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; http://aaaeonline.org/files/supplydemand07.pdf).

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?

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