This is Susan Riley’s final post in her series written especially for The Inspired Classroom on School-Wide Arts Integration. If you haven’t read the others, please do so. You can access her archive of posts here. They are full of great ideas and practical information – just what we love! Be sure to follow Susan on Twitter and check out her website: www.educationclosed.com. Even better, check out her new book The Keys to Making Arts Integration Work. ~EMP
Celebrations are vital to the success of any program. People need to feel good about what they do and feel as though their hard work is recognized by others. Yet, in education, we have a tendency to skip this step. We provide it for our students as often as possible. But we rarely embrace pausing and taking the opportunity to celebrate and thank the staff that works so hard for those students. And I’m not talking about a mass email, or a “proclamation” that is sent out and then gets tossed in the trash because no one cares about it. I mean a full out party celebrating the work that has been achieved. Or a hand-written, simple thank you note placed in a teacher’s box immediately after an observation. Big or little doesn’t matter. What matters is the feeling that we are validated in what we put so much of our life into.
When starting an arts integration program, especially, you want to really pump up the excitement about it. You have to get people to want to participate and be involved. There are several ways you can do that. Here’s a list of some of my favorites:
- Throw a Gallery Party – have everyone who wants to create a piece of artwork (a collage, a quilt, a painting, sculpture, even something they did as a model for the students in a lesson) to put on display. Put it in a central location and then allow people time to go in and look through the gallery. It gives people new insight into the staff in their building.
- Film a Commercial – have a few of the teachers who are really on board with AI give some testimony to the program with some student work examples and have the students participate. Then show it during a staff meeting.
- 60 Minutes Spoof – Film a 10-15 minute interview segment with teachers, administrators, parents and students about what makes arts integration something they like and want to continue. Include some information about the data and research behind it. Then show it at an end of the year celebration as a culminating activity.
- Spring Arts Night – have everyone keep student work samples from throughout the year to put on display for parents one night in the spring. Put pieces from their art classes out on display through the hallways. Then let students give their parents a tour of the building with their work on display. At the end, have all guests come to the auditorium, gym or other large area for a choral or orchestral performance.
Any of these can be done with some planning at the beginning of the year and a few knowledgeable people to take on the projects.
The Littlest Things
Sometimes, the small things make the big impacts. For our teachers, while the big celebrations have been fun and enjoyable, it’s the little things that count the most. My teachers responded best when I went to see them doing an arts integration lesson and then left them a small, hand-written note thanking them for their hard work and dedication. I always included something within their lesson that really stuck with me and something that I learned from them. This small token of gratitude became something that all the teachers looked for and kept with them. It almost became the token of our program to see a light pink note in your mailbox because it meant I had been there and “you did good, kid”. No note was ever the same and every note was sincere. This will go a long way in motivating your staff to keeping up with the program.
Celebrations are the keys to success in any program. You can give your teachers and students all the tools in the world. But if you don’t have keys to start the ignition, you won’t go anywhere. Be sincere, give praise freely and often, and throw a big party every once in a while. When people know you root for them, they will surprise you with just how fast they can drive your program forward.