Saturday, June 25, 2011

Engagement in Teaching

It is a rainy morning punctuating a beautiful but extremely busy week. In a short conversation with Monique who is doing some thinking and writing about what is left from arts integration projects after the project is over.
Our conversation turned to thinking about different responses by different teachers and the conditions under which these responses emerge.

One factor that we did not explicitly discuss was teacher engagement. For me we, as teachers, are not fully accepting a practice until we let that practice "fill" us. That is we enact it with students fully embracing and participating in the practice. This is even more important when integrating the arts, since the arts are meant to be displayed, shared, and audienced (not sure this is a word...).

If we stay reserved while playing a song, drawing, dancing, making a movie- our students will feel our reservation and will limit their own participation, viewing full engagement as "childish". Maybe the term I am looking for is JOY (parallels the notion of ">FLOW). If you find joy in integrating the arts and your students can feel your joy, they will buy into it, fully particpate, and learn what it means to really enjoy what you do.

Now I do not mean that finding JOY in a practice shold stop you in any way from being critical after the fact, evaluating what worked and what didn't and improving a practice. This JOY/FLOW is ot always there because to reach it we must have expertise, practice and confidence. But when we reach it the results and the JOY can fill us with a strong sense of efficacy and empowerment.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Art Education and the Elites

It is an untypically pessimistic post for me...

The drive to make sure that students are on grade level in Reading and Math has hurt many of the other subjects. It is simply the arithmetic of time in school, so we're told. All the surveys show that the public wants creative and even artistic students but whenever faced with the false dichotomy of either reading and math OR art, people admit that they think reading and math are more important to them.

Of course this impacts some students more than others. Uper middle class professional parents will support extra curricular programs in their schools and will also fill the gap themselves. At the same time a self reinforcing pattern of alienation from the arts will occur through the rest of society. Depending on what outcome you care about we will have less creative adults (when we need thm most), we will ave less patrons of the art, and finally and mot importantly art will once again be part of class distinction.

If only a small and well off segment of socuety gets true exposure to the arts then the arts themselves become part of class. When people discuss class they talk about class warfare. I do not agree I see instead a slow eroding change that willl not be understood until it is irreversible.

This call is not only for educators and thepublic but also to art organizations- make sure you engage your future audiences and include education in your goals.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Looking Forward

At a retirement party yesterday I chatted with Margaret Latta, a great colleague, about the future of art education at UNL. Yes, despite the budget cuts we think there is a future. In a previous post I have hinted at that option but yesterday we went one step further.
We are looking to situate arts education as part of an MEd program that focuses on 21st Century learning. Pre and in serrvice

teachers will participate in core courses on creativity, arts integration, technology and media in education. The idea is to transcend the traditional disciplinary boundaries in education to create a more coherent
vision and practice of education.
I am not sure if we can pull it off and get a critical mass of faculty to become interested. To make it work we need enough involvement to ensure sustainability and enough focus to ensure a cohesive program. I think that doctoral students might be a great part of a structure like this...
Part of the challenge will be to reboot some of our existing courses so that they fit our vision of integration as we practice what we preach!

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Friday, June 3, 2011

What do I mean by entrepreneurship?

In a comment on a previous post Kurt (whose blog is worth visiting) asked what I meant by entrepreneurship. Like all good questions it made me think a little more deeply on the issue- which is the main reason for the existence of this blog in the first place.
For me that word extends to any self initiated activity that interacts with the community in a positive way. It could be economic (and showing the economic importance of the arts is part of it), but it could also be a part of applying an entrepreneurial approach to community involvement, community action or giving.
The idea is that the arts can help students be more aware of their community and connect to it. See themselves as relevant players in building a community. I believe that shared art that crosses personal boundaries shared in new ways can become a vehicle to contain the alienation that kids and adults often feel in their everyday life.
One can argue that our modern school system is a product of the industrial revolution and the structure of the disciplinary approach to school (most obviously in high school) is akin to an assembly line in which each teacher has a specific and narrow task. His output can be measured easily most recently in value-added model suggested by economists (see Kurt's take on this issue here).
What I am arguing is that education and most easily elementary education can strive to create an alternative approach which connects the learner to the community and reduces the alienation not just for the learner but also for the community at large. Art can be such an instruments if we allow and support our students in becoming social and economic entrepreneurs.
Theoretically I am aiming at a sense of agency- a sense that schools (and society) strip away from children instead of finding meaningful ways to foster it.