations class, Mrs. Fry makes them have 4 entries per month (1/week)  that they receive a grade for.  It does not have to be a long, elaborate post but they do need to say what they did/how much it cost/ etc for it to count.  If you are in your second year or more of SAE, you are enrolled in the SAE class that students receive credit for.  This class requires students to fill out the application for an SAE grant in the fall, the application for a proficiency in the spring and over the summer you get to have an SAE visit with either Mrs. Fry or Mr. Swineford.  

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Week 14 Student Teaching

Week 14 ...... I can't believe I just finished my 14th week of student teaching and now I am planning and getting ready to complete my very last week of student teaching.  I am full of excitement to be dome and move on to the next part of my journey but I also am saddened that I have leave.  I feel like just yesterday I was teaching my first class and now I have blinked and am right in front of the finish line; this is crazy!  Even though I have been at this for 14 weeks, I am far from an expert in anything yet and this last week was still packed full of learning moments.
We picked one of the windiest days of the spring to do Adopt-A-Highway 
Maple Syrup!
My Ag Foundations class started this project way back at the beginning of the plant science unit and this week we finally were able to see it come full circle.  I had never even tapped a tree before student teaching let alone boil the sap to make syrup but now I can say I have done it all!  We ended up having to pull our taps a few weeks ago simply because our trees were giving so much sap that we ran out of containers to store it all in.  We ended up with around 65 gallons of sap when we pulled our last tap, which is more than Mrs. Fry has had so far! 
One bucket down, many more to go! 
We started our boiling process on Monday and finally on Friday we finished up the process and ended up with a little over a gallon of syrup.  The students were part of the process the whole time.  They singed up in shifts to come down and stir the sap and keep an eye on it.  They also strained the sap before we boiled it just in case we had any bark pieces in the sap.  Each day they would come in  and ask if we had syrup yet right after they commented on how the shopped smelled of this odd sweet smell.  Now after all those weeks of collecting and all those hours of boiling, they will finally get to taste the syrup!  This was a learning experience for both students and Miss. Fisher.  I can't wait to try this out in my own classroom someday!
All that boiling gave the students a great maple syrup facial. 
Sparks Fly!
I have finally started to teach welding!  This was the unit I was the most excited and afraid to teach all at the same time.  I have not welded much prior to student teaching so I knew that I wasn't the best welder but I love to weld.  After the first day I learned how to strike an arc, I have been hooked!  This is why I was so excited to teach it to my freshman class.  I remembered being in their exact shoes, nervous that I would do something wrong but extremely excited once I ran that first, ugly bead across the steel.  However, I was still slightly afraid simply because I had never taught anyone to weld before.  I was afraid that I wouldn't explain it right, or that I would forget to tell them something important and finally that I wouldn't be able to help them since I had only done it a few times before.
Best way to practice welding is by welding; let's burn some rod!  
Turns out I didn't need to worry about any of that.  I made sure to make myself a list of steps and notes that I had to go over and broke the process down into several small steps at a time.  I was able to talk them through the process just fine and not only were they all able to strike and arc but it looks like most of them are going to have some really nice beads to turn in at the end.  We will continue to welding this upcoming week as well as learn how to set up and shut down the oxy-acetylene tanks.  I was terrified in the beginning of this all when I found out I had to teach shop classes since I never had them in high school but now I know that I LOVE teaching Ag Mechanics and shop classes!
Disclaimer: Helmets were worn at all times during photo shoot!  No student teachers were harmed in the capturing of these photos :) 
This week is going to be the hardest week of student teaching hands down because with every passing day, I will know that it is ending.  I know that I have to move on and find my perfect fit but I am dreading Friday afternoon when I have to leave them all; the students, the staff, and my cooperating teachers.  I am going to take in every second of this week, laugh the hardest, and when it's all done cry the hardest!  Here's to you Selinsgrove Ag Department, let's make my last week the best one yet!!  

Interview Practice!

I was able to get in some interview practice with the Administrators at Selinsgrove High School.  Both the principal, Mr. Parise and Assistant principal Mr. Roman conducted my interview prior to school beginning a few weeks ago.  Overall, the interview went great and I was able to walk away with a lot of great tips and pointers for next time.

