Tag Archives: CATA

Do you coach to teach or just to win?

Morning line up of judging teams at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Another year of CDE’s or career development events are finished. This past Saturday (May 2) was the California State FFA Finals held at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.   I have talked about CDE’s before in my posts ( and I feel they are very important to our FFA programs across the state and nation. The question I have to ask is: Do you coach to teach or just to win? Don’t get me wrong; I have a strong competitive nature and I really like to win, but is that the only purpose to these contests?

I teach at a small high school of about 500 students. Of that, around 350 of the students are members of the FFA.  Not all are active members.  In a good year we have up to 100 actives. We are in a rural community, but most of our students live in town and we do not have a school farm.  That being said, there is only a small population of students that are able to have substantial SAE’s (Supervised Agricultural Experiences or, simply, put an Ag project or job).  The rest of the students that want to be active in the program are able to be involved in leadership events and/or CDE’s (or more fondly called judging teams).  If I had to guess I would think that it this way for quite a few FFA Chapters and Agriculture Departments throughout the state.

CDE’s are great activities for students to be involved in and are part of the three circles of agricultural education: Classroom, FFA, and SAE’s.  These contest are directly related to the FFA but we need to remember that these contest are tied to the agricultural classroom and possibly a student’s SAE.  The numerous contests that our students are involved in are designed to teach them a useful skill that could possibly lead them to a career in the area they are participating.  I push my students to do the best job they can at the contests; we all like to win of course.  We are in the business of teaching and more importantly teaching by using Agriculture as our medium.  The thing I always try to remember is that this is a learning experience for my students.  If my students can do better at each contest or learn from each contest I think the students have grown.   Students can have an off day, sure we are probably not happy, but think about the teachable moment that can make.   Why do we coach these CDE teams?  Is it to become State and possibly National Champions or is it to give our students the best learning opportunities possible.  If my team is the next State Champion or if they are 25th in the State, if they have learned and grown throughout the process, I think I have succeeded in my job.  And hey, there is always next year.  So I ask you again: Do you coach to teach or just to win?

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Posted by on May 3, 2009 in Teaching


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You ever have one of those days?

You ever have one of those days? We all know what comes next, a whine about a bad day we had. In this case, just the opposite. I had one of those days that keeps me excited about being a teacher, working with students, and being involved as an advisor for the FFA.

(A little background: I am the advisor for the Le Grand FFA Chapter and I am also the Merced/Mariposa Sectional FFA Advisor. My six sectional officers consists of three Juniors and three Seniors.)

The day started out fairly normal for an FFA activity day, on the road by 5:30am. Then I arrived at Modesto by 6:30 to meet some students that needed to set up their posters before anyone else; they wanted to get the best spots. They were running for one of six spots on the Central Region FFA Officer Team. The posters were to help them campaign during the elections to seek out votes from the 120 or so delegates representing roughly 60 FFA chapters in the northern Central Valley of California. There would be a Regional Meeting, Regional Leadership Contest Finals, Regional Awards, and Regional Officer elections all held on this day. The three Seniors would be attending as voting delegates for their chapters and also as representatives of the section to hand out awards and help put on regional contests. The three Juniors had all been slated on the ballot for regional office.

The first supprise – my sectional officers selected me as the Outstanding Agricultural Advisor in the Merced/Mariposa Section. What a great honor it is to be selected and recognized by students for the job you are doing. I am always overwhelmed at how thoughtful and insightful FFA members are, especially ones at this level.

The next surprise happened at the end of the day’s events. All the speeches had been given and ballots had been tallied. My three Juniors from my sectional officer team had all been selected to be part of the Central Region Officer team. Out of six sections there were three sections represented on the officer team. Two officers were from the Sacramento Section, one from the Stanislaus/Toulumne Section, and my three Sectional Officers from the Merced/Mariposa Section. I was very happy for them and know they will do a great job representing us. This sectional team has been outstanding; not only are half of them moving to the next level but the other half of the group, the seniors, will all be running for State FFA Office in April.

After the exciting FFA activities of the day, I was on my way back towards home to meet my wife and daughter at a friend’s house for bible study. Almost, home I decide to get a little caffeine and stopped off for a coffee. I place my order at the drive through and pulled around. To my surprise, in the window is a former student and FFA member. What a nice way to end my FFA day before getting home. She informs me she has just finished her AA Degree, is attending State College to get a degree in Psychology and is engaged to be married next year to another former student and FFA member.

Now, this is a personal post about a great day I had. I have told myself that I wanted to keep my blog very professional and stay away from personal information. But I think this is directly related to my profession. These are the things that make being a teacher of agriculture and an FFA Advisor great. Days like today remind me of why I enjoy working with these young adults. Some days they can be a little unruly, but when it is all said and done, I work around a great bunch of students and look forward to watching them achieve and have success.

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Posted by on February 21, 2009 in Teaching


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