I have a few lab spaces connected to my classroom. One of which is a foods lab equipped with a walk-in cooler. It was 3 days before I needed to start a brat processing lab and 7 days before the school wide homecoming brat sale and the cooler broke. Panic.
To properly thaw the 40+ pounds of meat needed to make the brats for an all-school brat sale takes a few days. The cooler broke on a Thursday so, I had Friday to re-arrange the perishable items that were hastily crammed into the classroom refrigerator to make room for the 40 lbs of meat. At the end of the day on Friday I went into the refrigerator only to discover that the students had valued the Sun Drop soda as worthy enough to be kept cold. So with the soda out and a few very empty bottles of ketchup removed the meat managed to fit in the refrigerator.
It wasn’t soon enough. On Monday the meat was still solid as a rock. The clock was ticking because usually it takes a few class periods to make bratwurst. Day one cube meat, day two grind and season, day 3 grind a second time and stuff, and day 4 package. So, with a brat sale on Thursday and the meat solid as a rock on Monday was not the best situation.
On Tuesday the meat must have gotten colder because it was still just as hard as it was on Monday. The class pushed forward. Cubing the frozen meat was not the easiest but it did work. The meat grinders at the school are from the early 1990s or even older. They are high powered and can grind just about whatever is put down through them. However, the smallest error in setting up the grinder makes the worst day ever for preparing meat. As a surprise to the end of the day the cooler service tech arrived and a small valve was responsible for the cooler’s shutdown. Just as a precaution though it was recommended that all non-perishable food items be kept out of the cooler for a few days if the problem returns.
Wednesday, students continued to cube and grind meat. It was a day that I had some students in for a study hall the hour after my foods class and a few of the students in that study hall have made brats in my classes before so I recruited them to season and regrind the meat. By the end of the study hall period about 25 lbs of meat was made into brats. It was a feat only accomplished with one of my summer school classes. Still with 25 lbs and a sale coming up it wasn’t enough. After school I was sanitizing the lab for another round of making brats. I had about 17 lbs of meat left to process that I just got off the scale when one of my students texted asking if I was still planning on making brats after school. I replied that I was in the middle of making the brats and he showed up in 5 min and we got to work. In about 1 hour we had the brats finished. It was a great relief from the panic week of homecoming.
At the brat sale all of the fresh brats were grilled up and sold. Wednesday night at the bottom of the chest freezer a few dozen frozen brats were found as backups. Great reviews for the food all around.
Panic can come in so many forms as a teacher. A broken cooler is now just another day in the life of an Agriculture Teacher.
Reflecting on teaching takes many forms. This blog is a method of reflecting on teaching. Sitting in the lounge and discussing the morning’s lessons with other teachers also works. After needing to collect evidence all throughout last year as part of a summative evaluation I have developed a new way of myself to be a reflective teacher. I have created a binder for each of my roles Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor.
In my teaching binder I have classes separated by hour. Each class is taught from a packet of formative assessments. The first page of each of these packets is the unit plan which includes a vocabulary list. As the unit is taught I keep notes via post-its or write directly in my answer key packet on how the lesson went. If there is student work that displays great improvement or is significant to an area of teaching I need to improve I can put a 3 hole punch in it and add it to the binder. At the end of the year or end of the unit I can take the notes and generate the next better version of my curriculum. With old pages and updated pages in existence the improvement of teaching has physical evidence. Having this evidence makes a summative evaluation go great.
For my FFA Advisor binder I separate the binder by month. Every activity in each month has a to do list, previous year’s notes, and copies of the paperwork that needs to be turned into the office. At the beginning of each month going through the binder two months ahead gets me ready to instruct my FFA officers in their roles. My school requires one month advance notice for trips. Since trip dates are the major change every year I can take my binder, create photocopies of what I need, and add the new date for the activity. Like my teaching binder I can add notes during and after every event to keep improving the FFA program. When I look at my binder monthly I can condense my notes digitally and update my binder. The evidence needed for my summative evaluation is automatically created.
This is the first year I am trying out a level of organization at this magnitude. I hope by using these binders I can improve on Danielson Framework Domains 1c, 1d, 1e, 2c, 2e, 3a, 3e, 4a, 4b, 4e, and 4f.
Together automatically gets me thinking of group projects in class and PLC.
