Mini-golf, sandwiches and rural

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I had the privileged of serving as a social studies teacher in two rural environments in New York State. The first, a village school located near Pennsylvania’s border with New York hired me right out of undergrad. This was due in part to the connections I had between the Scout camp were I worked and the principal of said school, who was golfing buddies with the camp director’s buddy- the camp commissioner (program ombudsmen). So I really have to thank my connection through a person I knew for helping me with my first job. I also have to thank the national sub shop chain in the gas station for helping me through my first job as well. See, for a single guy, running out for lunch during the day at school was hard. Where I taught it was 8 miles to the nearest fast food place, and 7 miles to the supermarket in the nearby city. It was almost 30 miles to a major supermarket chain in the much larger village of Springville. Needless to say, it is often much easier to roll out of bed and depend on the school cafeteria for food than to make it yourself. Dinner was a little easier- I could order pizza, or go into the small city or over the hill to a quaint village with some restaurants open. Quite often, it was grabbing a sub on the way home and eating it in front of the TV. In 1998-1999 internet was dial-up, long distance and expensive!

When I moved to my next job, out in the Leatherstocking region in New York, my final year there I was again single. A local national sub sandwich franchise became my dinner of choice place again. It was a steak sub or a chicken sub. I always saw my one student there, who was working to save up for college. It was quick, it was easy, and it required no thought. To eat at the sub shop for dinner allowed my to focus on myself and my job. It also allowed me to worry about getting to class on time for graduate school. See, in New York state, a teacher who graduates from school needs to also earn a masters degree in a five year time period from graduation. This is an extraordinarily quick time frame.  Not only is a new teacher learning how to teach, they may be settling into a marriage, or other life changing situation. While it does add to the exclusivity of a teaching career in the state, the young teachers have so many responsibilities during this time that they may not be able to focus on the required part of their jobs: teaching.

I also found a unique situation when single: You really can’t go out on a date in your local area. For me, that meant a huge area, because large cities in the area (Binghamton and Oneonta) were part of the area’s cultural catchment basin. I ran into co-workers 40 miles away from the village where we worked. There was little or no privacy. It is very awkward running into students while playing mini-golf. My experience in rural setting as a teacher is that there was no place to escape. There was no place to go to relax.  Teaching is one of the only professions which still places a moral requirement on its practitioners that they be the ideal. At least in urbanized/metro areas, there are places people can retreat to or a five minute drive gives space to the practitioners.

So one of the best improvements society provide teachers, especially in rural areas, is space and privacy.

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