5 Ways Teachers in Rural America Can Make a Difference
While most teaching techniques and principles can be applied to all teaching environments, teachers in rural or remote areas face specific challenges.
However, this doesn’t mean they can’t be successful in their classrooms. Below are tips teachers and schools in rural America can implement to overcome barriers and create greater opportunities for their students.
1. Use Technology in the Classroom
Teachers can and should promote technology in the classroom. In order to have technology be effective, schools must have internet access. Luckily, with options like satellite internet—which can deliver usable speeds to even remote and rural areas—no school needs to go without basic connectivity. It is important to advocate for internet access for your school if you don’t already have it. Once the proper infrastructure is in place, administration should start considering flexible learning management systems to cater to a wide range of devices.
For technology to be useful, faculty and staff should recognize that computers in the classroom aren’t just for teaching keyboarding. Instead, use the technology to give students the digital literacy skills necessary for today’s high-tech world. Explore practical tech applications that will prepare students for higher education and future jobs, like internet research methods or basic coding.
2. Get Parents—and the Community—Involved
Parents can contribute to the school in various ways, such as through volunteer service or support for school events, like band concerts and football games. They are more likely to contribute when they feel involved and needed. Regularly engaging with your students’ parents and guardians will also give you a chance to better understand what outside factors may be affecting student engagement.
Additionally, involving the community in school projects and events can help draw awareness to the educational needs of the school, garnering support when resources might be scarce. Schools can host banquets, put on community breakfasts, or have an open house at the beginning of the school year. Events like these can encourage community members to take part in school programs and invest in education for their local youth.
3. Encourage Higher Education
Schools, and especially teachers, should encourage students to pursue higher education. If you can, work with administration to implement a community mentor program where local professionals with college or technical degrees mentor students and help them see the benefits of pursuing higher education. Bring mentors into classrooms regularly to work with students, and encourage your visitors to talk about their work—what they do and how higher education helped them pursue their careers.
While some students may be hesitant to leave their community for higher education, you can help them see how their pursuit of further schooling can position them to positively impact their community in the future.
4. Give Students Opportunities for Leadership
You can help your students feel needed and valued in the classroom by providing leadership roles and responsibilities. Students typically feel a greater sense of engagement with their classes, teachers, and school when they know others are counting on them to take ownership over certain tasks.
Leadership roles can be rotated in classes (or in the school as a whole, for smaller schools) and could include positions such as class president, vice president, secretary, historian, and event planner. Be creative with the roles and rotate them often so each student has an opportunity to take part in leadership, and make sure each role has a specific set of responsibilities that students can own.
5. Make the Learning-Life Connection
Actively working to give students location-relevant opportunities in the classroom can help them expand their abilities and achieve more than they thought possible. Students from rural areas often have an acute understanding of issues specific to their local communities, so show them how the skills you’re teaching can be applied to those issues that pop up in their daily lives.
For example, you could show your student that the problem-solving math skills you’re teaching can be used to streamline an irrigation plan or balance a budget for a farm operation. You can also seek out literature set in rural communities or plan learning field trips to local industry operations. Focusing on place-based learning applications can help kids understand how to use their education to effect positive change wherever they are.
Teachers should work to discover the best teaching approaches for their students and help kids be enthusiastic about learning, no matter where they live. By applying these tips, teachers can achieve greater success in the classroom—and in the lives of their students.