Sunday, August 9, 2009

Memories of the County Fair...

As I sit on the couch, bored, and Facebook-stalking, it is pretty much impossible to avoid all the talk of county fairs that are going on. Already I have been notified that a pen of lambs bred by the Sanilac FFA were Grand Champion Lightweight Pen at the Eastern Michigan Fair! While that news, along with friends winning multiple species and sweepstakes competitions, is exciting, I'm also forced to recognize the fact that this year will be the first in over a decade that I will not be in attendance for the Sanilac County 4-H Fair.

Sad moment. Okay, I'm better.

Even though I must be in West Lafayette this week instead of at the county fair, it does give me cause to look back over the wonderful memories I've made as a 4-H member. Highlights include (but are not limited to!):
  • 3-time Grand Champion Swine Showman
  • Winning Junior, Intermediate, and Senior Swine Showman
  • Winning Intermediate Sheep Showman
  • Grand Champion Pen of Hogs
  • multiple Grand and Reserve Champion Homebred Hogs
  • two-year 4-H court member
  • Champion Sweepstakes Showman
  • Winning Junior, Intermediate, and Senior Sweepstakes Showman, and
  • member of the GREAT Flynn Hustlers 4-H Club
Above all of this, I have to say that some of my greatest memories involved the people I've met and the fun times I've had just hanging out at the fairgrounds. Whether it was serving ice cream in the Flynn Hustlers Ice Cream Barn, manning the Sanilac FFA Life's Greatest Miracle tent, or getting plastered in mud while cheering on friends during the Demolition Derby--fair has always been a highlight of my summer! On top of all that, who wouldn't want to forget fair "romances", puking after those horrible carnival rides, and that one day of the week when it ALWAYS downpours and makes the parking lot a big muddy mess?!

We are in an age where American agriculture and rural life is under constant fire and criticism. It's good to know that, in Michigan, we still have examples like the county fair to put both of those things on a pedastal of greatness. I, for one, can think of very few places I'd rather be on a hot, sticky summer day than in the barn feeding pigs and shearing lambs. After a show, I once heard someone refer to it as "heaven on Earth".

I think he's right.

Not only is fair a wonderful place, but it is a location where youth learning is going on like nobody's business. Whether you are using your head, heart, hands and health or you are learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live or living to serve, youth are putting their brains and their skills to good use creating projects that will benefit them for a lifetime. It's not only a swine project or crocheting. It's developing abilities and practicing dedication and putting responsibility to the test. Life skills. That is the reason for 4-H, FFA, and the county fair.

Good luck to everyone heading into their county fairs and congratulations to everyone who has already accomplished great things! Cherish your moments on those hot, dusty fairgrounds where the smell of livestock is always thick in the air (fresh air, remember!). Those days will be gone before you know it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Oh, the withdrawals!!

The last few days, I've been in that mood. Yes, I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about. The mood where all you can do is wish to be there. When all you want to do is watch or listen to something that reminds you of being there. Yeah, you've got it.

I've been stuck in a Walt Disney World kind of mood.

Now, I don't know about anyone else, but as a child I was spoiled by parents that--due to some very convenient family connections--took me to Disney World every summer (that's the one in Florida, for you non-Disney World know-it-all's). After getting older, however, and making my summer's busier and busier I've unfortunately had to stray from my annual trip. After 11 visits, though, too much time away starts leading to withdrawals. It has been three years since I've been to the park and I'm not sure I can last much longer....I was almost there in January, but alas, no luck. The only thing we could squeeze in this year was tea at the Grand Floridian Resort, shopping at Disney Village (oops, I mean Downtown Disney!) and a ride on the close!

In honor of my withdrawals, however, I have been listening to a Disney parks podcast--Netcot (Internet Community of Tomorrow--like Epcot!)--and learning a bunch of new things about the parks including, but not limited to: best restaurants, best places to cool off, best places to propose, best places to break up, and best places to make-out. Yes, those last two are for serious.

