It sounds like a broken record already: “Schools in Rural America are in deep trouble.” Between population loss, stiff financial challenges, and the inability to match the resources of the larger, more developed urban areas, at times it seems difficult to find anything positive about schools in rural communities. If so, why would any teacher or therapist want to move to Rural America to begin or advance a career?
However, this conclusion is superficial at best. If we take the time to look beyond the pessimistic headlines, it becomes quite clear that Rural America has much to offer both teachers and therapists. Let’s explore three of the essential reasons a teacher or therapist would seriously consider taking a position in a school in Rural America.
1. Students are Real People Outside the Context of School
For those so inclined, there are many more opportunities to participate in the social and communal life of a rural community. This participation may take the form of becoming a member of a volunteer ambulance service or fire department, help with economic development, or attending a house of worship and getting involved in related activities. Many times, those extracurricular involvements will be together with students and their parents.
In the big city, how likely is it to bump into a student in the grocery store or while taking a walk through the park? Not so in a rural community. Since life is being lived in a more compact area, the chances of bumping into your students are increased manifold. After all, life is less compartmentalized and more holistic, so living in a rural community lends itself to seeing your students.
2. You Will be Known and Your Impact Will be Felt
Teachers and therapists are known to be passionate about making a difference in the lives of their students. In a rural community, you are not only making a difference with the children, but you are also making a difference with the community as a whole. The school is a centerpiece of the town, and the good vibes can be felt everywhere.
3. Rural Areas are Blessed With a Strong Sense of Community
It is well known that rural areas have a strong sense of community. Generally speaking, parents of the student body take part in the various aspects of their children’s education more than their counterparts in urban areas.
Your class events will become an opportunity for the entire community to participate. Participating in school events allows everyone to experience being a part of something larger than themselves. The school building is seen as a “community center” invested with a purpose that goes beyond education.
In one rural school, the school’s motto, “Tradition of Excellence,” is part of practically every school activity. On the walls throughout the building can be found class photos over 100 years old that serve as a constant reminder of the value ascribed to the traditions and importance of the previous generations. These schools breathe a sense of continuity.
Due to this closeness within the community, there is a greater sense of identity, and it becomes more difficult for individuals to fall through the cracks. The urban syndrome of being nothing more than a number practically doesn’t exist. In today’s increasing faceless world, this can profoundly impact students’ self-esteem and goes a long way to arresting the toxicity of loneliness.
Don’t believe half of what you hear about schools in Rural America! Granted, there are problems, but much is being done to solve them. If you are the type of person who sees beyond the paycheck and appreciates what it means to connect to people, teaching or providing therapy in Rural America may be just what you are looking for!