…all through my life I’m actually a person who lives with a lot of insecurity, a lot of uncertainty: will I be good enough, will I know enough, will I be able to deal with the challenges ahead? It’s what most people feel; it’s one of the reasons it’s often hard to take action. But even with the insecurity what I learn is that it’s not when you’re on your own, it’s when you join with others and joining with others we can change the world, we have changed the world and we will change it more, but only if we organize.
This is a quote from Heather Booth I transcribed from a podcast, The Good Fight with Ben Wikler. Heather Booth is a social activist who got her start as a teenager with Martin Luther King, Jr. Her words resonated with me in so many different ways and sent me a message at a time when I really needed to hear it. In my eyes, being a teacher is a form of social activism because educators help shape society. Integrating the arts across the curriculum is a worthy cause for educators to support because it can help level the playing field by allowing more points of access to learning for all students.
One big obstacle to adopting a new approach like arts integration is that teaching can be such a solitary experience. Conscientious teachers often ask themselves, “Do I know enough to face the challenges ahead?” I know I constantly doubt I have the skills whenever I take on a new challenge. Depending on the culture of your school or your system, you can really feel like you are completely alone and need to fix everything yourself, create all the ideas yourself, be all things to all people (your students, parents, administrators), but you don’t. I am so grateful to people like Heather Booth who help me remember that.
I recently started working in a new school and was having some difficulty but didn’t want to come right out and say it. I didn’t want to look incompetent and I expected to be able to fix it myself. I consulted with people outside of my school in hopes of creating a solution that I could implement on my own. That didn’t work. I finally got the courage to have a frank conversation with a colleague. It turns out I was not alone in my concerns. Working with the principal, our team of specials teachers was able to quickly create a plan that made a world of difference, a difference I could not have made working on my own.
Now that doesn’t always happen, of course. Sometimes the people immediately around you are not as supportive or do not share your concerns. That’s when you have to get creative and seek out your tribe, find others outside of your school who can guide you, support you, who share your vision. It is amazing how much energy and momentum you can create by connecting with others who can validate your goals and support you in achieving them.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or underqualified for the challenges at hand, remember that you are only alone if you perceive yourself to be. Don’t forget to reach out to others who are facing those same challenges. You may just find you are stronger than you realized you could be and you might just end up changing the world.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.