1. Mr. Parise and Mr. Roman have a go to list of questions that they use for preliminary interviews and I was asked those same questions.
  • First off, tell us a little about yourself and why you were drawn to teach this subject?  
  • Can you tell us your policy on cell phones in your classroom?  
  • How would you incorporate technology into your instruction?  
  • What experiences have you had to help you become the teacher that you are today?  
  • What do you believe to be your strongest characteristic while teaching?  
  • What do you believe is your weakest characteristic while teacher or where you need the most improvement?
  • What would you do the curriculum and your lessons to modify them for all types learners?
  • What would a hybrid class look like for an agriculture class?  
  • Talk about the types of assessments that you implement in your lessons?

2. I do feel that I was well prepared for these specific questions.  I feel that these were questions that I could pull from my experiences to answer.  The only question that I was not sure how to answer was the one about the hybrid class.  I was not sure what they were calling a hybrid class so I first had to get some clarification on exactly what they see a hybrid class as.  

3. A lot of the questions I had for my administrators were about how I did during the interview which we talked about after the "formal" part was done.  However, during the interview I only asked two questions:
  • What is the biggest characteristic you look for in a great candidate?  
  • If a candidate brings a portfolio to the interview, is there a better chance of them to get the position?  
4. I was impressed in how calm I kept myself during the interview as well as how well I answered the questions.  I though that the interview would be much harder and intimidating however, it was very relaxed and it was like we were just having a conversation about teaching.  

5. I don't know that there was anything that didn't impress me about the interview process.  We did do it kind of spur of the moment so I didn't have everything with me for the interview such as my portfolio or copy of my resume so I wish that I myself was more prepared for the process. 

6.  I think that my weakest aspect of an interview is when I have the opportunity to ask questions.  I never really have any that I want to ask in the moment; I always think of them like an hour later.  I need to get a list of good questions that I could use at any school but I also need to find some that are specific to the school I am applying to.  I also think that I could use some work on the vocabulary and buzz words of the teaching world.  For example, I wasn't 100% sure what a hybrid class was during this interview.  I need to make sure exactly what the difference is between flipped, hybrid, homebound as well as many others.  

Professional Development Time!

As teachers, our duty is to deliver content and knowledge to our students and help them to become
life long leaners!  This means that they are always looking for new things to learn or new ways to develop new skills.  Well not only do we strive to have students who at life long learners but we also strive to do just that; continuously learning!  We do this through professional development events and finding opportunities to expand our knowledge pool.  I am not 100% sure how this works for other teachers within the school but I know for a fact that there are endless opportunities provided to the Agriculture Teachers here in Pennsylvania to grow as educators and develop new skills.

One of those opportunities was during the State Legislative Leadership Conference in Harrisburg.  This conference is held for FFA members to learn more about the legislative process and how a bill becomes a law.  The students have a packed full weekend of workshops and caucus meetings.  Meanwhile, the Ag teachers and FFA Advisors who bring the students to the conference also have a packed full weekend, filled with professional develop opportunities.

Soybean Fun!
This workshop was sponsored and presented by the  Pennsylvania Soybean Board.  During this time, I was able to learn about where the majority of the soybeans are produced in our state and that the Northern part of the state is beginning to stride in production.  However, most of the farmers in the Northern Region are new to soybean production and the Board is working to provide these farmers with assistance and information to help increase not only their yields but also their knowledge bank.

We also talked through the life cycle of a soybean plant and the major nutrients that these plants
require.  The number one use for soybeans in our state is for livestock feed, specifically dairy cattle feed and is a driving source for dairy farmers in our state.  While learning all of these great information about soybeans, we also completed a lab that could easily be done in a classroom.  We created candles from the wax that we get from soybeans.  You could also have students create their own soy crayons with the lab just by adding dyes to the wax.  This would be great to implement into a Biotechnology class, plant science class or a Foundations class.  Each of the teachers who attended, received a bag at the end filled with the supplied needed to complete the lab on their own as well as many other lesson and lab ideas that help to promote the importance of soybeans!

Proficiencies as Far as the Eye Can See!
I was also able to help judge and score the Proficiency applications that FFA members across the state submitted, hopeful to advance to the state level.  These proficiencies are available for any member who has complete one full year of a keeping detailed records for the Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) and is a way for those students to be recognized for their hard work.  It was really interesting to look over these applications and see the unique projects that students across the state are engaged in.  It also was really helpful to look over the rubric and to see exactly what is looked for on these applications.

All Good Things Must Come To An End!

I've been sitting here the past two days working on wrapping up my assignments and getting ready to head back to Penn State to be with m...