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effective than finding resources on my own and better than feeling a sense of professional isolation.

The third challenge, class scheduling, is a problem many teachers have in a variety of school settings. I had few plan- ning periods, a circumstance that arose from the fact that I was the only music teacher for a K-8 school with over 500 students enrolled. This meant that in order to see all the stu- dents for their music time, there were often days in the week where I was not given a planning period during the school day; instead, I was not assigned pre-day or post-day activi- ties (bus monitoring, early recess, after school monitoring, etc). While having a planning period during the day would have been more useful, I was able to use my time before school to set up for all my classes, make copies, move instru- ments, and do any more last minute preparations before the day started. The logistical challenge of needing to be ready for the whole day by the time the first bell rang I addressed by being more organized so that I could use my half hour before school wisely.

Afterschool programing was challenging for two reasons; first it was only open for students whose parents could pick them up after school, as there was no late bus. In my three years of working, I ran a band, two choirs, and a guitar class after school, but sadly, I was unable to find a way to make afterschool programs accessible to everyone. A substantial grant would have been necessary to make transportation possible. Another possible way would be to help parents ar- range rides between families, but that would work only if a teacher knows the students’ families very well. The sec- ond challenge was that due to distance from the school and lack of local transportation some parents could come to the school only once to pick up their whole family (i.e., younger brothers and sisters would need to stay after school with the student in my program, or the student would not be able to come at all). This I took on a case-by-case basis, sometimes allowing students’ siblings to stay in my classroom during the afterschool activity. I tried to use my best judgment and answer such questions as: Is this fair to the student in the music program? Is this fair to the younger sibling? Can I give the younger sibling something meaningful to do with- out taking away from the afterschool program? Once I had answered those questions I would let the families know what we could do to accommodate their child’s participation in the program.

While I certainly experienced a number of challenges, there were also many benefits to teaching in a rural school district. I had autonomy over my own curriculum, and I could design new units for my students to explore. I had the chance to work with all students from grades K-8 and to see the devel- opment of music skills over a wide span of grade levels. In my experience, working in a rural school system highlighted


the need to work with other specialists and classroom teach- ers to develop cross-curriculum projects. However, the big- gest benefit of my job was, of course, working on behalf of my students to find and use resources to develop the high- quality music education program they deserved.

I invite you to visit my blog space at https://ruralmusicedu- to share your experiences of teaching in rural schools along with resources and strategies you’ve found useful for teaching music in rural settings.


Bates, V. (2011, April 4). Rural music education bibliogra- phy. (See other articles on the MayDay Group website about rural music education and potential resources.) Retrieved from rural-music-education-bibliography%EF%9C%AB/#. VuLP2Me5Hbg

Glander, M. (2015). Documentation to the NCES Com- mon Core of Data Local Education Agency Universe Survey: School Year 2013–14 Provisional Version 1a (NCES 2015-147). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Sta- tistics. Retrieved [9-24-15] from pubsearch.

Prest, A. (2013, Fall). Towards an enriched rural concep- tion of music curriculum & pedagogy. Michigan Music Educator, 51(1)

Van Beek, M. (2011). Revenues and spending of Michigan’s urban, suburban, town and rural school districts, 2004-2010. Midland, MI: Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Charlotte Anderson graduated summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2011 with her de- gree in Music Education. She taught in a rural Title I school district in NM for three years, and worked with students grades K-8. During her time in NM, Ms. Anderson organized the donation of 70 band instruments to start the first elemen- tary/middle school band in her district. Ms. Anderson now attends the University of Michigan, and is working towards her Master’s Degree in Music Education.

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