Special Training Urged for Rural Teachers
Teachers who work in rural communities need training that specifically prepares them for rural life and inservice activities that continue to offer support, according to a recent study by a researcher at Pennsylvania State University.
"The overall situation is not very good," says Murry' R. Nelson, a professor of education who conducted a survey of the teacher-training programs at 41 universities in 31 states with large rural populations and in British Columbia.
One-third of the nation's public-school teachers work in rural areas, Mr. Nelson notes. "But despite these figures," he says, "the plight of rural schoolteachers has been largely ignored. For the most part, the attitude is, 'Why do we have to make any allowances for rural schoolteachers?"'
Prospective rural teachers need exposure to the isolation and lifestyle of rural communities, especially if they have not lived in one before, says Mr. Nelson. "Isolation is the major thing. And some people find that living in a fishbowl is just not for them."
The survey showed that only three of the 41 education programs offered courses that deal specifically with this aspect of teaching in rural areas by placing students in rural teaching situtations.
An effective program for the preparation of rural teachers would be one that arranged for students to teach in a rural area, along with an experienced teacher, for two weeks, according to the researcher.
He also contends that education-school programs ought to offer more on-campus courses on rural education and rural sociology.
To strengthen inservice activities for teachers already working in rural communities, Mr. Nelson suggests that school districts develop cooperative programs with universities. He cites a program initiated by Brigham Young University and a number of school districts in which teachers and administrators in a selected school are replaced for a one- to five-day period with education-student trainees.
The faculty and staff members, in effect, switch places with the education students, taking inservice courses for that week at the university.
Mr. Nelson's survey won the 1982 award for outstanding research from the Rural Education Association.--ah