I was offered a job teaching English in a very rural district, and so my first consideration was:

How rural do I really want to go?

Let’s talk about how rural this district is. About 20 minutes down the freeway is a little town we’ll call Empryville. This is not where I was offered a job.

Drive past a field, and we’ll reach another town we’ll call the Middle of Nowhere. This is not where I was offered a job, either.

Drive another 10 minutes past an orange grove or two and we’ll find an even smaller town called Podunk. This is where I was offered a job.

To get to the high school, I have to turn at the corner of “charcoal-mural-of-a-steam-powered-train” and “sign-that-says-‘Jesus-is-Lord-of-Podunk.'”

All told, the assisstant superintendent assures me the commute is no more than 40 minutes, total. During our famously fatal winter fog, I figure that a safe commute will end up more like an hour.

Podunk is small enough that it has a joint high school with an even smaller town called BFE. They have five elementary schools between them.

Where BFE-Podunk Joint Unified has the advantage is that they’ve already offered me a job. Teaching English. They even seemed pretty excited.

This might yet be a ruse. When the assisstant superintendent and a principal went behind the display to discuss the possibility of hiring me on the spot, I was reminded of the scene from Fargo where William H. Macy’s character goes back to “run it by the boss.”

I told this to another Podunk administrator. She laughed. She also didn’t dissuade me.

They had a huge display, even though their high school couldn’t have more than 1,000 students. Their set-up rivaled districts more than twice their size.

Their interview had been coupled with one of those Internet teacher surveys, and a conservative guess would say I answered at least 60 questions total. They also liked me, or so they said. I couldn’t help but think I was being played. Remember Fargo.

Who really wants that 40-minute commute, or, even worse, to relocate? Sure, they pay a little more than other districts, but gas prices negate any financial advantages. There must be a point where the little districts will take just about anyone wandering by.

I hope that impression is unfair, because I’m seriously considering accepting this job. What worries me is that they also told me this:

Kids here want to learn, and their parents are very, very supportive.

That’s either a convincing lie or too good to pass up. I have an appointment Friday.


  1. Isn’t a 40 minute commute mild by California standards?

  2. By Silicon Valley standards, yes. Not by “I’m-a-teacher-in-the-middle-of-the-state” standards.

  3. dkzody

    Country schools can be very nice, the kids are better behaved, and since there is nothing to do in town, they really get involved in school. I bet this school has lots of clubs, probably an FFA chapter. You’re young, maybe you should look to move to this little burg, unless it’s Parlier. Then I’ll tell you–RUN. Same thing with Firebaugh. Highly dysfunctional.

  4. I’ve heard enough warnings about Parlier and Firebaugh, so I’ve avoided those entirely.

    I figure BTSA will be less hellish in Podunk.

  5. …you could move closer?

  6. …I guess you did say you felt relocating was worse; anyway, I have a 35-minute commute and it is both a pain and a nice time to decompress all rolled into one. Good luck with whatever you choose!

  7. There’s nothing around Podunk except a few other Podunks. I prefer living near the Newman Center and streets I know, for the time being.

  8. Rural areas often have a lower cost of living. Beyond the stress and extra work moving would cause, it might not be a bad idea, especially as fuel prices are likely to continue rising.

  9. I hesitate to relocate, if only because I’ve already gotten comfortable and have settled down in the local city.

    I can budget away fuel prices. The salary more-or-less compensates for that much. The decision to relocate would be a matter of comfort.

    I have a whole summer to decide this.

  10. TeacherMom

    I thought you wanted to teach history? In NY, it is pretty strict about teaching in your certified field. Even without that, I wouldn’t know how to teach English given history as my background. I wonder if you are prepared to teach outside of your field and, if so, whether you would like to teach outside of your field. Your lessons for history are so good, it would be a shame for you to teach another subject!

    On a related note, I think it’s really encouraging that you have these offers! I always hear that getting jobs is REALLY tough – at least here in exburb NY where we live. I guess I’ll be finding this out next Spring myself after I graduate.

  11. I’m NCLB-qualified to teach English up to and through 9th grade, owing to my journalism degree and my smattering of English-major classes.

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