For most every Ag teacher you come out of college proficient in one area of agriculture. For me it was Forestry/Plant Science and for Alicia (our fearless leader) it was Animal/Dairy Science. So when Alicia was called on to teach an Intro to Ag Mechanics class, panic set it. I'm handy with a wrench but being a Star Greenhand my senior year of high school didn't give me a good depth of knowledge with metals or welding. So, with the help of her co-Ag teacher, Alicia's mantra became "One day smarter than the students."
It is easy to slide into a state of paralysis because you don't know where to start. After school, Alicia dedicated time to educating herself on the lesson for the next day. That included time in the welding booth, chipping, breaking, and starting again. When a student would ask a question she didn't know the answer to she replied, "We'll cover that tomorrow", without missing a beat. She made sure she wrote the question down so she was sure to locate the answer that afternoon. Did they know what was up? I'm sure some did, but others just thought it was part of the lesson. Often you'll have a few students blurt out the answer anyway, but you can still take the time to research the answer more thoroughly because taking the word of a teenager as gospel is a stretch.
YouTube is great, but does not replace getting in the shop and doing the work yourself. How can you expect to manage student work when you don't know what they were doing wrong because you've never experienced it for yourself? Put in the time for yourself and for the education of your students regardless of the subject. Every town has a few welders or at least those who can weld. Find out from them who in town would be to best teacher to teach you. The same goes for small engines, metal working, woodworking, and home construction trades. Drive down most streets in your town and I guarantee many of the husbands have some Ag mechanics equipment in their garage that they pull out from time to time. Lean on these resources so that your students have these same skills for life. You may even convince one or two to come in a be a guest speaker in the shop. Anything is better than lecture in an Ag class. Students get enough of that in the 4 core subjects. Agriculture is learning by doing, failing, and then doing it again. There is no replacement for that.
The final step is to begin. It's just as hard as jumping into a cold pool. Nobody wants to, but you do warm up after a few minutes. The same is true with teaching in unfamiliar territory, just dive in. Your lesson won't be polished and you are certain to have hiccups. Keep your mind focused on what you want to accomplish and don't worry with the details that don't work out or you forget about. Make notes as you go and you'll better prepare next time. The important thing to remember is that you have students who learn through doing and not through listening to lecture or reading PowerPoint slides. They need to try, fail, and learn as a teenager that they aren't as smart as they think they are. Then, you need to be there to teach them how to stand back up and try again. The more they can do that, the better. They will also find out that they developed new skills and there's a certain amount of pride that goes with learning.
These moments are when you find out who you really are. You'll discover how you learn skills and organize tasks, but you have to become the teacher you want to be by putting in the hours and knowing the work you put in today will make your job so much easier down the road. If you need some more inspiration then take a look at Ag Mechanics Is More Than Just Power Tools for another great Ag mechanics idea. We also create curriculum for teaching Ag Mechanics. Take a moment to see how our lessons and activities can reduce some of your stress.
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