Growing up, my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Rosson, gave me an assignment to design a hallway bulletin board, and part of that was to lead the class in an activity. That’s the day I decided to become a teacher because designing bulletin boards seemed to me to be the best job ever. Little did I know then that minimal time is spent designing bulletin boards as a teacher.
Looking back, I’m certain that Mrs. Rosson was demonstrating an important leadership trait – delegation. She had lesson plans, test prep, and much more on her plate, and the bulletin board was probably at the bottom of her priority list. However, she knew my creative abilities and provided me a way to express them by letting me lead an art lesson on how to make daffodils out of tissue paper and construction paper. Voilà – a beautiful spring garden appeared on the bulletin board. (At least that’s how I remember it, anyway.)
This was a small rural school in Kansas with excellent teachers but not a lot of resources. That didn’t stop us from having art and music classes! The teachers integrated what we learned in those classes into the classroom. I was encouraged to turn my poetry into music. I learned the recorder and then the clarinet (much to my parents’ dismay). I received such a well-rounded education that I went on to major in graphic design with a minor in math (which stumped my college adviser).
Then, after a year of studies, I switched to elementary education so that I could incorporate all subjects into my classroom. Now, my career is where all of my interests collide – education, math, leadership, and creative projects!
The formula seems simple to me. IF art and music provide an outlet for the creative mind . . . AND classrooms are producing the future workforce . . . AND the future workforce needs more creative thinkers with the capacity to solve more and more complex problems . . . THEN we need more art and music integrated into the classroom!
The benefits of implementing the arts back into the school day aren’t just seen in the future. They’re often seen immediately as well. Eric Jensen, in his book Arts with the Brain in Mind, outlines the effects of a fully implemented art program:
- Fewer dropouts
- Higher attendance
- Better team players
- An increased love of learning
- Greater student dignity
- Enhanced creativity
- A more prepared citizen for the workplace of tomorrow
- Greater cultural awareness as a bonus
Want to get started implementing the arts? Here are five ways to do just that.
- Create a happy music playlist – You don’t have to start from scratch. We Are Teachers has already done the work to provide links to “19 Classroom Spotify Playlists and Artist Recommendations.” (Note: I recently read an article from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley about how happy music helps us to become more divergent thinkers. They conducted a study that found that divergent thinking, a key element of creativity, is produced by listening to happy music.)
- Arts Lunch-and-Learns – Invite students back to the classroom for Arts Lunch-and-Learns once a week, where students, one at a time, get to lead a five-minute creative arts mini lesson. The leaders could share a video published to their YouTube channel, sing or rap a song they wrote, or display their artwork and discuss it.
- Let your students decorate – Channel your inner Mrs. Rosson. Assign a group of students bulletin board duty each month; let them lead the activity and decorate the bulletin board. Even better – let your students decorate your classroom. New curtains? New room layout? You never know, you might have the next Chip or JoJo in your classroom!
- Bring back talent shows – If your school isn’t doing talent shows, Get. It. Going. Talent shows enable students not only to showcase their unique creative abilities but to celebrate all different kinds of talents and bring the community together. My kids’ school does talent shows, and the gymnasium is always full with an audience. One year, my daughter played “Yankee Doodle” upside down. This year, one kid played three songs with the recorder using his nose and had zero mistakes. Unique talents must be celebrated!
- DIY Day – Celebrate National DIY Day or make up your own DIY Day. Let students choose a DIY project they want to tackle (within reason, of course) and have them provide a list of what they need or allow them to bring the supplies from home. Hit up the PTA or the local hardware store if you have to. Intervene as little as possible and see what they can create.