Rural schools are often tiny—sometimes with only a dozen students per school—but they produce some of the most brilliant kids in America.

Do small classrooms and close-knit communities offer something big public schools could never offer? Our guest today, Robert Mitchell, is a rural school teacher and college professor. In his small Colorado school, he only teaches about thirty-five students, but he loves what he does. He also wants other people to see the value in America’s small rural schools, recognize the challenges they face, and do something to help.

“I think the best education in the country going on right now is in our rural schools, simply because we can build those connections and kids don’t fall through the cracks. They’re not allowed to.” — Robert Mitchell

In this episode, Robert and Melvin discuss:

  • Robert’s upbringing in the tourist country of Colorado, as well as his long and varied career in education. He now divides his time between teaching college, speaking around the world, and teaching a small rural school in the cowboy country of Colorado.
  • How Robert first became interested in rural education and the early opportunity he had to tour every school district in Colorado, identifying their strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Why do rural schools get the “leftovers” of teacher talent? Robert outlines some of the challenges rural communities face that make attracting good educators difficult, such as lack of housing.
  • Is class size the only thing that differentiates rural school from urban or suburban schools? 
  • The transparency rural schools foster and their emphasis and dependance on strong families. Robert says he has almost no behavioral issues in his rural school because of how close-knit his class and community is.
  • If teachers want to try their hand at teaching a rural school, what can they expect? What benefits and challenges would they face?
  • Finally, Robert recounts a couple of his favorite rural student success stories.

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If you like what you’re hearing, stay tuned for our next episode on The State of Education with Melvin Adams. 


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