Additionally, in my wallowing because of separation from the great mouse, I have realized that I hardcore need to expand my Disney movie collection because it is pathetic. While at one time I had a large majority of the animated classics on VHS, they have since gone and now I need to do a repop with DVDs. For anyone wishing to help me out (Ebay has a great selection!), here is the list of the ones I want in order of how badly I would like them:

1. Aladdin
1. Beauty and the Beast
1. The Lion King
2. Pocahontas**
3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
4. Toy Story
5. Mulan
6. The Little Mermaid
7. Tarzan
8. Oliver and Company
9. A Goofy Movie
10 and down (these are in no order, I just want them eventually!)
-The Great Mouse Detective
-A Bug's Life
-Finding Nemo
-Toy Story 2
-The Fox and the Hound
-The Rescuers
-The Rescuers Down Under
-Pete's Dragon
-Robin Hood
-The Aristocats
-The Jungle Book
-Mary Poppins
-The Sword and the Stone
-101 Dalmations
-Sleeping Beauty
-Lady and the Tramp
-Peter Pan
-Alice in Wonderland
-Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
-any of the Disney Sing Along Songs videos (yes, I'm not kidding)
-The Incredibles

You may have noticed that I left the majority of the live action ones from the 60s out, but since I only liked a few of them (i.e. Pollyanna and the Parent Trap) I decided to omit them until I obtain the rest of this list :) You also may have noticed that The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast are all number one. Yes. I want them that bad. For those really paying attention, you might have even noticed that I left off Hercules and the Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 2, & 3. Good eye! I already have them. :)

If you think I forgot any others--let me know! Other than that, though, I think I've rambled enough for one day. Later gators!

**I got it!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Let's Fiesta!

Well, I have finally returned from what was another AWESOME show put on by the National Junior Swine Association! The 2009 National Junior Summer Spectacular was held in Louisville, Kentucky this past week and was a total success and ton of fun!!

This year's theme was Let's Fiesta and, let me just say, those NJSA members know how to party--fiesta style! The week started out on Monday with an extremely warm day of unloading practically our entire office at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center (aka the Kentucky State Fairgrounds!) and decorating the West Hall. We had pinatas, mariachi men, glittery letters, lights, and maracas--oh yeah, we were there to have a good time!

On Tuesday, we finished decorating/setting up and began the tedious task of checking in and registering over 750 gilts and over 600 kids (record numbers!). Also on Tuesday was the MVP (Mentoring Values People) ice cream social and party. This year we had over 170 protege's and over 70 mentors! It was a great opportunity for some of the older NJSA members to form friendships and connections with the new and younger members. Let me just say, it is pretty awesome and fun to watch what a great time the kids had with their mentors throughout the week!

Wednesday concluded our registration and check-in and began the real exciting stuff :) That morning, we held the skillathon competition where kids ages 3-21 rotated through stations testing their knowledge of the swine industry--anything from identifying breeds and equipment to selecting boars to use in a mating scenario. While we had a couple of hang-ups (the junior and senior competitions took forever as a lot of the kids would surely tell you!), the competition was great and the members, I'm sure, learned a lot. Also that morning, entries in both the photo contest and poster contest were judged by members of the Seedstock EDGE magazine staff and other members of the livestock publication sector, and boy were they impressed by what they found! NJSA members sure rock when it comes to creativity! Later that afternoon, we started the preliminary rounds of showmanship. Judges Andy Rash and Brian Arnold did an awesome job making the cuts in each age division to their top ten, mentioning a number of times that it was one of the hardest competitions they've ever judged and praising the skill level of NJSA members!

On Thursday morning showmanship concluded with the announcement of the 2009 winners in the Novice, Junior, Intermediate and Senior divisions. Congratulations to Jenna Wheeler (N), Skylar Knapp (J), Jackson Johnson (I), and Lynsee Shaffer (S) on your accomplishments!! After that, we started right into the gilt show, where our members showed off their amazing Duroc, Landrace, Hampshire, and Yorkshire gilts. After a long afternoon of exhibition, the results were:

Champion Duroc: Spencer Malcolm, IN
Champion Landrace: Kallie Brattain, IN
Champion Yorkshire: Austin Denhart, IN
Champion Hampshire: Daniel Newnum, IN

Congratulations to these individuals for their breed champions and an additional congrats go to Austin Denhart and Daniel Newnum for their Champion and Reserve Champion overall gilts (respectively)! I can't express how impressed I am by all of these kids for their ability to dedicate the time and effort that goes into raising hogs that exhibit the best our species has to offer. Their committment to the purebred swine industry and to the betterment of themselves is definitely something to be commended!

