My classroom is louder than others. Individual work at a student’s desk gets exchanged for group work where everyone is on their feet. Students are encouraged to be their liveliest and sometimes bawdiest self. Silliness might be a part of the lesson plan. Rather than a test, students present what they’ve learned to a live audience. I am a theatre teacher, and students enter my classroom with excitement. But not all are excited. In fact, most teachers approach my classroom with trepidation and sometimes a smidge of derision; theatre is a discipline on the fringe. I feel that it is part of an arts educator’s duty to help others adults to understand what is happening their classroom. It should be part of their goal to connect studies within the arts of the core subjects taught within the schools. This is a sustainable way to successfully promote arts education.
Often arts educators place themselves in a defensive position, where they constantly justify why the arts (and they) are a necessity. I’d take the opposite strategy and take an offensive line. I invite and encourage other teachers in my classroom! Why? Because very often, other teachers will only see the product of what students have worked on (e.g. a still life of fruit in the style of Gauguin) and not understand the process that led the students to create. And why should they? It is impossible for other teachers to see the work that students put into the process of drawing and painting the portrait. So, ask them to view what you are doing. Ask them for feedback. Encourage questions. It will make you a stronger teacher. And don’t stop with a single olive branch. Offer more than once, and invite others more than once.
Connect with your administrative staff, and ask if you can lead a short professional development on arts education. If so, this would be a great time to introduce teachers to something like Project Zero’s Habits of Mind or a hands-on activity that has proven successful for student engagement and healthy behavior. If no professional development opportunities are available, create a pamphlet with data about the positive effects of arts education. An overdone example would be the positive correlation between math and music. Lesser known is the positive correlation between math and dance.
Avoid rolling your eyes at naïve comments, and instead ask why the teacher thinks the way they do. I know that this is a tall order, and eye rolling – and sometimes muttering– is something I am guilty