When I graduated from the University of Iowa, I was thrilled to go out into the world and pursue my dream of teaching and making a difference in the lives of young people. I took a teaching job at a rural school a couple hours north of my beloved Iowa City. This meant that I would be living in a small town for the first time in my life and the opportunity to do so has already taught me a lot. I have learned that teaching in a school nestled among corn fields is different than my student teaching experience in a large city school. The more I observe these differences, the more I realize that rural education needs to be a pedagogy of its own.
I have been well acquainted with research and writing about the teaching of urban students. In fact, this type of study made up most of my learning about teaching in my teacher education program. However, standing in front of my students from towns of populations of 1,600 or less, I can see that they are different than the students I read about in many of my books and articles. And I want to find out how and why. This is part of my mission this year as an educator of rural students.
As this new school year begins, I think about the opportunity I have to explore rural teaching. In addition to my efforts of delivering high quality educational experiences, I will work this year to investigate how the rural context of my school can inform those best practices I already aim for in my curriculum. My two guiding questions that I will keep in mind as I plan and reflect throughout the year will be:
How can I bring rural student voices to the forefront using writing projects?
How can I empower rural students by asking them to analyze representations of rural life in literature?
I am committed to providing empowering curriculum to Iowa students. I am honored to teach in the state I love best and excited to continue in this exploration of how to engage rural students on this rigorous and critical level. I will be using my blog as well as my presentation at the National Council of Teachers of English conference to document and share my experiences and learning this year.