Friday was a day of competition and awards for this year's NJSA members. In the morning, the prepared and extemporaneous public speaking contests were held. Speakers covered topics ranging from the National Animal Identification System to animal welfare and the importance of purebred hogs in a breeding system. That afternoon, the judging contest was held. Participants judged 6 classes of Landrace, Duroc, Hampshire and Yorkshire gilts and then answered questions and/or delivered sets of oral reasons to justify their placings. For some, it was their first judging contest; for others, they were professionals--either way it was an awesome event for everyone to hone their skills at selecting and evaluating swine. Later that evening, NJSA held their Annual Meeting and Pizza Party. There was a full agenda for sure! Congratulations to Mr. Lee Denzer, Livestock Judging coach at Black Hawk Junior College, this year's winner of the NJSA Distinguished Service Award! Awards for each of the week's contest were also distributed; the winner's were:

Photography: Faith Dresbach (General Ag, People and Swine), Owen Rozeboom (Humor)
Poster Contest: Ryan Michael (Breed/Assoc. Promotion), Keri Landry (Membership Recruitment)
Skillathon: Justin Sands
Livestock Judging: Micah Malcolm (Team: The Nacho Libres)

Photography: Skylar Knapp (People, Swine, and Best in Show), Yimmi Fontenot (Humor), Carli Fontenot (General Ag)
Poster Contest: Ashley Nobles (Breed/Assoc. Promotion), Connor Bowlin (Membership Recruitment)
Skillathon: Mindy Cook
Livestock Judging: Adrian Austin (Team: CCCM)
Speech: Lacy Barrett

Photography: Kinsea Hanni (General Ag), Clayton Stephens (Humor), Jessica Dresbach (People), Brock Rule (Swine)
Poster Contest: Gus Mitchem (Breed/Assoc. Promotion), Holly Hathcock (Membership Recruitment)
Skillathon: Kassandra Knauth
Livestock Judging: Kane Austin (Team: Senorita and 3 Amigos)
Speech: Caitlin Walton

Photography: Matt Bradshaw (General Ag), Kayla Overstake (Humor), Nathan Joostberns (Swine), Troy Walker (People)
Poster Contest: Kayla Overstake (Breed/Assoc. Promotion), Courtney Smith (Membership Recruitment)
Skillathon: Tyler Loschen
Livestock Judging: Lysee Shaffer (Team: Team 9)
Extemporaneous Speaking: Clay Zwilling

State Display Contest:
Cleanest and Best Theme: Michigan
Most Creative: Louisiana
Most Educational and Best Overall: Ohio

During the annual meeting, NJSA also turned over leadership as they retired members of the 2008-2009 Junior Board of Directors and installed new members to the 2009-2010 Junior Board. A huge thank-you goes to Kayla Wood, Hyatt Frobose, A.J. Lanier, Bryant Boyer, and Garrett Hamby for your term of service! Congratulations are in order for both the new members of the Board--Bailey Albright (Central Region Director), Alicia Keller and Hallie Frobose (Eastern Region Directors), Rebecca Bailey (Western Region Director), and Miles Toenyes (At-Large Director)--as well as returning members Lynsee Shaffer (President/Central Region Director), Jordan Brockhaus (Vice President/Southwest Region Director), Charlie Hensy (Secretary/At-Large Director), and Ryan Hoelscher (Southwest Director). It's been a great year and I'm sure the next one will be even better!

Saturday concluded the Summer Spectacular, starting with an inspirational message from Ray Perryman with Short Round Ministries. I have never heard him speak before and it was awesome to hear his message and sing along with a variety of inspirational songs. We rounded out our awards by honoring the 2009 NJSA Herdsman of the Year to Miss Valerie Nelson of Indiana for her selfless service to the organization and awarded the winners of both the Summer Spectacular sweepstakes competition and the All-Around Sweepstakes Circuit that has been occuring throughout this year's shows. Congratulations to the following individuals:

NJSS Sweepstakes:
Novice: Jenna Wheeler, Illinois
Junior: Adrian Austin, Illinois
Intermediate: Kane Austin, Illinois
Senior: Lynsee Shaffer, Indiana

All-Around Sweepstakes Circuit
Novice: Dalaney Vickrey
Junior: Maddie Fugate, Illinois
Intermediate: Heather Storer
Senior: Troy Walker, Indiana

I know this is an extremely long posting, but I really think the kids that are members of NJSA are doing amazing things and deserve recognition for all of their accomplishments. Complete results of the gilt show and top ten contestants in each contest can be found in detail at the NJSA Show Results page. Pictures will also be coming soon so make sure to keep checking in!

