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  April 2018: Developing Culture  
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In 2014, I had the privilege of participating in the Texas FFA Foundation LEAD experience. It was one of the best and most rewarding experiences of my professional career. I wish every ag teacher could participate in this week long, traveling, leadership event.

One item we talked about was organizational culture. I had heard and had read about this term, but still didn’t know much about it. After the LEAD experience, I had a much better understanding of how it could help any organization reach success.

I have noticed over the years that certain Agricultural Education programs take on the personality of the ag teacher. Obviously, teachers have a tremendous influence on their students to the point where their habits, beliefs, and values are reflected in the student’s actions and attitudes. This phenomenon is very relatable to organizational culture.

When building an organizational culture, the mission and core values permeate every facet of the organization. They are posted in numerous places, mentioned regularly, and reinforced by each member. Over time, these core values become the reputation of the organization. This doesn’t happen by accident and doesn’t occur overnight. It takes a focused, concentrated effort to develop a culture that helps the organization reach its goals and be successful.

I began to think about the culture in our ag department and FFA chapter in Simms. It became obvious to me that a certain culture existed and could be observed in the actions, attitudes, and values of our students. Without even trying to cultivate a specific culture, one had developed. This made me question how we could increase our chances for success and make improvements by intentionally cultivating and developing the culture we desired. 

My  teaching partner and I have always tried to instill characteristics like honesty, integrity, responsibility, patriotism, and a strong work ethic in our students. These core values are desperately needed in our society and developing a culture around these characteristics in our programs will benefit our students even after they leave us.

I challenge you to reflect on your program’s culture. Is it what you want it to be? Involve your students to develop a mission and identify what core values are important to them. Post these all over your facility. Each time a student reads them, they will be reminded of what is important in your department and it will begin to effect how they go about their business. 

Student input is important. We all know if they feel some ownership, they support it and help you promote it. As the teacher, you must reinforce the culture by what you say, what you do, and how you do it.  We must “walk the walk,” not just “talk the talk.”  Developing a healthy culture is another tool to help us be successful in molding the students in our programs. Until next month, be safe!

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