This is the online stream for sharing conversations that happened throughout the Greater Bay Area from March through June 2012 around the question:

How can we collectively transform public education through the arts to create a better future for everyone?

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Building on What Works-an art teacher joins the conversation

I have been asked to comment on the 5 concepts for collectively transforming public education through the arts. Change is great, and sometimes, most of the time, I would love to tear down the entire public education system and start from scratch. I have 3 paragraphs to write about something that occupies 75% of my life, so here we go.

Building on what works, that is the concept that speaks to me loudest. And how do we define what works? For me it is a high level  of student engagement, students understand key concepts, and at the more advanced levels, students create compelling , high concept, risk taking work, using a high level of craftsmanship and showing authentic voice. I think this holds true across the board of the subject matter game, although I am not sure about Math. Do I know how to make this happen in my art classes? You bet I do, and I have plenty of evidence to prove it.

I do know what works, and I am pretty clear about the obstacles to making things work as well. Here is a short list: NCLB, Companion Math and English Classes, lack of funding, lack of parent and community understanding of the importance of Visual and Performing Arts. I am lucky to be in a district where the administration really supports the arts and “gets it”. Even so, did I mention facilities, lack of funding, crowded classes, lack of funding, constant threats of layoffs,  furlough days, and lack of funding?

And finally, understanding that Building on What Works means that not just one thing ever works. Every student has a different need in order to shine. Building on What Works means “Connecting. “ What has helped me the most as a teacher, is my connection with other great teachers, through conferences and workshops, through online list serve groups, and serving on advisory boards.  Connecting with schools and higher education offering the kinds of classes we can only dream about  ( Here, I’m thinking about Oxbow and all our fabulous California art colleges).And finally, connecting the student to that larger world of the arts., whether it be higher education, career connections , gallery and museum visits or professional performances.  Connection is the challenge. It is the work outside the work and it is how to build what works.watercolor by naomi caylao, 12th grade, 2012


6 Comments on “Building on What Works-an art teacher joins the conversation”

  1. Ann Wettrich says:

    Good to hear from you on this blog Audrey! Especially appreciate your ideas about what success looks like from an artist/art teacher perspective–high concept, high level of craftsmanship, risk taking and authentic voice.

  2. lmusic says:

    Audrey ~
    You are a one woman example of what we hope to spread across the Bay Area as we “Map the Next 10 Years”. A big idea that has emerged from many of the conversations over the last few months is that we need to map our assets. We need to make visible the reources of arts orgnanizations, higher education, community organizers, business community and social change activists to create criss cross trails where we make pathways for connections. We need teachers like yourself to be speakers at rotary clubs and conferences that have to do with a new work force fo a new economy – the kinds of things that one does not first think an art teacher might do.

    Let’s find some time this summer to get with Ann, Trena and others to think about how we can build on the wisdom of entrepreneurial teachers that have already mapped their own path of continuous learning and community resources to support their students ongoing and ever changing needs.

  3. “And finally, understanding that Building on What Works means that not just one thing ever works. Every student has a different need in order to shine. Building on What Works means “Connecting.”

    YESSS!! As we think about building allies for integrated learning (learning that integrates the arts, among other disciplines), I think THIS is the message that we need to convey. There is still a myth that there is ONE solution, which leads to education policies that fall flat because they don’t account for the need for flexibility, agency, and accountability at the local level.

    We know that there are no “magic bullet” solutions, but how do we turn this into a positive message that resonates with yet-to-be-reached allies among parents, policy makers, and those who shape the rules we have to work with?

    How can we begin talking about integrated learning as “the” solution that really encompases a broad range of options that meet the diverse needs of students, teachers, and communities in our own neighborhoods?

  4. […] amplification support our ability to connect around or own work in the fruitful ways described by Audrey Brown, or connect to the work of others in the way Carl Anthony invites in his post about the […]

  5. Andrea Temkin says:

    Your post is making us see connection as a generative theme for our work. Connections to colleagues, educational tools, the larger arts community. Connections expand our thinking, help us access new ideas and resources, keep us fresh. We put it to creative use addressing the individual needs of students. How do we teach our students to connect? How do we model connecting? How do we connect on an organizational basis to continue to move this “mapping” and transformation process forward?

    Ann Wettrich and Andrea Temkin

  6. audrey brown says:

    The idea of connection is so multi- layered. What we, as teachers, face with low achieving students is dis-connection. They are not connected to their future or future possibilities.
    The arts are such a great platform for connection on so many levels. Personal and interior connection , community connection, the larger arts community are 3 that come to mind. Personal accomplishment, acquisition of skills and expression is a big part of education.
    Community connection , whether it’s a class visit to an elementary school to teach a buddy, or
    a Social Justice statement in a street performance, that’s the current wave. Bringing students to galleries, performances, museums has been key, in my experience, to show them the importance and purpose of the arts in society.
    Then there is the whole issue of connecting with colleagues, creating professional learning communities that aren’t just required, but are inspired. And to bring it full circle, connection outside the art education orbit, to bring in funding, support, and advocacy, resulting in, of course, a better world for all.
    I think we could actually use the California VAPA standards to our advantage, creating specific examples for Standard 5, which just so happens to be called “Connections, Relationships, Applications”.