By: Charles Parker, California Department of Education, State FFA Advisor
In agricultural education we often hear that we are a family. I have always found solace in knowing I was part of this bigger group. But, recently I have begun to question if that is still true. When searching, I found that the purpose of families is to maintain the well-being of its members and of society. Ideally, families would offer predictability, structure, and safety as members mature and participate in the community.
Additionally, as the basic unit for meeting the basic needs of its members, family provides a sense of boundaries for performing tasks in a safe environment, ideally it builds a person into a functional adult, transmits culture, and ensures continuity of humankind with precedents of knowledge.
In February of 2020 I was excited about the opportunities for our students and this profession. With the legislature in strong support of CTE and the belief by many that Agricultural Education was the shining star, 2020 would be the year we attract the funding to do those things we all know make a difference to our students. Then everything changed. What began as a couple of weeks to flatten the curve of infections became a never-ending series of moving targets to get back to student leadership opportunities and competitions, not to mention the opportunity for the profession to join together to celebrate our success. Much of what has made Agricultural Education different was taken from us. We need to remember, people make the difference, they always have.
Today, I am concerned that we are becoming much more similar to other teaching communities. We are there to offer help if needed, share ideas when asked and then jump on one of the social media platforms to complain and find fault. Maybe this is the new family way, to be critical of others and to point out the poor performance of colleagues. It is so easy to find fault in the way something is worded or that a name is misspelled. We no longer seem to be grateful for the effort.
There was a time when an individual would simply pick up the phone to call a fellow teacher or colleague to seek information. Often, during the conversation, it was found that the concern was an oversite, an unintended error, an honest mistake. We found out through the call that there were some personal events that were causing major discomfort. We were able to listen and understand.
The way we operate today is to assume the worst, quickly type a reply and begin to pile on. We say we care, but by our actions, we show that we no longer wish to be a true friend, mentor, or mentee. If we have learned anything over the past few months, it is that every single person is dealing with something different. This “different” may be good or may be bad. We do not seek to find out which, we simply want to let everyone know that we are better than them!
I know that classroom teachers are working harder than ever. Many are finding this virtual world to be a science fiction movie. Young teachers have never been in a real classroom. Those that enjoy the weekend travels with teams are having to find other avenues to socialize. For most of us, we are adjusting to being home more.
It is time that we stopped acting like immature children and began to act as members of the greater family. It is time to quit bickering over the smallest of details and concentrate on the wonderful things we are doing. It is time to realize that we all make mistakes and to be appreciative of the efforts being made. It is time for us to send encouraging messages, words of thanks, and to focus on how to be that big sister, big brother, uncle, aunt, parent…
I can honestly say that I am tired! Tired of seeing staff criticized for the work they are doing. I am sick of the hurtful letters and emails. I am fed up with those that continue to find fault in what we and you are doing, or what we are not doing.
I realize that I am also part of the problem. I have my faults, I know I am a long way from being perfect. However, the one thing I can be sure of, for myself as well as my staff, is that we will always give 100% of ourselves for our teachers and students. We will make personal sacrifices to be at meetings and events rather than at that ballgame with a family member. We do these willingly knowing that it matters to the “family”.
I ask that we stop the criticizing on social media. That we refrain from always finding fault in others. That we quit with the constant complaining. I ask that we try to recognize the effort and to understand what others may be going through. Let’s work together to be that safety net for each other.
Is there value in being a “family”? I sure hope so, I have invested 41 years in this profession and have a long list of individuals that I consider family. I am looking forward to our next reunion where we can laugh, hug, and show each other just how much this agricultural education family means.