Monday, June 29, 2009


I did rural as a kid. I remember liking it just fine. But right after becoming a teenager, we moved to suburbia, and I loved it. I liked being able to walk to stores, friends' houses, school, and work. I liked having lots of fun places--movie theaters, bowling alleys, mini golf, malls, museums--close to home. Being the nerd that I was (am), I also really did appreciate the top-notch academic program offered by my huge high school (over 3000 students). I felt like I had a little advantage over my sisters who had gone to a much smaller high school in Indiana, where they referred to their AP English class simply as "AP" because it was the only AP class offered. I mean, I started college with over 40 credits from all of the IB tests I took.

Fast forward to marrying Aaron, who graduated from a school so small it makes my sisters' school look metropolitan. Through him, I realized that a small school has its advantages. Aaron is so well-rounded. My 5'8'' husband played basketball, baseball, and football. Yet he still managed to be in the marching band, rushing off the field to change uniforms at half-time. Come on! Plus jazz band. And he was a choir guy who was selected to represent Montana in the American Youth Ensemble's tour of Europe. He could do it all. They begged him to. For me, not so much. More students means more competition for all that extracurricular stuff, so I just stuck to the curricular stuff.

Aaron had pretty much convinced me that small town America would be ideal for raising our family. He's on the rural track in PA school and we're on our way. But I've still been harboring some concerns about the quality of academic opportunities in ruralville. So we went to Sterling and the powers that be put me on the education cluster, per request, to research just how well the education system does or does not work in a small town. I was surprisingly impressed.

I guess I had the stereotypical notion that small towns are behind the times, so the schools would be using the traditional math curriculum that focused on doing math instead of understanding it. Such was not the case. A group of teachers meets together every seven years to assess whether the current curriculum is still the best and to change it if it isn't. Before the new framework is approved, the parents and other community members have a chance to look it over. It struck me that with fewer people, one voice can make more of a difference. That's simple proportions. My sister who will remain unnamed is often disgruntled by the way things are done in her very large suburban school district. She has worked in several other districts and has brilliant ideas about how they could make her discipline of speech pathology function more smoothly. But they are convinced that they're perfect and they don't want to hear any ideas from her. Who is she, anyway? Just one of their many, many speech pathologists. But it Sterling, I saw how one person could see a need, write a grant, and make things better. Just like that. I left Sterling feeling more than convinced. I felt empowered. I am eager to go to a small town, find out what makes it tick, and if something isn't ticking, I'm excited to get in there and help fix it. I am no longer worried that my kids will be academically shafted in small town America. And I can just see myself sitting on a school board, wrestling with the limited resources of tiny towns. The Colorado Trust really should give themselves a pat on the back. Their plan worked on the Dahle Family!


Marliese said...

Well said. This is why I like you, Monette. I'm sure you WILL take on the small town you end up in by storm. They'll never know what (or who) hit them, but they'll be glad you did. Who knows? Maybe they'll elect you as the Hickville mayor!

Mirien said...

How great that you've had a chance to consider all the pros and cons. Your kids will be well-educated and well-rounded no matter where you live because they have you and Aaron as parents. I used to think I wanted to be on the school board, until I went to one of their meetings last year--it lasted over 4 hours! But in a small town it would be different. I can't wait to see where you end up!