Group projects I find at times being less beneficial for all students. I think the individual work and then sharing what each individual has done is better. Think-pair-share and gallery walks are sometimes better than a big group project. I think that a group project that has the entire class working as a group is better than breaking the class up into tiny groups. The lazy students will find a way out and the overachieving students will naturally do most of the work, or so it seems. One of my biennial class projects is making bratwurst. The students must work together to complete a process and learn the concepts of HACCP. The assessment requires students to use a collections of pictures I took of them completing the process of making brats and create a lesson to teach elementary students the process of making brats for our annual Ag Day. Ag Day is when all of the elementary students get a dose of agricultural learning. Some year’s the day is hosted at a farm and sometimes students travel to the elementary school. Students demonstrate how to make brats with a demonstration and a slide show including photos from when the class made a batch of brats.
To integrate PLC in this instance I think I could invite a science teacher in to talk about what happens in the oxidation of meat. I could also talk to the marketing or art department to help create packaging. The math department could help figure out some of the finances in making bratwurst but that’s a bit of a stretch.
Unpredictable is one word I would use to describe the antics of the staff during homecoming. One of the highlights of homecoming at my school is the lip sync competition. The students use the homecoming theme to mash up songs and perform a lip sync for homecoming points. The staff really isn’t involved in other activities but enjoy some extra PLC time to create their own lip sync.
Part of building the school’s community is how the staff gets involved in things outside of the classroom. Doing these extra activities is like adding the extra helping of glue to keep the noodle art kept together.
It also gives the staff a break from meeting in so serious of groups before school and after school. The entire district seems to get behind the homecoming lip sync cause. There are elementary teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers all participating to best the students, even the principal, school nurse, and head football coach join the cause.
It’s a small town and a small school atmosphere. Bottom line, no matter how big the school, getting involved in any way can be encouraging for the staff and students.
Classroom rules are fragile. If the rules are poorly written and enforced they mean nothing. I only have three classroom rules; respect yourself, respect each other, and respect the school. The student handbook is inundated with procedural rules about phones and headphones. Unwritten and unspoken rules are generally understood within a high school classroom and can fit under the umbrella of my three classroom rules.
As an agriculture teacher I understand that there are rules that are outside of the normally understood set of school rules to create. At my school I have a foods lab, an animal lab, a shop, and a greenhouse. With these sometimes new and unique spaces the standards for operation to be set are in order. I base all of these additional rules as safety rules. I follow the model that chemistry and industrial arts use.
The basis for making these rules becomes a lesson and several teaching moments. In foods students gain a better understanding of sanitary procedures by growing mold on bread and researching food illnesses. Students get a more experiential learning experience of rules whenever they allow a chicken from the animal lab to escape their arms. Attempting to catch a chicken in school may sound like a fun senior prank but it’s a whole new ballgame when the proper handling of the chicken is the assignment.
For my foods lab safety I use NASA, FDA, USDA, and Wisconsin’s DATCP websites. For the animal handling rules I reference UW-Extension bulletins.
Zing! Make lessons exciting. Tell some jokes. Find a costume. Become a character. Use impressions. Quote some songs. Make references to pop culture.
In these first few weeks of school I have used some Laffy Taffy level jokes to keep the attention of students. I think they work just because everyone will be quiet to hear a joke. Once the punchline is over and the floor is yours as instructor the chatty situation is diminished with none to minimal confrontation. I’ve found the same jokes work for 6th grade all the way through 12th grade. The problem I’m having is that I run out of jokes by the end of the day because I’m bored with them or I’ve needed more jokes that day than I planned. I think one or two jokes a day isn’t a bad goal. There are great websites that are within the reach of Google to print a few. I just don’t go to that level because I don’t want to be reading the jokes during class. It would just ruin the flow. Perhaps I scheme up a way to have jokes on my desk or a podium.
Zing! Making a lesson interesting can be difficult at times. This morning my foods class came in the door asking if we were going to make anything. I saw this as a great opportunity to provide a little extra food production. Today’s assignment was to label the school’s meats lab with signs that are required in state inspected food production facilities. The sign lesson had some extra time I could take away to add something in so I instructed the students how to make some mayo. Hopefully when the students are done the have some Zing! for a sandwich.
Weekends are a natural recharge for students and teachers. However when the first week of school is followed by the town’s festival and then homecoming planning meetings are messing with a the schedule, recharge is a foreign concept. The allure of a new school year and a new start with some classes is wearing off and old habits from previous years are resurfacing. What can make this time of year a bit more bumpy is that the grade book is so thin that a single assignment can take a student to the extremes of the GPA scale.
It’s a lot of energy pulled from teachers and students alike. The need to recharge is definitely felt.
I recharge at home. Sometimes listening to music and sometimes working on developing my hobbies like raising a small flock of chickens or blogging.
If you are a student or teacher just take the time to recharge. A quick nap maybe all you need to come back better than ever.