This show is the largest youth livestock event in the country and would not be possible without the help of some very special people. Thank you to all of our sponsors for their generous support and to all of our volunteers and judges for their never-ending help! Without the assistance we receive from these individuals and businesses, NJSA could never have reached the outstanding level at which it currently stands.

So, with that, I'm back in West Lafayette, relaxing for the next couple of days before going back to work on Tuesday (yay for Monday off!). I cannot possibly explain how much I have enjoyed this internship and how much I look forward to the next month and a half I have left with the National Swine Registry. A little rest and relaxation and I'll be ready to jump right back in!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Supporters and Role Models--Thank 'em!!

This past weekend, the Michigan FFA Association lost a very important and influential person from its family. Mr. Rich Karelse, who served as the Michigan FFA State Advisor from 1972 until 1997, passed away Saturday after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He will surely be missed by all of those teachers, faculty, state officers, FFA members, industry representatives, etc. that had the pleasure to work with him during their experiences with the Michigan FFA Association.

Mr. Karelse's passing has sparked many thoughts within me the past few days about the value of role models and supporters in our lives. Throughout my involvement in numerous activities, I have been blessed to be surrounded by individuals that have been there every step of the way--ultimately molding me into the person that I am today. Whether that was my parents, siblings, coaches, teachers or friends, my support circle is a huge reason that I have accomplished all of the things I have.

Who is your role model or supporter? Is it your parents that have offered advice when you didn't know what to do? Perhaps it is an older peer that has shown you the ropes of a new activity or in a new place. Who knows? It could be the group of friends you hang out with day in and day out and drive you crazy, but who you know you could never live a day without. Have you thanked them for all they do? Are they aware of the impact they've had on your life and successes?

I often wonder if people like Mr. Karelse know all the people they've touched. In most cases, probably not. I'll admit it, I don't say thank you to all my teachers, friends, coaches, etc. for everything they do. Frequently we take that selfless assistance for granted, never voicing our appreciation for their countless hours of advice-giving, driving, cheering, praying and so much more that some of us will never know. While it may not be possible to thank them all, with this blog I would like to take a second to thank all of the people that have supported me. I encourage you to do the same!

In a few days I will be heading to Louisville, Kentucky for this year's National Junior Summer Spectacular show. We are expecting record breaking numbers, having over 650 youth and 1100 gilts registered for the NJSA's largest event! This event not only brings together kids to show pigs, but also encourages the growth of youth as role models and supporters for each other. Many older members will act as mentors to their"protege's"in the MVP (Mentoring Values People) program, showing them the ropes of an NJSA show and becoming friends--because who didn't want to be friends with a cool older kid when you were little?! It's always great to see programs like this foster relationships that could last a lifetime.

With that, I'm out until next time!

P.S. Thank your supporters! :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I Believe in the Future of Agriculture

I was at Applebee's in West Lafayette, Indiana this evening for dinner and was pleasantly surprised to see a crowd of blue corduroy-clad FFA members loading into a short bus (not unlike my home chapter's!) on their way out. That's right, the Indiana FFA State Convention is in full swing at Purdue University this week! Although I really have nothing to do with Indiana FFA or their convention, it was nice to see the familiar jackets flooding the local businesses with their presence.

That presence always brings back waves of memories for me and thoughts of the distance I've travelled in my (sniff...) almost year since the conclusion of my term as a state officer and, in the fall, year since becoming an FFA alumnus. Everything seems so long ago and, at the same time, just yesterday. As a member, I always strived to accomplish great things and make a difference. That hasn't changed, but for a long time I thought the only way to do so was through the organization. I've come to realize though that that is not the case at all.

This summer I'm on my internship with the National Junior Swine Association and I absolutely love it. While I will still continue on my path to becoming an agriscience teacher, sometimes I wonder if that's where I'll end up. I value ag education and the FFA like no other. However, this summer I'm seeing that the opportunity to help youth develop personally and professionally exists through a number of different avenues and all of them are valuable. I am seeing people that I grew up with and people I just met trying to better themselves by running for Junior Board positions with the NJSA. I just talked to a dad today who, when asked whether his daughter would be participating in the speech contest at our next show, said, "This is our first time at this show, but yes she will. I think it will be good for her." My eyes are really opening to the world of possibilities that lies before me and I am definitely keeping my options open.

