Future teachers catch glimpse of real world
By Jennifer Kemble
For five summer days, 11 high school students became the teachers. The students participated in a simulation institute offered by Purdue Agriculture's Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education. It was the first time such an institute was held for students interested in agricultural education, and the first time Purdue University has offered a future teacher academy.
Keith Konradi, a senior at Jac-Cen-Del High School in Batesville, Ind. said that his experience was positive. "It helped me see what most students don't see - the work that teachers do outside the classroom," he said.
Providing that insight is the academy's goal. Students see the real aspects of teaching, such as the state guidelines for agricultural education and balancing the demands of extracurricular activities with classroom instruction. The academy's interactive nature also lets students experience a high school teaching career first-hand.
"The students get a larger view of the possibilities in agricultural education as well as their role in it," said Dan Gottschalk, Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education program specialist. "It's about opening minds to how in-depth and involved ag education is," said Ben Leu, a sophomore agricultural education major from LaGrange, Ind.
Two or three speakers, including current teachers, met with participants each day, and Konradi said they were an important part of the experience, providing advice, guidance and insight. "We got to have an inside look at actual teachers' views on how to teach agriculture, as well as how to balance SAW (Supervised Agricultural Experiences), FFA and teaching," he said.
The institute begins with six high school agricultural education teachers acting las school corporation superintendents, said Mark Balschweid, assistant professor of agricultural education. These superintendents then hire student particpants as teachers. Once hired, the "teachers" plan an entire high school agriculture department - from lesson plans to FFA activities.
In these activities, students must be aware of the concerns of the communities they are in. That way, the department is tailored to the students' needs and the needs of the community, Leu said. "For example, an ag department in Carmel has far different needs than an ag department in rural Indiana," said Leu. Students participating in the academy also must follow state agricultural education standards while creating their lesson plans.
While the students' home during their weeklong experience was Trafalgar, they took field trips to other high school agricultural education programs throughout Indiana. "By taking the students to other high schools, they are able to see that the programs, including the curricular emphasis, facilities and personalities of teachers, are different from school to school," said Gottschalk.
Konradi said he also enjoyed the other activities, especially an Indianapolis Indians game. "It was nice to take time off and mingle at the baseball game," he said.
Gottschalk said he expects the program to grow, and that its eventual goal is to become a national experience offered through Purdue. The program is not meant to recruit students to Purdue, he said, but he did not discount the fact that it may positively impact enrollment.
All but one of the students who participated in the summer's academy have been accepted to Purdue's agricultural education program and plan on teaching in a high school someday. "The students really get to know what it's like to be a teacher," said Leu.