The recipe is simple. Take your passion for teaching art, mix in people from other areas of your building, district and state, and offer collaboration and stories. You will be on the first rung of creating a partnership with those that matter.
My Building “Peeps”
The beginning of my summer consisted of an eight-day venture to Matagulpa and Managua in Nicaragua to work with several government schools. Four, Spanish-speaking classroom teachers and I worked with Nicaraguan classroom teachers and high school scholarship students on techniques to use in reading and math. My job was to show how the visual arts boost those areas using natural resources. What began as an authentic art learning experience for those Nicaraguan students, became an advocacy experience with my coworkers. The presence of my coworkers during my lessons showed them how I teach, the artistic process, the learning that occurs in art, and how other subjects can be interjected in and connected to that process. They were amazed at my session. Not because I am some superstar, but because they really did not know WHAT I did in the classroom. There was a great deal of respect cultivated in a short amount of time that made me understand that we as art educators need to educate our coworkers on what we really do!
I was lucky to have a professor that insisted that we sign up for WAEA because the National Conference was in Chicago that year. Seemed rational. Little did I know that I would be on the board from 2004-present, with a short sabbatical to take care of family. I was the West Central Regional Representative, the Membership Chair, Elementary Representative, and then I hosted the 2010 conference in La Crosse, and now I am back as Co-President Elect. My point is that leadership is in all of us. We are teachers and therefore natural leaders. The thing is, we do not all possess the same type of leadership styles. YOU may not consider yourself an extrovert, yet you may possess the very thing that our organization needs. You may need to grow into your roll like I am doing. There is no way I could have done this six years ago. If you are interested in becoming a leader, forging the way OR quietly working, then you might be a perfect fit for our WAEA board! There are many levels of involvement and I am certain that there is a perfect fit for you. Just send me an email or see me at the conference. I would love to share ideas, advocate for you or help you get on your way to state leadership.
The Next Level
There is nothing more fun than connecting with friends and like-minded people. That is what our fall conference is all about—energizing, collaborating and seeing new possibilities. Now take that and magnify it by 1000. That is what it is like to become a regional/national representative. As an executive board member, I am able to attend the National Conferences and participate as Delegate for the State of Wisconsin. While also attending the regional summer workshops and leadership conferences, I’m able to connect with all my friends at the state and national levels, which gives me a good idea of what is happening in other pockets of our country. Attending the regional meeting gives a snapshot of what is to come and sometimes shows other states what may be coming their way. Taking a national role gives me a big picture of how to lead our state while keeping the issues and talking points of our Wisconsin members in mind.
This past July, NAEA offered the first Leadership Conference with state leaders in Santa Fe, New Mexico. NAEA focused on advocacy and leadership as a component of our teaching. I came away with a great sense of pride knowing that a majority of our school principals nation-wide see art educators as the center of the school AND as leaders (Crayola survey). Do you see yourself in this role? Leadership does not have to be a big role or even a time consuming brain drain. I use my advocacy and leadership in a fun playful way in our school. When our students are learning something new, I share that with the grade level teachers. When I see a spark of interest or inquiry, I set a play date after school to show/teach them how to do what their children are doing. This has been a great advocacy tool in my building. I got to have fun connecting with the classroom teachers and they thought what the children were doing was really interesting. What happened is similar to the Nicaragua experience; my staff became aware of the time it took to prepare and set up the project, to demonstrate and explain an authentic experience and the time it took to ‘make’ good work.
My goal is to have six of these afterschool play dates with staff, one for each grade level this school year. It builds community, and guess what? You will be helping to create that community! You will become the go-to person in the building. Art will slowly become the center of learning in your school and they will seek you out for ideas. Authentic ideas. Take the lead and show them the importance of having certified art educators teaching art. Have fun and let me know how it goes! Not sure where to start? I would love to help start this or something similar.
Look for more information on our WAEA Facebook page as I post throughout the school year.
Steal my ideas and have fun! In doing this you will become a natural leader and advocate for your program.