Our June discussion topic challenged Community Groups to chew on ideas for supporting new agriscience teachers as they acclimate. Being a newcomer is tough enough. Add the pressure of high expectations and a tough new job gets even tougher.
But Michigan agriculture is pretty tight-knit, and our Farm Bureau family never fails to rally in support of its own. Launching, sustaining and/or improving the local agriscience program is a common priority among county Farm Bureaus, and the feedback we saw from you reflects that common priority.
It also exposed a closely related challenge: not having a program to support in the first place.
Michigan is mostly well-served with ag education programs—our 105 active FFA chapters have more than 7,900 members in rural, urban and suburban schools—but there are gaps.
Launching a new agriscience program where there is none can be daunting, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to pulling it off. It’s tempting to start at the top with the head honcho—the district superintendent—and if they’re sympathetic, you might win the game on that Hail Mary toss.
Better odds come from building a larger, supportive constituency of influential players like the high school principal, school board members, and teachers whose curricula dovetail nicely with agriscience. Even a strong team doesn’t guarantee a win, though; there are academic, financial and structural factors that still complicate the equation.
On the bright side, MSU is accelerating ag-educator recruitment with programs like the Michigan Teach Ag campaign (www.facebook.com/MITeachAg/), designed to promote the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Education degree program.
For more one-on-one coaching fit to your particular situation, contact MFB High School & Collegiate Specialist Katie Eisenberger (517-679-5444 or [email protected]) or Mark Forbush, the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Education Outreach Specialist at MSU ([email protected]).
Question #1: What barriers—and what opportunities—would your area pose for a first-year ag teacher inheriting your local agriscience program?
Question #2: What support does your county Farm Bureau provide to agriscience teachers? And do those efforts help the teacher pursue their vision for the program?
Question #3: How could your county Farm Bureau and its members help welcome a new ag teacher to the community, guiding them toward useful allies and away from potential pitfalls?
Question #4: How would you rally to support an ambitious new ag teacher if they ruffled feathers with new ideas outside the familiar routine of their predecessor?