On Mon, 20 Jan 1997, Elizabeth Paul <epaul> wrote:
>More on this discussion about the role and place of art educ, and who
>teaches it, in the elementary school. First, let me say I think it's really
>great to be having this discussion. All of us on this list believe in the
>importance of art in schools (I assume) so I think this is a great
>opportunity to raise some of these difficult issues and hear different
>perspectives. Ultimately, I think it will help all of us in our advocacy on
>behalf of the arts.
>I whole-heartedly agree with everything Kit Eakle said about the teaching of
>the arts in elementary school. Well-said, Kit.
>This discussion has been very engaging to me and polite. Besides, I have a
>pretty tough skin about this, and regardless of what anyone says in the
>context of this listserve and whether any art specialists, general ed
>teachers, or administrators encourage me to teach the arts, I will without
>doubt teach the arts.
>But I do want to raise the awareness that I think most general ed teachers
>(particularly student teachers as I am) who may be less committed to the
>arts or less aware of its importance or feeling they already have way too
>much to do, would be discouraged by some of the feedback here. I don't think
>it was in any way meant as discouragement but when someone wants to teach a
>subject well and thoughtfully, I would hope they would be actively
>encouraged rather than having it suggested to them that it's perhaps not
>their place because they aren't a specialist. (And I am rather liberally
>paraphrasing, but that is how it came across to me.)
>Frankly, I think that sort of territorialism and insistence on being
>"separate but equal" is what often hurts arts education at the elem level.
>As Kit pointed out, in elem school the classroom teacher teaches it all --
>math, language arts, social studies, science, even P.E. often. All those
>subjects valued by our society and believed to be "must-teach"s are
>purposefully expected of the main classroom teacher. To keep art out of the
>main classroom as a separate thing does indeed cause it to be viewed as an
>elective and easily removeable when the budget is under the gun. What
>usually happens then is that the only art in the classroom is the fluff art.
>Which in turn reinforces -- in kids, administrators, parents, teachers --
>that art is really not that important or meaningful and is just for fun to
>kill time with no real substance. Hence the importance of integrating the
>arts into the main classroom and the main curriculum. Ideally, this would be
>building off what the kids are doing with an art teacher, as kids sometimes
>now have computer specialists and then use those skills in their main
>classroom as well.
>The child tired of making the same thing over and over, referred to by San
>D, or the kids who have the thrill taken out of art by high school are
>almost undoubtedly those kids who are in schools where art isn't taught at
>all or is taught as meaningless fluff. Just from last quarter, I have a few
>horror stories about classrooms in which I observed; at times art was the
>most boring, time-wasting, stifling thing -- it was heart-breaking!
>San D noted that not everyone could teach art (I liberally paraphrase
>there). Well, I would say that any good elem classroom teacher can, with
>appropriate training and resources. Some will teach it better than others
>-- just as some teach math better or science better or language arts better.
>And, as noted in my previous email, I would again argue that having the main
>classroom teachers involved and valuing art would increase, not decrease,
>the demand and value placed on having art teachers in the schools. If the
>rest of the faculty doesn't understand arts' role, importance, and
>difficulty of teaching it well, then they aren't likely to lobby for adding
>- or keeping - an art teacher in these money-tight times. However, if those
>general ed teachers can show others what they do in their classrooms as
>generalists and say "Yes, this is great but it could be soooo much more if
>we had someone here whose expertise was teaching the arts, wow, then it
>would be really great stuff." That's how to get more art teachers, I
>believe -- by making ALL teachers and anyone else around understand the role
>and importance of the arts, and be able to lobby together for arts' place in
>A small personal story: the first lesson I ever taught was about two years
>ago. I chose art because I had been working in art ed for several years and
>felt I had more resources to draw on and therefore could do a lesson better
>than in math or reading. When the teacher told the kids I was going to
>teach an art lesson, they enthusiastically asked, "What are we going to
>make?" I said, "Well, we're not going to make anything, we're going to talk
>about art." "Oh," they said dejectedly. I thought, geez I'm dead in the
>water before I've even started. Well, the short version is that, using the
>Vaquero poster by Luis Jimenez (from Getty through Crystal Productions),
>within 10 minutes those kids were so engaged in their small group work and
>then whole class discussion with the posters that what was supposed to be a
>30 min lesson lasted an hour. And even then, I had to cut them short a
>little and rein them in because the regular teacher needed to move on.
>Those kids already had a love of making art because they were lucky enough
>to have a teacher who gave them more than fluff projects; now they found
>they could also enjoy and learn from looking at and talking about art. I
>don't think that's a small lesson, particularly for those kids who may not
>feel they are good enough at the artistic part. They can still enjoy, learn
>from and about art. And ideally, they will come to understand arts'
>importance and significance regardless of whether they are "talented" or not.
>I guess my point with that in this discussion is that general ed teachers
>(e.g., me) DO and should have an important role in the teaching of art. No,
>I'm not an art specialist, but that doesn't mean I can't teach it well if I
>have the resources, support, and training. And given that California doesn't
>have many elem art specialists (as I believe Mary Erickson pointed out in an
>unrelated email), I have even more commitment -- and a bigger row to hoe --
>in making sure my students are exposed to engaging, substantive, creative
>art education. Doing, talking, thinking about art. I can only hope that
>those of you out there who are specialists will help me along that path so
>that I do foster kids' excitement and enjoyment of art. And so I can point
>to what I'm doing when trying to convince other teachers, administrators,
>parents, and students that the arts are important and worthwhile and basic
>to a good education.
>Thanks. I look forward to more discussion -- Elizabeth Paul