Even as I am experiencing new things, so are the people that were on my state officer team--something I was reminded of when those blue jackets invaded the Applebee's. My state president is running for National FFA Office for the second time; it is a feat that I can do nothing but give her credit for, knowing the heartache that came following the hard work of running the first time. My Region I State Vice President is running for an NJSA Junior Board position and is working for Michigan Agricultural Commodities. My State Treasurer is working for the State Park system and loving it. My State Sentinel is back at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the second summer finishing a Poultry Science program. The rest of my team has found summer and full-time interests as well, and it is so interesting to watch everyone grow up. Who knows where we'll be in 5, 10, 20 years? No matter what, it never ceases to amaze me the connection we all have and to know it all began with a little (well, actually kind of big!) organization revolving around a group of people who "believe in the future of agriculture".

It's good to know, though, that we can take what we learned in the FFA and do good elsewhere. A great movie once said, "Don't you mean, do well?"

And like the movie replied, I also say, "No. I mean do good."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And they said, "It went well"....

After any event, it's good to say that things went well. After last week's World Pork Expo, it's even greater to say that--especially after everything the pork industry is going through, regarding the H1N1 virus, low pork prices, and a suffering export market.

The week began with the World Pork Expo Junior National show. Youth ages 2-21 participated in the event, showing their crossbred and purebred market barrows and breeding gilts and competing in showmanship and livestock judging. They represented all the major breeds including Berkshires, Chester White, Duroc, Hampshires, Landrace, Poland China, Spotted, and Yorkshires. Junior entries and the number of pigs were both up, having 500 youth exhibit 1404 pigs. The results show just how amazing youth in the swine industry are!

While the open show didn't have quite the record numbers, the show still went well and the sale went even better. The sale grossed $31,000 more than last year and the top selling boar (the grand champion Duroc) sold for $60,000--twice as much as the highest selling animal last year!

The number of foreign visitors did appear to be down (most likely due to a variety of country bans on U.S. pork), but there were those who visited to cover the event. Jane Wells and the crew from CNBC made the journey and did some great pieces on America's pork producers and our youth showmen.

So now, we're back to the office, getting ready for the National Junior Summer Spectacular in three weeks. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Swine shows...keeping safety a priority!

Last week, I began my internship with the National Junior Swine Association (the youth-oriented division of the National Swine Registry) at one of the busiest/craziest times of the year. Not only is the office in full "get ready" mode for the World Pork Expo which will be held next week in Des Moines, IA, but the Magazine Department is working to put the finishing touches on the next issues of both Seedstock EDGE (the NSR magazine) and The Pinnacle (the NJSA magazine) AND the office is dealing with the most recent ramifications of the H1N1 virus (inappropriately labeled by the media as the "swine flu").

On this last point, it has been extremely interesting to see how a disease issue can affect all aspects of the swine industry and, in actuality, it is the second summer in a row that I have gotten to assist in covering all of our bases when it comes to swine shows. Last summer, Michigan experienced four cases of pseudorabies in hogs on hunting preserves. In that case, jackpot shows in the area were cancelled, blood tests were done, and county fair sales became terminal. Now, at NSR, the same issues are arising--only on a much bigger level.

I must prelude this by saying how proud and confident consumers should be with the pork industry in all of the steps they've taken to provide the United States with a safe food supply. Even before H1N1, biosecurity measures are taken on farms all across the country to ensure that no disease enters or leaves our farming operations. Shower-in/shower-out facilities, biosecure boots for visitors, and quarantine time for people between visits to different farms are just the beginning of the steps farmers take to protect their herds and the American people.

