My Musings: Why Arts Educators are Important

Where are our stars of the future coming from?

Up until now I haven’t really expressed too many deep seated philosophical opinions on the blog. I find it hard to articulate the immense feelings I have towards arts education and my role as an arts educator.

However, I now think it’s important that educators understand the subtle differences in someone who is an arts educator and someone who isn’t. I’m not saying arts educators are any better than any other educator. There are many things that are universal in teaching regardless of subject area or age. However, I would like people to appreciate how hard we work in the arts and why. Again, not that someone in another subject area works any less hard but arts educators are different. They are tapping into a different energy and it is vital this continues if we are to continue to have a holistic approach to education. Arts education needs to continue to be valued and sometimes I’m afraid people forget this and we are losing the fight.

This post isn’t a whinge-fest either. Far from it. I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for a second.

In high schools in particular there are teachers who are incredibly precious towards their subjects. They are unaware of the approaches taken in classrooms in different faculty areas. I know I’m taking a risk simply saying that. They are unaware that for some student’s and for some subject areas this is an effective approach and one, that if it is working, should be nourished and allowed to blossom. Now, I’m not saying these approaches are any better than any other but they are to be respected and appreciated for what they are. We need to engage kids in ways that keep them interested and learning something. If these approaches are working, why stop them?

This weekend I had an opportunity to attend the DEC’s, The Arts Unit, Schools Spectacular Stage Management Program. In the program we looked at the areas of production management, lighting and sound, risk assessment, stage management, props, costumes and set design and making all of which are needed to put a successful production together. Often all of these things are done by only one teacher and in addition to their teaching load. It was a time not only to refresh skills but to reflect on what I do as a drama teacher every day and the direction in which my teacher career is going.

If you have not heard of the Schools Spectacular it is the largest student arts entertainment program in the southern hemisphere. Over 3000 children from across NSW come together each year to perform at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Showcasing music, dance, art and drama, audiences are dazzled by the array of talent of students from over 250 public schools. It is broadcast each year on ABC1 and ABC2. It is a huge undertaking supported by 100’s of teacher’s. Check out the clip below from a segment in the 2010 concert.

I had the opportunity to work on it for the first time in 2009 and I have to say it was one of the most positive, uplifting experiences of my teaching career so far. The joy and enthusiasm from the students is infectious and it is a refreshing, optimistic injection to your daily teaching life. Particularly when some of my daily struggles include disinterested kids, lack of drama classes, behaviour problems, challenging learning behaviours, lack of time, cultural and social constraints, budget and resources. You need a lift to get you through the moments when you feel like you’re just surviving.

It is at this time when I often think, “Why do I do this? Is it worth it?”

So why do I do it:

  • I love Drama. It is one of the most beautiful, expressive art forms that show the fragility of life in such a tender, creative way. I want to share that with everyone
  • It may be the only experience a child ever gets. Working in the kind of school that I do, one where arts education isn’t really valued and most students have never set foot in an art gallery or theatre in their lives, I see it as being my most important duty to ensure kids know something about the arts before they leave high school.
  • I love seeing the fruits of my labour. I’m a sucker for working hard and I love organising events. Especially ones where I know kids are going to appreciate the experience and there is a final finished polished product.

All of this I love sharing with other teachers. All, teachers, not just arts educators are trying their best to activate change in the communities in which they work. Every child wants to connect to something, find their home. The beauty of arts education and the importance of all those extra-curricular programs that are run by them after school and on weekends is that it provides more opportunity for them to explore and find what makes them tick.

I believe, without arts education humans as people are missing a vital part of living and connecting with a vital part of themselves. Now, with the school leaving age having been raised to 17 across Australia I believe these programs are even more important and parents, teachers, administrators need to acknowledge the need for these. Add to this the creation of the Australian National Curriculum and the need for hours to be allocated that validate the importance of this subject to that of a holistic education for all Australian children.

Why do you teach? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image Credits: Twinkle Star, DaGoaty, Licensed Under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

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