This morning, a work friend sent me this LA Times article written by columnist Steve Lopez. California’s budget crisis continues to slash education funding and of course the arts are (and have been) hit the hardest.
It’s so unfortunate that while those making the decisions for education don’t take the research on arts education into consideration. They continue to bash education and educators, but they cut the very thing that could make it so much better.
A student arrived in my classroom just before spring break this year. Relocations, due to divorce, made me his third teacher this school year. He is not a very happy boy. His negative vibe is apparent in his classroom behavior and dealings with the other students. His cumulative record noted that he qualified for additional support (resource) for a learning disability. Nowhere was it stated what this disability is, but I suspect he was labeled due to his lack of focus and effort in class. He’s quite bright, learns new things quickly AND retains the information – not really the M.O. of someone struggling with a learning disability. Instead, he doesn’t do his assignments and disturbs others during lessons.
Unfortunately, he arrived just before the 4 weeks of intense test prep that we are required to do in order to keep our test scores high. HE WAS MISERABLE during those four weeks. I didn’t blame him, but I also struggled with his negative behavior. Even though he fought me every step of the way those four weeks, he aced the 10 days of testing. After it was over, I was not so thrilled about 6 more weeks of him being a jerk to me and the other kids.
Since testing is over and administration doesn’t give a f&%$ what we do for the remainder of the year, we’ve been putting more performing and visual arts into our day. I’m such a proponent of it, and I try my darnedest to fit it in as much as possible during the year but at the end of the year there is time to pull out all the stops.
This kid is a completely different boy when we are painting or acting or singing or thinking. It’s truly astounding. He’s pleasant, focused, and animated during the times of the day we are creating. What an a-ha that was for me. You better believe I’m using that information to my (and his) advantage to get us through the end of the year.
What an a-ha that should be for the people who make the decisions to cut arts education. There is a very good chance that as this boy gets older and wiser and possibly angrier his poor behavior will become unmanageable in the traditional test prep-heavy classroom. Money, resources, and time may be spent trying to control this kid and trying to get him to reach his full potential. If he’s at my school, his lack of performance and poor behavior will result in him NOT participating in the extra curricular activities such as art and music. What a shame when that is the very thing that seems to make him most successful.