Sunday, May 3, 2009

Do you coach to teach or just to win?

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?