We arrived in Des Moines at 12:15 a.m. and had to take Lyft to the hotel. There we were---Lance and I—at the 2021 National Ag in the Classroom Conference, “Field of Dreams”, Des Moines, Iowa. Coolio!
The food was great—agriculture-related conferences always are--as were the people and the conference sessions. I learned about things ranging from chickens on Mars to vermiculture to desktop greenhouses. I toured a soybean/seed corn farm, a cattle feed lot, and (virtually) a hog raising operation. I learned that having plants in the classroom increases student attention by 70% (not sure I believe that one….), 35% of the food Americans buy is wasted, and Utah ranks 15th in the US in hog production. I met a man who successfully farms 3,000 acres with just one employee and a woman who has a small hog operation, only 3200 pigs.
One of the workshops was especially (and unexpectedly) gratifying. We attended an elementary teacher workshop on chickens, hoping to get ideas for a raising chickens on Mars project. One of our tasks was to make an art project showing a new breed of chicken. To incentivize us, the session presenter promised a prize to the art creation she deemed to be the best. Art supplies included sequins, beads, faux feathers in outrageous colors, and glitter. Lot of glitter. The elementary teachers went all out with the bling; their chickens were decked out, glitter galore, shiny sequins everywhere, beads and buttons abounding.
Lance and I chose a different approach. Lance drew a roasted chicken carcass and a KFC bucket. It was awesome. The presenter laughed out loud when she saw it. I used torn, cut, and crumpled construction paper to create a 3D chicken sitting in a nest. No bling. No glitter. No beads. Nothing but construction paper. The presenter, when she saw my entry, gasped and immediately held it up. “This is the winner,” she said. And she presented me with set of 21 plastic eggs, each of which opens to show a different stage of the 21-day development of a chick embryo. I won an art contest. Crazy!
Though we were in conference session or on a bus for most of the time, I managed to get over 10,000 steps daily by choosing stairs over escalators and walking in circles during coffee breaks. Wednesday evening, before the banquet, a younger man (probably in his 20’s) stopped me and said, “I just wanted to tell you how impressed I am that you always take the stairs.” I guess gray-haired ladies usually use the escalator.
Wednesday evening, after the banquet, I was chatting with Lance and absent-mindedly stepped onto the escalator with him. About three steps down I discovered my error, squealed, turned around and started running up the down-going escalator. Fortuitously, I made it back to the top unscathed. Very fortuitously, I did not run over the gray-haired lady that stepped onto the escalator behind me.
Lance and I were able to attend the 2021 National Ag on the Classroom Conference because I was named the Utah Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year (https://utah.agclassroom.org/teacher/award/ and, as such, was given an all-expense paid trip to the national conference. As the UT award winner, I was also nominated for the National Ag in the Classroom Excellence in Teaching Award. I spent hours filling out the application for the national award, finding photos, writing essays, etc…. When I submitted my application to Denise, the UT Ag in the Classroom coordinator, she said, “Editing your application was easy; you are a good writer.” Her response was very positive, and it seemed that she thought I had a good chance at winning a national award. My hopes soared. It would be so cool, SO COOL, to be named as a National Award winner. I imagined many awesome scenarios and conversations, centered around me. I thought that receiving a national award would give me clout, respect, and authority; my opinion would matter, if I were a national award recipient.
Nope. It was not to be. I did not receive the national award though I did receive feedback about my application. Negative feedback. The reviewer said that my writing was disjointed and my thoughts jumbled. “You should have someone proofread your work before you submit it,” I was told. Ouch. Ouch.
So, at the Conference, when the state Ag in the Classroom award recipients lined up to practice walking across the stage for our recognition ceremony, I felt like a total failure. I failed as a writer. I failed my state as a nominee. And, to some degree, I failed as a teacher of agriculture concepts. And I did it on the national level. I was a national failure. I felt awful.
Thankfully, between the recognition ceremony rehearsal and the actual event, I found some perspective. Honestly, Teresa! Quit being ridiculous. Several ugly traps had grabbed me—pride, basing my value on external factors, and ingratitude to name a few---but blessedly, I reframed my thinking. I was a state winner, not a national failure. And, most importantly, I acknowledged that my status as an award recipient is irrelevant. Awards are fun, attending the conference was great, but the important things in life are inside. Inside I am a daughter of Heavenly Parents. I have a divine nature and eternal destiny.
So do you!