Saturday, December 28, 2013

10 Steps to Kick the National Chapter Award in the Butt!

There is no doubt that there are a lot of applications a good agriculture instructor has to complete. Between helping students complete a state degree application to filling out the agricultural literacy challenge to making a Supervised Agricultural Experience project look like gold – the agriculture instructors in Minnesota rarely get a break.

Only about 30 of the 183 FFA chapters in Minnesota complete the application for the National Chapter Award, and it is about time we increase that number! The only thing is, agriculture instructors don’t have the time to fill out the application, and it is supposed to be done by FFA members. So, where do we start?
The National Chapter Award can be a gruesome application if you wait until the last minute, but if you are on top of it, the application can be relatively easy and rewarding with recognition. The application measures the magnitude of chapter FFA activities within one year and is due on March 1 in Minnesota. Here are ten steps that you can take to start filling out the National Chapter Award application.

Most of the steps will be best accomplished during a couple of the meetings between the committee members. If the committee consists of all chapter officers, then a chapter officer retreat or meeting will be the best source of completion for the first several steps.

Step 1: Form a committee of FFA members dedicated to formulating the National Chapter Award application. Many FFA chapters have their chapter officers as the only members of their National Chapter Award committee, but the individuals could literally be anybody--high school students or college students--as long as they are members of your FFA chapter.

Step 2: Assign two people to be in charge of the entire application; this doesn’t necessarily mean they will end up writing the entire application, but they will oversee the completion and correctness of the application. These individuals will serve as the co-chairpersons of the National Chapter Award committee.

Step 3: Nine activities within student development, community development, and chapter development are required to be recorded in the National Chapter Award application – determine the nine activities that your chapter will use.

Step 4: Assign one person in charge of writing each activity’s National Chapter Award page; the activity’s chairperson will probably be the most effective person to utilize if they are on the committee. (It is recommended that all used activities in the application have their activity chairpersons in the National Chapter Award application committee.) Since there are several activities to be filled out, one person may be in charge of a couple of application pages if not a lot of people are involved in the application committee.

Step 5: For every activity, the chairpersons should draft four goals and an overview of what their activity will look like. Remember that goals should be SMART.
Activity Description: To have students achieve personal success through their SAE projects.
Goal 1: To have members keep yearly records on SAE projects in order to be able to understand how much effort they are putting in, what they are learning, and how much money they are making with their projects. It is important that members understand the connection of their SAEs to the ag. program and community.
Goal 2: For the advisor to work with the members throughout the year, taking pictures of them with their projects and monitoring their achievements.
Goal 3: To have at least 10 of the River Valley FFA members complete the proficiency award application for their particular SAE areas by the deadline on February 1st.
Goal 4: To have at least 10 qualified members complete their state degree applications by February 1st. These members will be able to show the growth in their SAE projects and their involvement in FFA.

Step 6: For every activity, the chairpersons should draft a plan of action of what their activity will look like. The plan of action should include several specific steps and a timeline as to how the activity will be accomplished.
1: (August 15) All summer project visits will be complete by this date. Summer project visits will be at FFA members' SAE project sites and recorded by pictures from the advisor.
2: (September 1) Summer project visit posters will be made to be displayed in the ag room by Crystal.
3: (December 10) Mrs. Smith will give a brief overview of the state degree and proficiency application process. She will set up work nights to be held for those who are planning on completing the applications.
4: (December, January) Mrs. Smith will work every Tuesday night after school with FFA members on their proficiency and state degree applications. She will also work almost every night for the last two weeks before the deadline to ensure that every member qualified is able to complete their applications.
5: (January 7) At the monthly meeting, John will again discuss proficiencies and state degrees to make sure FFA members are on target for completing their applications by the deadline of February 1st.
6: (February 1) All members applications are to be complete. Chapter officers, led by Adam, Faith, and Alan, will help print off the applications and record books, organizing them to be ready for the day of interviews and verification.
7: (February 19) During advisory, state degree and proficiency applicants will be informed by Mrs. Smith about what will be asked during their interviews and verification of records on February 20th.

Step 7: During the actual activity or immediately following, make note of what is happening during the activity. Keep track of numbers, unique events, and any special progress.

