Newton, Inertia, and High School Students

June 28, 2016

Newton, Inertia, and High School Students

Whether you know it or not, you prove Newton's First Law of Motion every day. 

I've seen post after post in various places about teachers (not just Ag teachers) that had a rough week and weekend so they let the students watch a video, and I get it because everyone has to go back to work to catch up from the weekend on occasion.  The difference lies where this is an occasional event or more common occurrence than you realize. Now I'm not calling anyone out on their teaching ability because you have your own little red wagon to deal with. I'm talking about inertia.

You know as well as I do when bad habits start, it is nearly impossible to break students from them.  So what starts to happen over the course of a semester or school year is all that inertia of a class in motion completing tasks, working on projects, and just having a high energy environment starts to lose steam.  You get deep into the school year, interest wanes, and desire to complete super fun lessons fizzles.  Newton has struck again.

Remember inertia works in two circumstances.  An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion.  Now, replace the word "object" with "student" or "students".  It's easy to get that train going in the fall when school starts.  Everyone is pumped, filled with a ton of energy from all the possibilities the school year can bring so you get that train running as fast as you can.  If you don't, it will run you over and then come to a complete stop square on your back.  That goes for your class, your CDE teams, show teams, officer teams, and FFA Chapter.  However, there's no way on this Earth that you can be the sole source of energy that keeps this train moving. Just like I described in my Diversified Agriculture post, there remains an element of management you have to rely on where you will the students to keep the task moving, not you. 

You have to be the champion of each group or essentially be the cheerleader for them.  And by cheerleader I mean drill sergeant.  You have to be fired up enough to set everyone on fire around you.  Your students have to know why it is so important that they keep the group moving.  Plus you have be there when things start to falter and get them set back on the right course.  Because if you wait too long to act, then the whole train starts to slow down and it is so hard to get that train going again once you lose the momentum.

As with most Ag teachers I wanted a hand in every task.  That's why I didn't last long as an Ag teacher.  That will wear you to a frazzle.  You have to remember that your most valuable asset is seeing the big picture of where you want the chapter to go. If you are deep in the weeds on every issue, then you are less likely to be able to step back and see the big picture.  Instead, when people and events in the chapter start heading the wrong way, then you step in to provide guidance but the students, officers, and alumni committee should be there to share the load. 

Part of being a advisor (manager) is setting goals for the chapter and sticking to them.  These goals are used as a filter for your decisions.  A lot of great ideas have neutralized the goals of an FFA Chapter.  Why?  Because these great ideas were not part of where the chapter wanted to go and it starved the group of all the resources and energy needed to complete the goals. As a result, the chapter lost momentum and the whole thing lost it's drive.  As the chapter advisor, you have a finite amount of energy and resources at your disposal.  These resources (including you) can only be stretched so thin before things start breaking.  There will always be days where everyone needs a break because many times that break will actually keep the train running efficiently.  However, keep up your momentum and make sure the inertia for your chapter stays in motion.

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