This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Reflections on Teaching Music in a Rural School

Charlotte Anderson

Rural schools cover vastly different geographi- cal areas and educate students from a variety of socioeconomic statuses and cultures. This is in part because under the large umbrella of the term “Rural” come three subsets: “fringe ru- ral” (a rural school five miles or less from an urban center), “distant rural” (a rural school five to twenty-five miles away from an urban cen- ter), and “remote rural” (rural school twenty- five miles or more away from an urban center) (Glander, 2015). Rural schools make up 28.5% of all school buildings in the United States and service 18.5% of all school children (Glan- der, 2015). In the State of Michigan, 28.0% of school buildings are categorized as rural, which serve about 20.9% of students (Glander, 2015).

I taught K-8 for three years in New Mexico (2012-2015) in a school that was on the edge of “remote rural,” a little over twenty-five miles from the nearest urban center in one direction, and a little under twenty-five miles from the urban center in the opposite direction. While I obviously cannot speak for all the challenges in all rural schools, in this article I would like to briefly discuss four challenges that I personally observed as a rural school music teacher, and how I addressed them. The greatest challenges I encountered were resources, professional devel- opment, class scheduling, and transportation for afterschool programs for students.

Frequently rural schools do not have the same tax base as suburban schools. For example, in Michigan in 2008, suburban schools spent on average $10,249 per student that year, where- as rural schools spent about $9,415 per stu- dent that year (Van Beek, 2011). Implications of the difference in support can be reflected in what resources are readily available for most rural schools, particularly for subjects such as music. For me, stepping into my classroom in NM to find three chalk boards and no projec- tor or sound system, was equivalent to stepping backwards in time. While we did have a set of fifteen Orff mallet instruments and ten guitars, the school did not provide a way for students


to listen to music. To begin to address this chal- lenge, I brought in my personal speaker system so that the students would be able to hear the music from my computer more clearly. My students had spiral bound notebooks, so I also encouraged them to make individual listening tables that we could then put on the butcher paper provided by the school to share with all classes that came through my room. Instead of having a running word document with ques- tions the students asked projected on the board, I wrote their questions on a large sheet of paper and added to the questions of previous classes. Within my first months as a teacher, I wrote a grant to purchase a projector for my classroom, which allowed me to bring the class together for music discussions as I could quickly put their ideas on the board via the projector, and among other benefits, show examples of ensembles on- line (YouTube was useful for this; also major symphonies have many links to online resources on their websites).

The second challenge I faced was a lack of ad- equate professional development provided by my district. Because the schools in my district were spread so far away from each other, there was never an opportunity for all music teachers to get together for professional development, or even to discuss common issues all schools were facing. I met only a small number of the mu- sic teachers in the district during my three years there, as it was too challenging to move from one school to the next on a regular basis. Needless to say, as a first year teacher I felt very isolated be- cause of the lack of personal contact with other music teachers. The way I addressed this chal- lenge was to use the Internet to find ways to stay engaged and to problem solve with other music teachers across the country via blogs, Pinterest, and other online communities. I also reached out to friends from college who were teaching music, and I emailed my professors to get rec- ommendations for resources. While I was not always able to access the professional develop- ment community, particularly those teaching in rural settings, through the Internet, it was more

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36