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.
- Some great research for this can be found in Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind, Tony Wagner’s The Global Achievement Gap, and the study done by Lois Hetland and Ellen Winner that is the basis for their book Studio Thinking.
- Find out what other schools are doing and how they are successful in the arts. For some info on this, visit the “Stories from Schools” tab on our Arts Integration Live Binder.
- 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.