As I come to the end of my first year at a school trying to implement an arts integration program school-wide, there are some things that stand out as incredibly important. Here is my list of the top 5 tips for successful arts integration implementation. You may notice they look much like tips for good teaching….
Adequate Planning Time
There is no substitution for face time where ideas can be brainstormed and fleshed out. Email can be great to fill in when in-person meeting can’t happen but you have to have some time where you sit down and talk in real time. You can make meetings more effective by coming prepared with ideas as a starting point. Just like any good lesson plan, you need to know your objective for the meeting and all who are attending need to know that before the meeting as well so all can come adequately prepared.
Again, just like in good teaching you ensure that the students know what you expect of them, teachers need to know too. Don’t be wishy-washing with expectations or you’ll get wishy-washy integration. Teachers need to know what they are expected to accomplish and by what time so they can plan accordingly to meet those expectations and have time to enlist support should they need it.
Adequate Professional Development
If you want teachers to implement a new strategy or approach to teaching, you need to give them adequate training, information and support. Present the ideas, let them play with the ideas together as a staff, let them take the ideas back to their classes (and provide modeling and coaching when need/as appropriate) and then revisit them to see how it went in the classroom.
Teachers are generally wonderful people who have the best interest of their students at heart. They are also busy, hard-working, pragmatic people that need to prioritize their time carefully in order to fit it all in – personal and professional. If teachers know they have to report out about something or share something at a meeting, they will know this is something that the school deems important and they will be sure to comply. Having some form of accountability also allows teachers to be reflective about their practice which can be tough to fit in unless someone reminds you!
Once something is introduced, have a plan to revisit it. Know how you are going to follow-up on the learning and support it. Perhaps you have grade level meetings or whole staff meetings where teachers can share successes or ask questions for peer support. Perhaps you introduced a skill or a strategy and you want to revisit it to take the learning deeper and/or show what else could be done with that strategy now that it has been introduced to the students. When you revisit and follow through, this is another indication to staff that this teaching approach really is important to the school culture and that you are committed to making this approach to teaching successful.Things change so frequently in education, teachers can become jaded if they are always having to shift gears and try “yet another thing.”
The dedication of the leadership to all five of these tips lets the teachers know this is worth the investment of their time. There are many things that are needed to make an arts integration approach to teaching work in school-wide implementation. However, if you have those five tips in place and in mind, you are off to a great start!
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.