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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



If I think back to all the jobs I have held over the years there is one that seemed to sneak up on me a bit, but one that I’m almost glad I’m not paid to do. For a number of years when I was driving truck I enjoyed listening to WHO radio on my route. One constant that wasn’t to be missed was when physic Suzie would stop by one of the shows on a regular basis. It always made me chuckle when I listened to her tell people they would raise more children than they would parent; made me chuckle until I finally figured out what that meant.

Over the years I’ve worked with youth in a number of places, at camp, at church and throughout my involvement with FFA and the Alumni Association. I’m not sure if many people realize just how dedicated the men and women who choose to be Ag Education instructors have to be? We all have teacher friends who make us crazy when they start to count down the end of each school year, looking forward to their “summer vacation” almost as much as the students. Now I’m not one to deny them that perk of their career choice, but for those who teach Agriculture and are FFA Advisors, their summer is spent working with kids and making a difference in the lives of young people.

Note that this columnist is going off on a tangent here---This may cause me some grief, mostly because I think that all these bi-weekly in-service breaks are only trying to prove the point that school needs to start in mid-July, but I’m completely opposed in any way to an early start to the school year. We need to look back at where this all started. Many years ago, before the students of today were born, school started after Labor Day, mostly because school had always started after Labor Day. Then schools were allowed to start before Labor Day but were warned not to interfere with the Iowa State Fair. Schools ignored this and started during the Fair, which at that time was held towards the end of August, so the State Fair moved to the beginning of August. What did schools do? Moved their start dates further ahead as well.

Somewhere along the way we got every other Wednesday in service or “Professional development days” and schools convinced us that they had to start so they lined up with colleges who were offering classes to high school students (which is a big fat lie if you look at their schedules). So then administrators told the state they needed to start early in case there were snow days because if they had to make them up, they wouldn’t want to go too far into June with classes. However, the sacred cow that the schools aren’t talking about is this week of spring break that suddenly appeared over the years. You never hear that week being offered up for either a late start to the year or a finish before June. This matter is currently being debated in the state legislature so if you have an opinion let your representative know where you stand.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, I’ve always said that good Ag Instructors, the ones who really make a difference in the lives of their students aren’t paid for most of the hours they put in. Long after most educators have gone home for the night, you can find your Ag teacher in the classroom helping students prepare for contest, or with record books, or projects, or helping a student who needs a little extra attention. They spend their weekends not laying on the couch watching television, but spend that time on the road taking students to contests and conferences and yet your rarely hear them complain.

It has been my honor the last few weeks to step into the role of educator one night a week as I helped three young people prepare for District FFA officer interviews. Although each one of these young people have come with different skills and talents, each one had things they needed to work on. I’ve watched them work over the last few weeks on skills from speaking in front of groups, to speaking from their personal experiences. I’ve learned as well, that you can’t teach confidence that is something you can only inspire. I’ve also learned that there is a fine line between inspiring and frustrating, and that either way that mostly comes from how much effort both parties are willing to put into it.

By the time you read this, I will have sent these young people off to interviews on their own. Like a Papa Wood Duck who kicks the ducklings out of the nest and watches as they swim away, it’s their time to take what they have learned and do the best they can with it. I’m not sure if any of them will make the ballot, but I am sure that each of those young people has the opportunity to be there. They have worked hard and polished the skills they will need and ballot or not, the will be better members for the work they have put forth. For me it is a better understanding of what educators deal with on a daily basis, from forming a lesson plan to trying to get students to catch what you are trying to teach them. I’m proud of these young people and wish them well, and for all those Ag teachers out there (and all those teachers period) who spend more time with students than they really get compensated for I thank you and you have earned my respect. See you next week….remember, we’re all in this together.