Theme 6: Teaching Challenges

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Most of the challenges presented were from teachers who had worked in rural schools. Some talked about the recruiting and turnover challenges and many talked about teachers putting in their time to eventually move to a larger community.

Both parents and teachers talked about the challenges of the parent/teacher relationship in a small community where everyone knows each other. Similarly, another parent felt that teachers in rural schools can be very entrenched.

A teacher talked about technology challenges and Internet connectivity in rural schools. A teacher on a small island suggested that a conversation about technology, Internet access and online learning should be included as part of the rural education discussion.

Multi-grade teaching was also pointed to as a challenge, requiring creative and innovative thinking. There was a suggestion that some rural schools be used as test sites to explore new ideas and approaches around rural education.

Question: What teaching opportunities and challenges have you experienced in rural schools?

10 responses to “Theme 6: Teaching Challenges

  1. Jennie

    I have taught all of my career (20+ years) in rural schools. There are advantages, such as home school connection, sense of community, and the ability to connect more with your students (see each other in the grocery store). At the same time, there are challenges. There are almost always multi grade classrooms. Trying to cover a diverse range of learners is difficult, adding to it students with individual learning needs. Also the few teachers at the school have the added pressure to still give a "rounded" education to their students and provide extra curricular sports, clubs and leadership. Teachers in rural schools have to do more with less. Having lower student teacher ratios may aid in being able to meet the needs of the classroom better. Also having recognition of the extra activities that these teachers do, perhaps in having an extra paid discretionary day, may alleviate some of the time constraints that these teachers feel when they have to do more than just teach

  2. Wayne

    Attracting and keeping teachers in rural communities is the same as attracting health professional like doctors, nurses and pharmacists. Wages, benefit and incentives should be offered to help small communities with teacher recruitment and retention. It works for healthcare. It can work for education. Teachers in small towns are well known and respected in their communities. Promoting the advantages of teaching in a rural school should be advertised more.

  3. Rhonda

    It would be ideal if all rural students had their own laptop – provided by the School District – and constant, reliable, supervised Internet Service

  4. Alexander

    I agree with the comment that small, remote schools require creative and innovative thinking. However, I would consider that a strength despite its associated challenges. Could they be used as 'test sites'? Perhaps more appropriate terms would be 'laboratory school' (with John Dewey's precedent in mind) or 'pioneer school'. The lack of diversity could be compensated through internet connectivity and correspondence relationships.

  5. Amber

    Having obtained my Dogwood Diploma via distance education (more than 10 years ago), I agree it has many limits. What I would have preferred was a mixed model, where home-based learning and class learning and technology can be mixed; where some days of the week do not have to have classroom attendance, reducing the effects of travel, which is one of the major concerns. Having arts taught in 2 or 3 day stints means there can be an urban based teacher who travels out to multiple communities to teach art class, drama, etc. This means a more cooperative approach between urban and rural schools and hopefully more understanding between the challenges of the various styles of education. In thinking "either or", there is a lot that is lost. If the thinking can shift to "both and", I think the benefits of both together can mean substantial gains for rural education.

  6. Jeff

    If there is the ability to provide reasonable internet access at remote school locations, there may be opportunity to enable children to remain in their community throughout the high school years. Long commutes to a physical school setting makes it very expensive and difficult to allow for full time attendance. Technology has the possibility of being a saving grace for students and families to have face time with teachers who can support and assist with navigating the school curriculum while maintaining connection to the local community.

  7. Debbie

    Access to professional development opportunities is a huge factor. Most pro-d activities occur in larger urban centres. It is incredibly expensive to travel to and to attend pro-d. Again, I feel teachers in the more urban centres have far more opportunities to enhance their teaching than rural teachers do. We need more opportunities offered in rural areas.

  8. Jessa

    I have "put in my time" at a small Rural High School and wouldn't change it for the world. The experiences and education you get from working in multi-grade and even multi-subject classrooms allows me to look outside the box at ways to deliver the content and curriculum. It has allowed me to expand my teaching strategies and build strong relationships with the students and parents in the community. (Many of whom would not attend school or graduate if they were to be bussed to the nearest "large school" half an hour away.)

  9. Dan

    This is a slippery slop — online learning is not an adequate substitute for teachers in the classroom. While attractive at first glance, it is not the panacea we've initially imaged it to be. I have experimented a great deal with it throughout my career and I recognize (as does much of the current research in this area) that it has many limits.

  10. Dan

    I have worked in large (1700 students), medium (600 students) and small (less than 100 students) schools and I found both 'entrenched' teachers as well as 'inspired' teachers in all buildings. In other words, entrenched employees are found in every business — it's not a defining characteristic of small rural schools at all.

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