The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of secondary agriculture teachers as they reconcile the competing demands of the profession in the social landscape of School-Based Agricultural Education. Previous literature about the agriculture teacher shortage problem revealed opportunities for research to utilize qualitative approaches and alternative perspectives to investigate the lives and work of agriculture teachers. This investigation employed a hermeneutic phenomenological design and the social learning theory, Landscapes of Practice, to give voice to individual agriculture teachers while allowing my own background and experiences to navigate and enrich data analysis.
Participants for this study included twelve secondary agriculture teachers in the U.S. representing seven states. This included two groups, 1) agriculture teachers in their first ten years of teaching and 2) agriculture teachers who were nationally recognized by their peers for their work. Interview transcripts from all twelve participants, field notes, and follow-up emails from four participants served as data for this study. Findings from this study concluded agriculture teachers have demanding and multifaceted jobs that require long hours and busy schedules. Agriculture teachers in this study feel accountable to many different individuals and parties connected to their work; these different accountability partners often have different expectations for them yet agriculture teachers are expected to fulfill these expectations without error. Findings also concluded agriculture teachers live in a sort of arms race among other agriculture teachers, which makes them strive to win awards and gain recognition, thereby outperforming each other. Agriculture teachers reconcile the competing demands and expectations through various ways and to different degrees. This includes appeasing those in power, prioritizing certain tasks over others, and adjusting their expectations and conceptualizations of success, to name a few. The findings contribute to the growing body of literature about the difficulties agriculture teachers encounter as they engage in their work and offers additional insight into why agriculture teachers may leave the profession before retirement.