I met an FFA educator recently in Linden, CA. She was responsible for teaching students how to prepare the food that her colleagues teach students to grow, develop, harvest, or ship. And she shared with me what she took away from the workshop I led at her school on student motivation.
One of the strategies I emphasize in my workshops is a bit odd-sounding: “An Apologist Winsome and Sure.” You can read more about it here, but the gist is this: we want to become the kinds of teachers who relentlessly, repetitively, confidently, and creatively explain to students why what they're doing in our classes ***matters.***
An apologist teacher expects that students will ask things like, “Why is this worth my time?” They're not offended by skepticism. They respect that kids — especially those in secondary school — have good reasons for being doubtful about the Value of school.
And yet these kinds of teachers, these apologists, are wholly sure that the work of learning THEY ask their students to do, in THEIR classes, MATTERS.
And so the FFA/food and nutrition teacher I'm talking about, at the end of the workshop, handed me a piece of paper with her takeaways from the workshop, and under the Apologetics column she wrote these things:
- Food sanitation saves or costs lives.
- Everyone has to eat.
- We are the fork to the community's farm.
And these notes, to me, were beautiful because they:
- Flow from the teacher's personality and viewpoint.
- Communicate tangentially related ideas in ways that are short and pithy.
- Are the kinds of things that she says to students all of the time.
It's not crazy to regularly say these kinds of things to students. It's not a novel idea to say that we should say them.
But in my workshops and my practice, what I find with things like this is, “Yes. That thing that you do, that thing that you say that communicates deep Value: do that, say that, repeat that. Do it even more than you already do.“
Communicating deep Value — it's a thing we envisioned ourselves doing when we decided to become teachers. So often, I find that my work comes down to this: remember that impulse? Go back! Do that. And do it again and again and again, with full confidence that no matter what you SEE, the things that you SAY are of great import. They matter. They exert a gravitational pull.
So what are your one-liners, colleague? Your versions of, “We are the fork to the community's farm?”