Secondary Division Representative
I have always had a hard time with advocacy. I am one of those people who do not like to impose my beliefs on others, for the most part. I do however, feel that schools need strong art programs to balance learning, make our students into upstanding, well-rounded individuals and prepare them for the ever-changing world.
Some school districts have strong, well-developed art programs with plenty of teachers and support from the administration, parents, and community. These districts might have a well-known arts following or the teacher in that district has been there for years and has developed the art program and has plenty of connections. In the school districts I have been in, and I think there are a lot of you out there in this same boat, there is more emphasis on programs such as sports or technology (which are important) and teaching to “core” subjects.
How do you bring more emphasis for your program into your district and keep it there? In my experience, you have to keep plugging away, communicating in positive ways and using all the resources you can get your hands on. The one resource that everyone likely has access to is the school newsletter. Another resource is the community newspaper, if you are lucky enough to have one. In the community I teach in, we have a community art club that is quite involved and is always trying to keep the arts at the forefront of importance.
What about sources to keep you going and keep art in schools? Websites, YouTube, blogs, facebook, and twitter?—Yes, yes, yes and yes to all and everything you have time for. I may be preaching to the choir here and you may already use all these avenues to help keep your art program going.
A majority of us are stretched to the brim already in our daily work—preparing, contacting, sharing, teacher effectiveness and other duties as assigned. We are all so busy that it is hard to keep up with all of it. Taking time to convince people to believe in you is hard because other things take precedence. Most of us start our year excited, wanting to bring our new ideas into the classroom and let everyone know we are ready to go. What are you going to do to keep that energy and enthusiasm going?
An effective way to advocate is to be positive. The projects I do, the contacts I make, the extra duties I do, the work I display—always smile and talk it up. I have no room for complaining or being negative.
Here are some resources I use when advocating for or working to enhance my art program: www.incredibleart.org. , www.theartofed.com , www.arteducators.org/advocacy, www.americansforthearts.org., www.kennedy-center.org. My favorite resource is incredibleart.org. Under the advocacy tab there is a list of statistics I am going to post in my classroom or in some other strategic location. My other favorite is theartofed.com. They have relevant professional development opportunities for teachers and tips about everything. Jessica Balsley is the founder and she was an art teacher herself. She spoke at our fall conference last year and she was very inspiring. She has a list of accessible things to do throughout the year to advocate for your program. She also talks about advocating without feeling like you are asking for the world and getting what you want without negativity.
I would really like to hear from any of you about what you do for advocacy or how you might be struggling with advocacy in your school and community. I am excited to be starting a blog in the near future and I am thinking about an art idea/lesson exchange for the start of the school year. If you have anything you would like to talk about right now, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to chat.