10 Ways to Make the World Bigger for Rural Students

multiple-passports“Learning is not a spectator sport”. – D. Blocher

A friend was telling me that she’d heard a man insult a woman by saying she was dumb because she hadn’t been anywhere. If you know my friend, then you know she didn’t let that slide. She asked the woman if she’d read any books and the woman said yes. She asked the woman if she watched documentaries and the woman said yes. She asked the woman if she knew people from other cultures and the woman said yes. My friend turned to the man and said, “Sounds like she’s been plenty of places. Where have you been to insult her?” 

A rural environment is what it is. You become accustomed to seeing kids looking forward to hunting before school and looking forward to doing more after school. You become accustomed to the alternative to college being work with a parent in a family business or at a job where their dads and grandfathers have worked for decades. You also become accustomed to some students who don’t believe college is an option. I always wonder how do we as educators make the world bigger for them. I wonder how we can give them an appreciation for opportunities on the other side of the county line or what they see in popular culture. Let’s face it, reality TV and music videos are a small part of what’s out there.

Maybe some of these tactics will work:

  1. Talk about your travels in a way to make them curious.
  2. Share the books that you loved growing up and tell students why you loved them.
  3. Incorporate researching colleges out of state as a class assignment.
  4. Bring in people of different faiths, races and nationalities to talk to your students.
  5. Have them research people who are doing what they want to do one day. Make them curious about the path successful people have taken, especially people from rural areas.
  6. Be genuine in asking them about their dreams and hopes. Maybe they are curious about a city or country they’ve seen on TV or in a movie. Encourage them to research and study that place or research a profession that they are curious about.
  7. Ask if they were given free airfare, a hotel and money to spend, where would they want to go? Plant a seed.
  8. Challenge them to use their online time to research a dream or desire and ask them to write a paper about it.
  9. If available, show them documentaries in class about far away places and customs.
  10. If you have a passport, show them yours. If not, talk to them about the importance of having one for foreign travel.

Seems easy enough, huh? We should be mindful not to insult them or laugh at their plans after high school, because kids only plan as far as they can see. In my humble opinion, I think it is important for us to help them see beyond our small towns.



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