Teacher experience of rurality
Preparing for a rural career
Module 1: Understanding rurality
Module 2: Understanding place
Module 3: Understanding rural teacher identity
Module 4: Working with communities
Module 5: Getting to know rural students' lives
Module 6: Professional experience
menu 4.4.1
menu 4.4.2
menu 4.4.3
menu 4.4.4
Module 7: Advice in getting a job

Module 3: Understanding rural teacher identity and teachers’ work

Focus: Considering ways teachers construct and negotiate their personal and professional roles in the community


  1. Know about, understand and have considered strategies to access information relating to community and school roles and expectations in rural and regional contexts.
  2. Know about, understand and have considered strategies to work and live successfully in a rural or regional context.


  • School and community expectations of teachers
  • Negotiating personal and professional roles
  • Developing resilience
  • Working within and across community

Key readings

Hastings, W. (2010). Expectations of a pre-service teacher: Implications of encountering the unexpected. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 38(3): 207-219. Available from: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a925227852~db=all~jumptype=rss

Lock, G. (2008). Preparing teachers for rural appointments: Lessons from Australia. Rural Educator, 29(2): 24-30. Available from: http://www.ruraleducator.net/archive/29-2/29-2_Lock.pdf

Page, J. & Novak, M. (2009). Enhancing the preparation of students for teaching in rural and remote locations. Report of the Australian Teacher Educator Association: Albury, VIC

Vale, C. (2010). Supporting "out-of-field" teachers of secondary mathematics. Australian Mathematics Teacher, 66(1): 17-24. Available from: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-223372461.html

White, S. (2006). Preparing pre-service teachers for rural teaching: A new approach. International Journal of Practical Experiences in Professional Education, 9(1): 14-19. Available from: http://www.pa.ash.org.au/pepe/documents/store/1/vol9No12006pepeinc.pdf

Key resources

Key teacher qualities
Country Teaching DVD, Deakin University, Australia

Career advantages and challenges
Country Teaching DVD, Deakin University, Australia

  • Northern Territory Department of Education and Training. (2010). Teaching in the Territory [Teacher stories, links from right-hand-side of screen]. Available from: http://www.teaching.nt.gov.au/

Some suggested activities

These activities are designed to be used by teacher educators with their students in tutorial workshops.


Research has highlighted that rural schools often have a special significance to their community. Discuss why you think this might be. Discuss advantages and challenges of this significance for you as a teacher and how this might impact on your work.

If the rural school is indeed the ‘hub’ of the community, what do you think this might mean for a teachers’ work and identity within the broader community?


Watch the two clips above. What are the key qualities identified as important in working in rural/regional communities? Do you think these are the same for all locations? Why or why not?


In the mode 'Guest Speaker' you will find a set of film clips produced by the NSW DET (2007). You will hear from principals, teachers and community workers about a wide variety of school settings. What do you learn about the work of a rural/regional teacher that excites you? that challenges you?

How might you prepare more fully (thinking through these stories) for a rural/regional placement or position?


Read the following interview extract and then discuss the opinions expressed.

What do you think it means to be professional - socially?

Interview extract, Teacher Educator (Queensland), June 2010:

Student teachers need to be prepared socially and to be engaged in the community. They need to realise that they are going into a rural community or a remote community and as such, it can be very small and very different from living in a large metropolitan area where they can blend in and live in one suburb and go and teach in another and no-one necessarily knows anything about their life. In a rural community, student teachers are basically in the eyes of the community all the time so they have to be very professional in what they do both socially and professionally. I think that sometimes that’s something that might be lacking in the preparation because students don’t know what to expect if they’ve always lived in a city or a larger metropolitan area until they get out there. Student teachers also need to know about indigenous studies and teaching in a school within an indigenous community.


Below is an excerpt of Lorina's story and her recollections of her first day as a beginning teacher.

First day experience of teaching in a rural/remote community

Lorina’s story

I am nervous.

The school is mainly demountable buildings, as if sometime in the future it might be lifted up and taken away. Or bulldozed. The grounds are bone-dry, wide and flat, like the rest of the land out here. A few spindly trees line the playground. Soon the tired buildings are alive with voices from small mousy whispers to the loud, raspy crackling of adolescent boys. The variety of a Central School.

There are questions everywhere. Who you is? Miss, ‘ow long ya ‘ere for? Miss, where you from? Is that your truck Miss? Miss, ‘ow long ya ‘ere for? What your name is? “Ow long you’ll be here, Miss? Ay Miss, have you got a man?

How long will you be here, Miss? The question rolls over in my mind. Two years, that’s how long my contract is. I bet they ask everyone the same thing. They see us come and they’ve seen us go. I tell myself that it is what we do in between that counts. I am ready to try and save the world in two years or less. I kid myself that it can be done.

But first, I’ve got to get used to this heat.

Source: Harrison, L. Ed. (2003). Into the Whirly Wind: Stories of First Year Out Teaching. Bathurst: Charles Sturt University.
This extract is taken from the story told by Lorina Moss in Into the Whirly Wind, Stories of First Year Out Teaching about her first year of teaching, in Goodooga, in the far north west of New South Wales. in 2003 (Moss 2004). Lorina graduated from a rural university, Charles Sturt, with a Grad Dip Secondary, and was appointed to Goodooga Central School to teach English – as she says on a two year appointment.

Questions and prompts to use in group discussions:

  • What strikes and surprises you about Lorina’s experience on her first day of being a teacher?
  • What words or phrases stand out for you? Why?
  • What images of ‘rurality’ are captured here in this story?
  • How do you think the students that Lorina is going to teach feel about Lorina?
  • How do they perceive teachers?
  • Why do the students ask these particular questions? What do these questions tell you about issues that some rural students might face?
  • If you were Lorina taking a rural/remote placement, what advice would you give her in terms of being prepared to teach in a rural/remote community?