Have you ever noticed how tired your 4-H agent looks? Have you ever stopped and wondered why? After all, their office hours are only 8-5. Right?
As parents, we all know the craziness that is fair week. However, even though you may feel like you live at the fair during this week, did you note that every time you are there so is the 4-H agent? Midnight? Yep, they’re there. First thing in the morning? Yep, still there. Did they sleep there? Well, sometimes yes!
But the responsibilities don’t stop at the fair..
4-H is about much more than just the fair and livestock. There is County Events, Speaking competitions, camps, and a multitude of other events, sometimes all over the country. That’s enough to make anyone exhausted.
Considering the long hours, the stress of working with often HUNDREDS of children and their families, and the University that employs them, it’s not surprising that many excellent agents burn out all too fast.
A truly devoted 4-H agent is something to treasure. These agents are pivotal for many developmental benefits not only to your children, but children all over the area, some of which may not have the best outside influences. These agents take these children, and can give them direction, a positive role model, experience and guidance. They provide an invaluable service to the community in this aspect.
With all of this weight on their shoulders, it is no wonder that they need help.
What can we do?
Fair setup? Be there. Camping trip? Volunteer as a chaperone. All of these things may only take a minimal amount of our time, but can make a big difference to these agents. Doing whatever we can to take things off of their plate should always be our goal as 4-H parents. Not only does this help them, but it sets a positive example for our children.
I know that it can be tough to find the time. However, just remember, these people are doing this to support YOUR kids. It isn’t too much to ask for you to donate some time to the program.
Make yourself available-
Make it known to the agent that you are there to support them. By doing this, they won’t be afraid to reach out when they need help.
Maybe they just need help organizing project books. Heck even cleaning the office! One time a friend and I spent two days volunteering to just clean out an old neglected supply room of our 4-H office. The previous agent was so overburdened that they just started throwing things in this room!
There are often things that the agents really want to get done, but simply don’t have the time for, or could use an extra hand.
Similarly, don’t make them chase you down. If you know of something coming up, make the offer to help known. Some people have a hard time asking for, or admitting, that they need help.
Don’t insist on always talking to the 4-H agent-
Sometimes we do need to talk directly to the 4-H agent. However, there are many questions that can be answered by others involved with the program. For these questions, go to your club leader, or even the administrative assistant of the office if possible. Different offices are run differently so sometimes this isn’t always an option. Obviously, this isn’t always an option, but in some instances, this saves the agents a lot of phone time, and distraction.
Show your appreciation-
Everyone wants to know that they are appreciated. This is especially true when it comes to a job that carries so much weight. Little pick me ups and motivation are always welcome.
Be sure to thank them for their time and dedication. Have your kids write a note (after all, its good practice for your kids too!). Spending the night at the fair? Bring them some food. These little acts of kindness can make a huge difference.
Support their family-
Not only is this hard work for these agents, but their devotion to the program means time away from their families. A busy job can cause stress on marriages, that’s no secret. Sometimes spouses can feel resentful of their significant other spending so much time with other families, and “neglecting” their own. It’s a no brainer, that when this happens in a marriage, most will do whatever they need to do to save their marriage. This often means, resigning from their position or at the least minimizing events that they do with the program.
One way that you can do this by respecting their family time. See them out to eat with their family? Give them a friendly wave and say hi, but don’t interrupt their rare time alone with their family. Fair week chaos? Make sure their spouse isn’t in need of anything. There are lots of way to show support, and most of it just boils down to pure manners and consideration.
The success of these programs depends not only on having a good, motivated leader, but the parental support and involvement to keep them from burning out. It is all too easy to get nearsighted and not truly understand all that these devoted agents do for the families in your area.
Just like we should always examine all of our relationships for ways to help and encourage others, we need to take a step back and truly realize all that these agents do for not only our children, but the children in our community. It can be a tough and thankless job. That is why it is necessary for us to take the time, notice, help and truly appreciate all that this program and its employees offer.