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Escape to the Country and ... Teach

30/05/18

With many of us wanting a different life style away from the hustle and bustle of the city, it may be tempting to consider a move away from it all. Emma's guide will help you to paint an idea of what you might face if you make that big step out to the country. 

The Circle of Life

Seeing new life every Spring and hearing about lambing season from excited youngsters is a joy. As a teacher, be prepared to hear, and explain, the nature of life on farms. Children see the whole thing and will want to tell you about what they have seen. One little girl attempted to re-enact how chickens reproduce, despite my increasingly loud protestations, and stopped only when she realised she didn’t know how "the magic happens”. The existential side of life will come into it too, as favourite pet farm animals die in sometimes difficult circumstances, because nature is nature and not all chicken coops are fox proof.

A Slower Pace of Life

Taking life more slowly is certainly one thing that happens when you move out to the shires. In general, there is a sense of less hurry and pressure, and people do take time to talk to each other and be genuinely interested. Many of us love watching the seasons unfold, and being in touch with nature is one of the best things about the countryside.

The sense of slow applies to most things. If you are planning a school trip, there are usually plenty of historical buildings and geographical features formed over the centuries to visit or small quirky museums and galleries to pop into for an afternoon. Regional theatres have touring productions of West End shows after they have finished their London run. For after work, there are fabulous gastro pubs and restaurants, although you might have to travel a little way to get to them. Shopping is best done online if you are looking for something special. Of course, Amazon and Netflix are available everywhere, although do ensure you get the broadband service and delivery speed for orders that you need.

A Love of Tractors

In very rural areas, children will miss a day of school to attend County Shows with their families to see animals or to get the show experience, like looking at new tractors. Rest assured that you don’t have to know anything about animals or tractors as it is better to be taught by the children. There is nothing worse to be caught out as a ‘townie’ (a person from a town that doesn’t know anything about country life, even though they pretend otherwise; recognised by their suspiciously clean wellies).

Seasonal workers and traveling families may establish their temporary home in communities. They will stay for a season when crops are harvested and sorted, and children will attend local schools during this time. They may get extra help, depending on individual school budgets. Schools will give you support on how best to teach them and support their families. There are many different resources to look at online, but this one may be a good place to start.

A New Life, An Old Community

Communities have a real heart to them and are generally close knit and supportive.

The staff in rural schools are likely to be from the community. They are usually very friendly and welcoming, so will be keen to help you settle into your new home. Trust them to support you, because they will be your best source of information during your first months, on everything from the background of your pupils to where to do your shopping.

It may be tempting to think that all is rosy in the countryside. Rural poverty does very much exist, so issues of homelessness and unemployment are as important here as everywhere else. Teachers and school senior management are aware that children come from homes that are in the middle of some very difficult circumstances. Their problems may be different to those in an inner-city school, but they do exist.

Rural schools must teach the same curriculum as city schools and their budgets are just as tight. We might have the luxury of more green space outside, perhaps, and that does make such a difference, especially if the children have a Forest School or Beach School time allotted to them each week.
Many rural schools have small pupil numbers, so it is not unusual to have two or three teachers per school, with an EYFS/KS1 class combined, LKS2 and UKS2 class or KS2 class. One school I taught in had a total of thirty-one pupils, which contrasted with the twenty-seven Lower Key Stage 2 class I taught later that week in another village school.

Country Life on a Good Day – A Personal Reflection

As a child, I could roll down the hill in the large school playing field to wave at my mother at the end of our garden. There was a field of cows in the way and my friends and I could talk to them and feed them. Then we’d run back in for lessons and one day, we talked about Keith’s dead owl he’d found on his way to school.

I made the move to countryside teaching sixteen years ago and two years ago I took an even bigger jump into supply teaching. There have been hours spent behind tractors, dodging squished wildlife on the roads, watching donkeys give each other ‘piggy backs’ in front of a curious Year 4 class, teaching children to make daisy chains, falling down badger holes Vicar of Dibley style, being chased by cows and making dens in the rain.

I wouldn’t swap a minute of it.

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