There Just isn’t Room
Test scores do not seem to be budging and when they do it is often, particularly in math, that they are trending down. We are all about test scores so all this superfluous stuff like music, art, physical education and performing arts need to be squeezed or cut out all together. There just isn’t time! In the old days these courses were called minors and the important classes were called majors. That poor logic, unfortunately, makes sense to many school administrators. It is no wonder test scores are so low.
First of all, let’s look at what these so called “minor” subjects bring to the student. The ability to problem solve is a critical academic skill. It is also a skill that is used and refined in the arts. Problem-solving is an extension of creativity. Employers regularly tell us they are looking for employees who can problem solve and are creative.
Secondly, for many students the arts are where they are successful. The arts are what bring them to school every day and sustain them through the often boring and failure inducing academic “major” courses. Without having the arts to look forward to as a break in the school day, many kids just wouldn’t come to school. Every child needs one place where he or she can shine. Often it is these performance based areas.
Thirdly, teachers of the arts relate differently to the students than do teachers of academic subjects. There are no state tests in the arts, so there are no pacing guides. Teachers do not need to be on a particular topic on any given date. So teachers can relate to the kids and talk to them about their lives without being concerned about losing their place in the pacing guide. It is natural to chat with a colleague while working on a piece of art or trying to get a rendition of a scene or song just right. Many students are dealing with violence, addiction, divorce, serious illness or socio-economic issues. Handing a student a book or a worksheet doesn’t cut it when the child has real problems. Teachers of the arts can meet students where they are emotionally and can develop that cherished teacher-student bond of trust.
Fourthly, the arts and music make a great coping mechanism for kids under so much stress that they feel they cannot work. Listening to music on a device or drawing in a notepad can help a child move to a different mental state and calm down. If we welcome the arts into our classrooms, we will see kids thrive.
But none of this is possible if there are no arts people in the building. We need to make room.