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