11 Quirks and Perks of Being a Small-Town Teacher

small-town teacher

Brazilian educator and philosopher, Paolo Freire once reflected, “I cannot teach without exposing who I am.” And all the small-town teachers in the world replied with a loud and resounding, “Nooo kidding!”

Teaching in a small town, especially the one you grew up in, is a weird and wonderful experience. It is awkward and awesome, a little challenging but often charming. And while everyone’s teaching experience is unique, there are few things all small-town teachers have in common.

1. Your students grow up to become your doctor, hairdresser, car mechanic, banker…

It is a strangely rewarding and terrifying experience to have the girl you sent to detention for sassing you now draw your blood for lab work or the boy you sent to the office for bad language now approving the loan for your kitchen remodel. Mostly you feel pleased that these troublesome teens have grown up to become successful, functioning adults. On the other hand, you are the reason they once got grounded for two weeks – so you hope there are no hard feelings.

2. Your former teachers (and former students) are now your co-workers.

Talk about coming full circle! At first, it can be a little uncomfortable to work with someone who once phoned your parents because you forged your mother’s name on a report card. But teachers are professionals, so you get over it. Then it’s kind of weird how not weird it is.

3. You probably taught your students’ older siblings – or their parents.

It’s fun to watch sets of siblings – or even generations of families – come through your classroom. It can also make you feel really, really old.

4. You probably went to high school with your students’ parents.

Again, this can be really awesome (there are roots and connections) or really awkward (there old stories and photos).

5. You are never anonymous.

You will run into your students (and their parents) at the store, and they will likely want to stop and chat. So, if you want to get in and out quickly, and you don’t want your students to know what kind of wine you drink or how much junk food you buy, it’s best to avoid peak grocery shopping hours.

6. You don’t ever want to get pulled over for speeding.

It’s always embarrassing to sit by the side of the road while blue lights flash in your rearview mirror. When a carload of your high school students drive by and witness your shame, it’s downright humiliating.

7. You teach everybody – you are THE English teacher or THE math teacher or THE science teacher.

Being a small-town teacher means no one graduates without getting by you–which is another reason you know practically everybody in town.

8. You get used to a lot of teacher turnover.

Not everyone in a small town has been there forever. And not everyone is there to stay. Small schools offer many advantages, but rural school teachers often earn less than their urban counterparts, prompting some teachers to relocate (often reluctantly) to larger cities.

9. You know (or you learn) the lingo.

Not just the current slang, a small-town teacher is always up on the local lingo – the things every hometown person knows but that would be gibberish to an outsider. You know why your students are spooked by the Old Monkey Tree or what they mean when they tell you they live out by The Romp Hole. And you definitely know which side of the Sonic is the cool side.

10. You will eventually be Facebook friends with your students.

This is actually a huge perk! It is great fun to follow along as the kids you have taught, worried about, prayed over, and loved go off to college, get jobs, raise families, and be successful grown-up people.

11. Your “kids” never stop being your kids.

Even when your students – the ones who made you mad, made you laugh, made you cry, and made you want to pull your hair out—are grown-up doctors, bankers, hairdressers, mechanics, teachers, mommies, and daddies, they are still always (just a little bit) your kids.

There’s no question that being a small-town teacher can present a unique set of challenges. But it can also be deeply rewarding and a lot of fun. All teaching is about building relationships—but the wonderful thing about teaching in a small town is that those relationships can last a lifetime.

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11 Quirks and Perks of Being a Small-Town Teacher

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Laura Hudgens

Senior Member

Laura has taught ELA and communication in grades 6-12. She also enjoys writing and taking care of her little flock of chickens. Her little flock of children have all grown or are mostly grown, but she still enjoys taking care of them too.

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