While there was fear that the World Pork Expo shows would be cancelled due to the worry surrounding H1N1, the show indeed will go on and, between the NSR and the National Pork Board, no rock has been left unturned when it comes to making plans regarding the show. No exhibitor or hog will enter that has exhibited flu-like symptoms (even if it is the normal flu and not H1N1), show veterinarians will be on hand and in contact with show officials at all times, and in the event that there is any problem, it will be dealt with immediately by persons who specialize in swine management and care. In short, you--as a consumer--are safe...and so is your pig :)

On a lighter note, it looks like the World Pork Expo is going to be a great show for all involved--especially the junior members! There are over 500 kids, aged 3-21, exhibiting 1404 hogs. NJSA members will participate in showmanship, the gilt show, a crossbred and purebred barrow show, and a judging contest. They will work to earn prizes, money, and great experiences! I am so excited to be working for NJSA and look forward to a wonderful summer of more shows, more experiences, and more fun!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Busy, Busy...Dizzy!

Oh my goodness, is it really April?! Again, we're heading into one of those months where craziness is never lacking...

For the past two weeks and for the upcoming two, I have managed to add one more thing to my plate by joining the NAMA (National Agri-Marketing Association) presentation team which competes in Atlanta two weeks from today (eek!). We are marketing a dairy product that makes removing hoof wraps easy as pie and, let me just say, it is pretty awesome! Still, this new committment means daily 2 hour practices running through our presentation and making our PowerPoint perfect. Then, there's practice presentations to Michigan Farm Bureau and GreenStone Farm Credit Services...all this week :) Don't get me wrong, I'm totally pumped for the team (and going to Atlanta!!) but I've definitely got to stay on my toes!

In the next few weeks, I'm going to be working on putting together my class schedule for next year. Good news--probably only 16 credits per semester! I have decided, though, to stay at MSU for the next two years, try to to make the judging team, and finish my coursework without stressing out too much. Sorry to all of you out west who thought I might be joining you in the sunshine!

Speaking of judging team, I additionally just got word today that practices for a trip to Utah will begin next week. So, now every Thursday afternoon plus a couple Saturdays for the next month will consist of being in the barns looking at cows and working on honing my somewhat rusty oral reasons skills. Nothing like more activities on the calendar!

After NAMA national convention (as in THE DAY I get back), Block and Bridle will be holding their annual livestock judging contest at MSU's Livestock Pavilion--an event that I'm co-chairing! If you want to help or have a team, give me a holler! The contest will be Sunday, April 19th and will start at 10:00am (registration at 9:00am). Everyone else, feel free to come and watch :)

To back all of that up, I have 18 credits worth of classes, work, Collegiate FFA, and a boyfriend to keep me busy. But, then again, who doesn't?

Hope everyone's April is off to as good of a start as mine...over and out!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New suggestions....

While at the State FFA Convention, I was surprised to run into an alumni of the Sanilac FFA, Nathan Clark. Nathan is now an ag teacher in Colorado and was back for his 10-year state officer team reunion. While we chatted for a little bit, we got talking about possibilities for transferring to another school to finish my degree. I have long been unhappy with Michigan State's Agriscience Education program. When you look at the curriculum in comparison to other high caliber agriculture schools, it is significantly lacking. Not only that, this past year the major got a title change from Agriscience Education to Environmental Studies and Agriscience (oh yeah, with a concentration in Education). Overall, it's really disappointing to see MSU have such little faith and support in preparing Agriscience teachers in this state.

When I was talking to Nathan, he described how, when he did his degree here, he only completed a degree in Agriscience (no education focus). From there, he transferred to the University of Arizona into the Agricultural Education master's program, took a few courses, did his student teaching there, and got a job. He felt that it was a much better way to accomplish Ag Ed certification and that it was more beneficial than the teaching program at MSU. He suggested that I look into doing the same thing at Arizona or at Colorado State, where he is currently helping a lot with the ag teacher prep program.

At this point in time, I'm so far into my studies that I--at the very least--will finish my degrees in Agriscience (I'm grandfathered in so I don't have to have the new stupid title) and Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications. Still, what Nathan proposes is definitely something to look into. I'm scared, though, to all of a sudden jump ship from the track I've been on. Part of me says, finish the few classes, do your student teaching here and get it over. However, I feel I'd be better prepared and have a better student teaching experience if I ventured out west. I don't know...... :(

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sadly misinformed...

A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first class for TE (Teacher Education) 302: Learners and Learning in Contexts. From what we've done so far and talked about, it looks like most of the content material will surround teaching and working in urban school settings. However, it appears that my instructor has been poorly informed about teaching routes that are non-academic based (i.e. what have traditionally been deemed as "vocational" or "experiential" courses such as Agriscience). Due to some comments made, I would like to take this time to clear things up for him and any others in the education world who may be slightly confused.

