Are you a little nervous about starting up your arts integration program? Even after all the research that’s out there about how this program really works, the mechanics of getting it started is always a little mind numbing. Well, I can safely tell you that starting an arts integration program is a SNAP.
The SNAP principle
Not to say that starting an arts integration program is easy. Oh no – it’s a challenging and looooong process. But, if you can remember the following acronym, you’ll be well on your way to building that successful program. The SNAP principle is:
Planning, patience and persistence
By securing knowledge, you are researching and gathering data on a variety of topics. You want to be well armed with the latest data on test scores, how this program is faring at other schools similar to yours, what additional resources will be needed along the way to support the program, what grants and other supports are out there to help with those resources and knowing the individuals within your own organization and how they will each fit into this process. This is the longest and hardest step, but absolutely essential to getting this off the ground.
It’s all about who you know. Really. You need to go to conferences, visit schools where this is happening, talk to people, get your own name out there. Without networking, you can’t get this program to move. So get out there and get busy!
This is where those networking skills come in handy. Now that you know a lot of people and have engaged in your research of resources in your area, it’s time to start bringing in those artists. Bring in artist in residences, find local artisans that would be willing to come in an work with your teachers or with your students (or both!) and utilize the arts specialists in your own building. Since this is a key component to the arts integration program, the skills that these people possess are invaluable. Bring as many on board with you as you can.
Planning, patience and persistence
Plan, plan, plan for things to go wrong. They will. But also plan, plan, plan for when things start to go right because when they do, it will snowball. You need to find time for teachers to plan and meet with artists. You need to plan for people to resist this program. And then you need to plan for people to come in and watch your successful program. All of these will happen – you need to be ready for them when they do. You’ll also need patience (which is something that I lack – getting better though!) because this will not happen overnight. My program here has taken 3 years to really get to the stage where it’s a part of our school culture. And that’s fast. Plan on being patient. And finally, be persistent. Don’t give up, don’t allow others to give up. Walk them through it – understand their point of view and provide some options for them. Don’t bulldoze through it, but have a little tenacity because it will pay off.
If you implement these steps, I can guarantee that your program will take off and your students will soar to new heights. Enjoy the ride!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.