Educate the Educators

Sometimes the ones we need to convince of the power of arts integration are not the parents and community members, but the educators themselves.  There are many educators who are skeptical, but even the ones who love the idea of the arts in schools are still hesitant to make it happen.

Why is this?

I have a few thoughts…  😉

  • Of course there are the skeptics: those who simply don’t believe the arts are more than fluff.  (sniff, sniff – I’ll leave it at that.)
  • You may know a teacher or two who say they already do arts integration because they require their students to add an illustration to their weekly book reports, or do a holiday craft in December.
  • Sometimes there are teachers who think the arts might be a great addition to their teaching, but don’t see the real value of them. “There are much more important things to accomplish, and we need to prep these kids for the test!”
  • Then there are teachers and administrators who can get so wrapped up in what they NEED to do (classroom management, correcting papers, prepping for the test, dealing with discipline, differentiating for the variety of students) that time just slips away.  Even if they believe in the arts, there just simply “isn’t time.”

(And to this fourth variety of teachers, I say, they arts could quite simply be an answer to your needs!  The first step in arts integration is making the change in your classroom culture: showing your students that you value the arts and their expressions of ideas through them.  Many of the needs stated above can be aided through the use the arts in your teaching.)

So, what to do?  Well, it’s time to Educate the Educators.  Here are some ideas:

  • Advocate – You need to educate yourself in the power of the arts.  Get your hands on some studies, stories and real life applications for the effects an arts education can give our students.  If you are talking to a data lover, then get the data and find the statistics.
  • Listen and Respond – If someone is truly concerned about taking that first step to teaching through the arts, listen to what is really worrying them and offer your assistance.  If a staff member is badmouthing your program, calmly ask them what their concern really is.  When you open your ears to what the person has to say, they are more likely to listen to your response.
  • Tell Stories – In the lunchroom, at duty, even at a staff meeting, don’t be afraid to share your stories of student successes in the arts.
  • Invite Your Principal In – Ask your administration to observe a lesson where you are integrating the arts.  Being proactive in showing what it is you do will be seen very positively.
  • Lead from the Front – Be a model of arts integration by doing it yourself.  Share your successes and failures along the way, but keep on the journey.  Arts integration, like any other good curricular program or method of teaching, is not easy, but keep at it.
  • Share Lessons and Ideas – When you come up with a great integrated lesson, share it with another teacher.  You know the saying.  There’s no need to reinvent the wheel!  Think of your great lessons like great recipes.  When you come up with one, make a copy and pass it out for others to enjoy!
  • Collaborate – Get together with another teacher and team teach using the arts.  Once you discover each others’ talents, use them to create amazing experiences for your students and yourselves.
  • Publish the Great Stuff – Take pictures and videos to document the process, hang up the products, type out a summary and pass it on to the school or community newspaper.  Sharing the creative experiences of your students is a great way to educate all who see and read your work.

Whether you are just starting out or have been doing this for a while, you are bound to run into roadblocks along your journey.  Unfortunately, those roadblocks may be in your building.  Stay positive and proactive and the work you do will never go to waste.

~EMP

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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of www.theinspiredclassroom.com. She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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10 Comments

  1. Denise Minnard Campoli says:

    HI Elizabeth,

    I agree with you totally in the need for the arts integration!

    I have been privileged to incorporate art through a variety of mediums throughout my foreign language teaching career. It began with creating innovative techniques of teaching language through music, incorporating Latin dance and French art presentations, yearly Cabarets of original skits, songs, and instrumentals, large chalk board originals and reproductions of French and Spanish art (Do I every miss the slate chalkboard!), French and Spanish poetry recitation competitions, historical character costume contests, creative fashions, Spanish and French culinary experiments, “Salon de Musique”, public service announcements to promote foreign language study, H.S. students teaching elementary students, student led interviews of foreign exchange students, day tours of Boston, attending French/Spanish concerts and plays, visiting art exhibits, and trips to Quebec, France and Spain.