Bone of Contention: "You'll never get a job in that."

It was this comment that was the response to my saying that my teaching major was Agriscience. Besides the fact that, in my opinion, as an instructor and motivator of teachers this sentence should never have been uttered, it is also categorically wrong.

This past fall, the state of Michigan had over five agriscience teacher postings--Whittemore-Prescott, Springport, and North Huron amongst them--and only three first year Agriscience teachers emerging from a year of student teaching. If you and I do the math, I think that equates to more positions than teachers (i.e. everyone gets a job!).

Across the country, there is a shortage of qualified Agriscience teachers to fill the posted positions. In a study conducted through Michigan State University Extension with the support of the American Association for Agricultural Education, Dr. Adam J. Kantrovich found that there has been a shortage of qualified Agriscience teachers for going on 40 years now. Indeed, the number of programs have decreased, but so have the number of qualified teachers to fill those positions. He predicted that for 2007 alone (the study was done in 2006), there were going to be a defecit of over 250 teachers nationwide (i.e. 652 positions, only 401 teachers available on the basis that 50% of graduates would not enter the teaching profession as has been a trend;

The National FFA Organization--the largest youth organization in the country and the chief leadership organization for agricultural education students--has recognized this dire need and, along with the National Council for Agricultural Education, has set out on a campaign entitled "10 by 15" in which they strive to create 10,000 quality agricultural education programs around the country by 2015. I encourage you to visit the 10X15 website for more information. While this may be a lofty goal, it shows the lengths that groups invested in ag ed are going to in order to ensure the longevity of our profession.

Should other struggles be noted? Absolutely. We are at a point in time right now where experiential learning is frowned upon because it is--supposedly--something that cannot be measured on a standardized test. Because of that, administrators are cutting programs to hire more math, general science, and English teachers (not that they're not important, of course). However, when we talk about ways to engage students, sitting them in desks and telling them to listen for 45 minutes just doesn't work for some people. "Vocational" learning is an alternative way to engage those kids--whether it's wood shop, auto shop, drafting, or ag. An ag teacher has the ability to teach biology, plant science, economics, communications, etc.--all important subjects on a standardized test--not just teach kids to run a farm. If that's what you're still thinking we do, think again.

Hence, in response to the comment made by my instructor: yes, I do believe I will get a job. I will get a job, I will work to engage students in creative ways that you can't even begin to imagine, I will provide youth with valuable leadership and life skills, and many of my students will continue to make possible what you so often take for granted. They'll provide you with the food, fuel and clothing you so desperately need. No offense, but can calculus do that for you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Frustrated :(

It amazes me sometimes how dumb people can be about their physical appearance.

For the past few months, someone very close to me has been trying to lose those famous "last couple of pounds". Over the summer, they lost almost 40 pounds and--honestly--look amazing. However, the last 10 pounds or so won't come off the way they want them to. This person has taken some steps towards exercising more regularly, but can't seem to avoid doing things that I can't believe are 100% healthy (but they're not 100% un-healthy either). About two months ago, they went to one of these health places to get a weight loss supplement. They also like to go eating as little as possible (not anorexic by any means, but seriously, is three small meals that hard?).

Now, for those of you who know me, I know I've never struggled with weight and I'm not trying to be all knowing about how hard it is to lose it. However, I can't believe that drugs and skipping meals is the way to go. It seems to me that the nutritionists and the like who profess exercise and a healthier diet really have the right idea. It seems that by skipping meals, you may be losing weight but you're also losing out on valuable nutrients that your body needs just to maintain functions. Who knows though? Maybe I'm just one of those people who wouldn't understand if I haven't walked in their shoes.

That doesn't change the immense frustration though, unfortunately.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Withdrawals from the happiest place on earth...

So, it's often amazing to me (and many others) that after 10 times at Disney World, I could still be so sad about not going this time around! While in Florida for the week, we were able to go to Disney Village (or Downtown Disney I guess it's called now) and had tea at the Grand Floridian Disney Resort. After tea we rode the monorail around the park--just for the fun of it--and it was so sad to go past the Magic Kingdom and not get to stop! I know, sad and pathetic. What can I say though? I'm a Disney child, born and bred :)