Step 8: Once the activity is complete, the activity chairpersons should record the results and evaluations of their events in the National Chapter Award application, including some of the items mentioned in the previous step. After recording them, the activity chairpersons should report their results, evaluations, and picture(s) to the National Chapter Award application committee for approval.
Goal 1 Results: (MET) Through their SAE projects, members were able to show their own personal growth. Many members kept records for their SAE's and 46 project visits were conducted by the advisor.
Goal 2 Results: (MET) The advisor worked with members throughout the year. She visited members, checked on progress, and took pictures of the members with projects. These pictures were used for the proficiency award applications and posted on the Ag. room wall. Members worked very hard with projects.
Goal 3 Results: (EXCEEDED) 13 members completed 14 Proficiency applications.
Goal 4 Results: (EXCEEDED) 16 members completed their state degree applications. All were accepted by the region and are currently at state, one was the region star winner, and another was the runner-up.
Evaluation: All members now have a better understanding of what to keep records on for their SAE projects and the areas of a complete ag. program. Members learned a lot about the terms used for the applications and how to keep records. 8 of the applications received first place at the region level after interviews, 4 received second, and 2 got third. 13 applications were rated gold!  The chapter had 1 national proficiency finalist and 7 applications placed in the top 3 at state in 2012. It is great to see so many hard working members achieve personal success with their state degrees and proficiencies!

Step 9: After the chairpersons of the award application committee have all of the material due from committee members, then they can start piecing together the application to make it look great! There are a couple of additional pages to complete at this point, but these pages are not too challenging. They might require some additional information from your FFA advisor, though.

Step 10: Well, at this point, you’ve almost made it - congratulations! The last thing to do for both of the chairpersons is to proofread the application several times and give it to other individuals to proofread several times as well. Good suggestions to proofread the entire application might include your ag instructor, english teacher, a parent, and/or an administrator.

If you are one of the people that is a chairperson of the entire award application committee, set firm dates! Give dates on when application material is due to the committee and hold everybody in the committee accountable to those dates. Giving yourself plenty of lean time for those dates is essential, so that there is even enough time for that person that is always late!

This process will indeed help you fill out the National Chapter Award application, but this is also an ideal process to planning for FFA activities and reflecting on how the events can be made better. This is NOT the process that has to be used, this is just a suggested outline of how the National Chapter Award application could play out the most effectively.

The National Chapter Award is a prestigious award that recognizes outstanding FFA chapters across the country, based on their Program of Activities. Every FFA chapter is supposed to submit a Program of Activities to Minnesota FFA, and often times activities are overlooked, despite their excellence. The National Chapter Award application is a perfect way to recognize those activities for the excellence that they deserve.

Don’t have your application process started for this year? No problem, get a head start on the application soon!

Stationed by the Flag,

Friday, November 22, 2013

Beyond November Thankfulness

As November is coming to an end and Thanksgiving is closely approaching, I’m reminded of the things I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my family who shows me love and support from miles away, my friends who add excitement to life, FFA members for being passionate about agriculture and serving others, and for my faith in Christ. I’m thankful for so many things; the list could go on and on.
As I think about the things I’m thankful for I have to ask myself: how can I show that I’m grateful for these things? 

In one of my classes this week we were talking about the concept of people taking shortcuts or going the second mile. Some of you may recognize this idea as it is from the Habitudes series written by Tim Elmore. Most of us tend to do what is most comfortable and convenient for us. We always try to get somewhere using the fastest route or we work together on a homework assignment to get it done quicker. Growing up, we have been taught to look for these shortcuts.

Among the shortcuts we can get lost within speed, convenience, and efficiency. We can easily lose sight of what is truly meaningful in life. That being the things we are thankful for like the people we love and the moments we could enjoy. If we slowed down enough to truly appreciate it, we could offer something to the world in order to leave it a better place. “There are some things in life we can’t reach by shortcut.” – Tim Elmore.

Those that go the extra mile usually have to put extra time in and may work a little harder, but they have experienced things no one else has because of their service. Those that go the second mile are devoted to serving others whereas those that take shortcuts do so with their own interest in mind.

As we head forth into this holiday of being thankful, let's show others how grateful we are. Avoid the shortcuts and go the extra mile. Pitch in when it comes to cleaning the house, offer to watch your siblings so your mom can get her work done, or go spend time with the elderly in your community. There are so many ways we can show others we are thankful for them. Let's take action and celebrate the season of thankfulness by showing others now and past the holiday season that we appreciate them.

Stationed by the Ear of Corn,
Brooke Wente