My big city counterparts regale me with their tales of opulent classrooms, teacher restrooms on every hall, and regular field trips to large museums, plays, and other cultural offerings.
It doesn't bother me in the least. When I hear that, I even feel a little sorry for them. My list of blessings in teaching in a rural, small school district is abundant.
My commute is along peaceful highways and country roads. The only traffic jams I encounter are when a flock of chickens wanders from their coop into the road or when a particular bull successfully outwits the gate on his pasture. If he is wandering on the road, I sometimes get out of my car to shoo him back in if I don't have to get my shoes wet.
Not all my students ride the bus. One boy from several years ago rode his horse most fair weather days to school and pastured the mare next to the baseball field. Another student was dropped off by his dad each day on a large tractor, plow attached. Still another adventurous fellow rode the half mile to school each day on a bladeless riding lawn mower, obeying his mom's admonishment that he wear a helmet even though his speed never exceeded three miles per hour.
Most of my students come to me already saying, "Yes ma'am," and "No ma'am." The vast majority of my male students hold the doors open for women. Chivalry is more the norm than the exception. When I took a stupendously embarrassing fall one day at school (Spectacular Fall), the four 8th grade boys who unfortunately witnessed it were ready to carry me to the office in their bony arms even though I was already on my feet by the time they got to me.
I have taught a couple of generations of the same families. I've also taught multiple branches from a number of family trees. They treat me as if I am grafted into that family. I go to their weddings, the christenings of their babies, and sadly, sometimes their funerals.
It is a school holiday when the livestock show rolls around. Students have pictures of their show animals taped inside of their lockers more often than they do pictures of movie stars or famous singers.When the fire alarm siren wails at the volunteer fire station one block away, most of the men on campus rush over to man the trucks.
We don't have a working school bell in my building, but it is of no concern. A nearby rooster crows every morning at almost the same time to welcome his day's start and ours.
The school is the heart of the community in rural areas, and ours is no exception. Turnouts for Christmas programs, 8th grade graduations and such events are held in front of standing room only audiences.
I'm not trying to get everyone to sing the theme song to Green Acres. Not everything about rural life is desirable. And are rural schools, including mine, perfect? By no means. I could actually even make substantially more money by teaching in a large city district.
Some things are worth more than money, though. The big city lights aren't attractive to me. The lights I like best are the warm hues of the sunrise that unfold over us as we begin each school day.