When visiting a foreign country, you are expected to know at least a few choice phrases, if not speak the language. In addition, you need to know local customs, pastimes, and the economic/social contexts of its citizens.
In much the same way, a school’s arts partner must also be aware of the academic environment they enter, and understand the perspective of the faculty and students. Of course, as arts partners we have something unique and important to contribute to the school (that’s why we’re there, after all), but speaking the language and understanding the challenges of the school make the connections so much richer.
We all talk about the power of the arts to engage students. Engaging students is vitally important, but it cannot be empty engagement—they must be engaged in a way that inspires learning and connections across the curriculum. By speaking the language of the school you help the school’s mission and your organization’s mission simultaneously.
Currently, and in the near future, the dialog within schools focuses upon the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The shifts that are required to implement the CCSS are vital for arts partners to understand.
There are twelve shifts that have been articulated—six in math and six in English/language arts. These shifts include increased use of informational text, fluency in basic mathematical operations, unprompted application to real world settings, and greater task complexity, amongst others.
If you are not already familiar with the shifts, I encourage you to learn more about them.
The shifts affect both teachers and students, and are vital in updating our educational methods for the 21st century. The content is compartmentalized within math and English/language arts, but the artists in us know that inspiration and information do not fit within boundaries.
Just as we ask schools to use the power and influence of the arts in their students, we must also recognize the relevance of the CCSS in arts instruction.
When we provide professional development or consulting services to a school, our first step should be to understand the initiatives and issues that particular school is addressing. From there, training and materials can be designed to reflect these specific needs.
Without this preliminary work, the efforts of arts providers will fall upon deaf ears. We must understand the school first in order to activate the power of what we offer them. Classroom teachers, students, and music teachers alike all benefit from this shared language and understanding.
As states begin implementing the CCSS, arts partners have a great opportunity to renew their school relationships and help them at this critical time. They are hungry for new materials and approaches, and the arts are most certainly in an excellent place to help.