    The concentrated schedule which requires instruction of the basics in high gear mode, has limited the time that I had to spend with students during a full year course for true engagement and discovery of personal talents and love of the subject matter. Creating a peaceful place to learn and enjoy remains the goal. Establishing a positive environment where students are acknowledged for their gifts and by integrating a variety of arts will give this dimension of peace and creativity that every person of all ages craves!

    Denise Minnard Campoli
    Amesbury High School

  2. Tori says:

    Well…Why are educators skeptical about integrating arts into their classrooms? My answer is simple; change. Change equals stress (no matter how little) and added stress is usually not welcome by anyone, not just teachers. Children are stressed when the classroom routine varies a little. Thus
    imagine the stress incurred when a teacher changes their favored teaching style? Change is necessary to meet the ever changing needs of students but not every educator is willing to add more stress to their load. The demands made from administrators adds enough stress so to willingly add more is too much to ask for today’s teacher.

  3. Jennifer Rice says:

    I completely agree with Victoria. Change is an enormous source of stress for some teachers. Especially if you are asking them to do something that is completely foreign to them. There is a teacher at my school that is a very good friend of mine and completely uncomfortable with any kind of visual art project. It stresses her out to the extreme and she usually will only make herself do something creative with the visual arts around a holiday. It is a huge burden on her. She says she appreciates what I do and knows how important it is for the kids to experience it. It seems as though she is missing the point of the experience though if she is only doing “fluff” projects around the holidays out of obligation. I hope to gain the tools from this class to talk to her and others intellectually about why the arts are important to integrate in the regular classroom.

  4. Becky says:

    It seems to me that integrating the arts is not a totally new concept. As teachers, we’ve always made attempts to connect student learning. Educating the educators will be important, but it will also be necessary to simply remind teachers of their own learning in teaching methods. It also seems vital that teachers talents are validated and then they will be able to find their own ways to integrate arts in the classroom. If change can come from within, it will be received better.

  5. Leslie says:

    “Lead from the Front – Be a model of arts integration by doing it yourself.” I strive to be a “true” arts integrationist, but I at times feel limited by my space. My room and schedule can limit me, as does the time needed to collaborate. I feel like a 21st century warehouse, and the next class is waiting outside with the teacher looking at her watch. In an earlier post, someone mentioned a “peaceful place to learn” which is what a recent attempt at playing symphonic music in the background was to be for my class. As a young girl I studied ballet,and the first ballet production I dance in was “Dance of the Hours.” The theme is the hours of the day, and I thought it would complement or inspire the children as they illustrated. I forgot how a “crescendo” or “increased tempo” can affect young boys drawing “habitats.” I will continue to “listen and respond” and make changes along the way. Perhaps, this summer I will read David Pink’s “A Whole New Mind.”

  6. Jessica says:

    I am just beginning my arts integration journey. The biggest struggle that I think I will come across will be finding the time. There are many other things that must get done and unfortunately the arts are something that seems to be one of the first to be cut.

    Children seek out acceptance, belonging and fun. I agree that the arts could meet those needs and perhaps reduce discipline and classroom management issues because children are getting those other needs met. I am looking forward to trying it!

    • This arts integration journey can be difficult, but, of course it’s worth it. And the best part is that now, you are creating a support system within your district and school! That’s kind of exciting!

  7. Michelle says:

    At the high school, we have 30 minutes of time twice a month for what’s called “Critical Friends.” This seems as though it could be a time to introduce Arts Integration to all staff members. We are often asked to read articles and discuss them in our groups. Most recently the topic has been the value of homework. How about the value of Arts Integration? Excerpts from the books mentioned in your post could be used as data and evidence for some “doubters.”
    At least it might start a conversation. 🙂

    • Marcia says:

      Michelle, I agree that the first step is to just start the conversation. Hopefully, people will become more open to arts integration once they are educated about it’s successes. It’s important for people to know that it really isn’t an addition to their workload but a change in how learning is approached.

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