Strategies to Revitalize the Arts Advocate
Next week, revitalize the arts advocates from across the country will meet in Washington, D.C. for Arts Advocacy Day to speak about the importance of promoting the arts through policy and funding. While many of us won’t make the journey to the capitol to advocate for the arts, there is much we do daily in our own settings to promote the arts.
For this veteran teacher, the idea of arts advocacy is simultaneously exciting and exhausting. Engaging in discussion about the power of revitalize the arts, and the impact it can have on the lives of our students is thrilling. I am fascinated by studies, articles, testimonies, and infographics on the benefits of the arts. And I am forever expanding my arsenal of advocacy resources (because you never know when this article or that presentation will be exactly what you need!).
However, in all honesty, there is a level of frustration that comes from having to eternally advocate for your profession. There are the instances of people referring to music as “non-core.” There are the times when, upon hearing what I do for a living, people tell me how cute and easy my job must be. And then, sadly, there are the times we hear of school systems proposing to eliminate art and music as a way to save money or increase student contact time. In these times, my inner monologue has a momentary tantrum of “not this again!” And I’m sure there are times, when I am on my arts advocacy soapbox, that my friends, family, and coworkers have the same reaction!
This is the challenge of being an advocate. How do you remain committed to advocating for something you believe in without falling prey to frustration? How can you deliver your message effectively to those around you without badgering, and what do you do when that message falls on deaf ears? How do you remain positive and committed to the dual roles you play as teacher and advocate?
Strategies to Revitalize the Arts Advocate
Build a network.
Know who you can count on to advocate alongside you- this shouldn’t be a one-person job. Look not only other arts educators and advocacy organizations, but to those within your staff who know the value of what you do. Some of the greatest advocates for my students’ music education have been the paraprofessionals who sit in on my classes and see what children are doing in music class day in and day out, as well as other classroom teachers who have been impacted by revitalize the arts themselves. In times when picking up the advocacy torch feels like too much, let others help carry the load.
Meet people at their level.
Often, in our advocacy efforts, we want people to understand everything we do and why it is so beneficial to children. There are times and situations for pulling out the entire advocacy arsenal, but in day-to-day advocacy, be aware of where those around you are coming from. We all are busy with our own classrooms and our own roles in the school community- how does your advocacy effort fit into the lens of the person you are advocating to? Perfect your advocacy “elevator” speech. Have a deep pool of resources, and think intentionally about what you will share with people, and why you will share it. Give your advocacy efforts dual purpose by also addressing needs and challenges you see in your school community.
In my experience, so much of the problem is that people don’t know what goes on in the arts classroom. People don’t see first-hand the creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical-thinking that is going on in the music room. They don’t see the connections that are being made to other content areas. They don’t see how instruction is differentiated to allow children to be successful. So, every chance you get, allow people to see what your students’ arts education looks like. Invite colleagues into your classroom. Start a blog with pictures and videos of students in action so parents and administrators can see what quality arts education looks like. Share ideas and resources for cross-curricular connections. At every chance you get, let people see what arts education means to students.
What are your favorite advocacy strategies?
Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: https://artsintersection.wordpress.com/