thoughts & opinions on today’s education system.

so i’ve been on this education kick lately.

i mean i guess it really isn’t something that’s all that new since i’m always thinking about education and writing down ideas in my lesson plan journal whenever i can and constantly wanting to talk about education every free moment i have in conversation, but i’ve been on this kick lately where i’m really thinking about how the united states does education and why we do it the way we do.

in another ted talk with ken robinson he talks about how the same academic values are held high in every country — math and languages are seen as most important, followed by other humanities, and the arts are always last.

why are the arts always last?

when i started my degree as an elementary education major, my specified focus was the arts. i was really excited about this because i was going to be able to do education and also still take classes where my passion lies. after a couple meetings with my academic advisor, she talked me into switching my focus from the arts to spanish language since i was working toward a minor in hispanic studies (courses overlapped from the minor to the spanish language focus). i ended up making the big switch at the end of my sophomore year since arts programs are always the first to get cut from schools and i certainly wouldn’t want to be cut from a school — besides, spanish will make me look pretty darn good and i’ll be more marketable that way.

yes, i will probably be more marketable, but i still secretly wish i would have stuck with my arts focus.

i like spanish and i definitely have a heart for hispanic kids and english language learners in general, but i miss my drama classes that i got to take before all i could take was spanish.

don’t get me wrong, there will be arts integration strongly present in my classroom. there’s no doubt about that, friends. i guess i just can’t help but wonder why no one cares about the arts in schools.

here in north carolina we have this thing called governor’s school — i’m pretty sure there are other states that have similar programs. anyway, north carolina governor’s school has run out of its funding for the next year due to the immense budget cuts the state has faced in the department of education. i did not go to governor’s school when i was in high school, but i have friends who did and they only have the greatest things to say about it. governor’s school (from what i know about it) was a place where students could follow their passions and take classes to strengthen their knowledge of subjects that interest them. shouldn’t our education system be like that all the time?

i am a firm believer that integrating arts and keeping it in schools makes learning more fun. how much easier is it to remember historical facts through song? exhibit a:

we watched that video in my ap us history class when i was a senior in high school and let me tell you something, i can still name all the presidents in order because of those rhymes.

exhibit b:

how awesome are these fourth graders?! this past spring semester i did my practicum at frank porter graham elementary school in chapel hill, north carolina. every year the fourth graders participate in a program called “arts in action” — a coreographer comes in and teaches the kids dances that fall in line with their grade level curriculum (the video posted is about science, but the kids this past semester did their dances to north carolina history — it was SO cool!). not only are these kids learning information, but they’re also getting up and moving.

creativity is so crucial when it comes to learning, as well as teaching. as a teacher, i know i’m going to have to adapt my teaching style to each child in my classroom so that i can reach every individual student in the most effective way possible. not all kids can just sit there and read a textbook and get information from that — sometimes you have to get those kids up acting out what they’ve read. not all kids are going to understand fractions the first time we go over them, but maybe working with music can help them figure out their fractions. there are so many ways teachers can reach their students — they just have to put forth a little extra creative effort sometimes.

also along the lines of creativity, i don’t think we should hinder children from their creative natures. i think that mistakes are necessary to the learning process, but how can we say we’re okay with making mistakes when we penalize students for making them? education should be about learning, not about getting kids ready for college or to become professionals (because let’s be honest, college isn’t for every single student out there, and that’s okay). letting kids figure things out for themselves through exploration is such a beautiful thing that i truly hope will be encouraged as time goes on.

honestly, part of the reason i want to be a teacher is so that i can promote creativity within my students. i want them to enjoy their classroom setting and feel comfortable enough to be as creative as possible when there. i don’t want my kids to get tired of learning — learning shouldn’t be a creativity-sucker. as long as i’m in a classroom (carrboro elementary had better watch out this year!), learning will be a creativity-enhancer.

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A Little Arts Integration…Part 1.

So this is a response to an article I read (http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/LA/0862-nov08/LA0862Focus.pdf) for my literacy class. I just thought I’d share since arts integration in the classroom is something [else] I’m really passionate about. Enjoy!
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Let me first start by stating that I am one of the biggest arts advocates you may ever meet. I LOVE the arts and totally revel in all of the magic that the arts create and bring to students.
Yes, the arts have magical powers.

One of my favorite quotes from this article is “The arts are important human ways of understanding and knowing, no less important than the sciences. Studying the arts should thus never be a frill, but should be a basic part of what we expect our children to learn.” (Winner & Cooper 2006) I love this mindset that the arts should be a basic part of what we expect children to learn!
Reading this article made me think back to the English/Language Arts teacher I had in middle school. I was in her AIG English class for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade and at first didn’t really appreciate how great her assignments were until I got to high school English when all we did was sit at desks and do grammar reviews from an overhead projector. Mrs. Crowell TOTALLY integrated the arts into almost every assignment and project she gave us — we were either filming movies, writing scripts and songs, making powerpoints, etc. I am so incredibly thankful for her use of the arts in class; I definitely know I benefited from it.
Today in the classroom, there are so many new ways to integrate arts — how fantastic! Using glogs, blogs, wikis, and more, students are able to be creative with this visual media. Technological advances provide countless ways for our students to thrive in the arts and I think that that should be encouraged both in and out of the classroom. In relation to this, I liked how the article pointed out that if students are only receiving exposure to arts-related programs once or twice a week through an hour (if that!) of “specials” then the arts will be marginalized and the students’ full potential will not be reached. Why would we deprive our students in such a way!?
When I first entered the Elementary Education program here at Carolina, I was an Arts focused major; now I am a Spanish language focus. I am happy with my focus now, but I know I would be ecstatic with an Arts focus. I decided to change to make myself “more marketable” and I knew arts programs were the first to get cut if schools were losing funding (this makes me sound like a terrible person switching to be more marketable but I swear to you I LOVE Spanish and I have such a heart for Hispanic students it’s not even funny). I HATE that arts programs get cut in schools. I think it’s ridiculous. Because funding for arts programs are low, I find it to be my responsibility (and I do hope that you find it to be yours, too!) as a non-arts teacher to integrate the arts into whatever it is that I may be teaching.

Okay, stepping down from my soapbox now to make one final comment: ARTS INTEGRATION RULES.