I’ve been thinking a lot about how important it is for teachers and students to have administrative buy-in for arts integration. Essentially, low administrative buy-in can squash efforts to integrate the arts in classrooms. On the flip side, high administrative buy-in can mean a thriving, positive school environment where teaching and learning are both joyful experiences.
Based on my years working at a few different schools that were each at a different place on this spectrum of administrative buy-in, I’ve zeroed in on three things that I think are key.
Here’s how teachers and parents can help their administrators buy-in to arts integration.
Show them the research
Administrators have had years of training around data analysis and educational research. So, understanding how their brains works can put teachers and parents at an advantage for getting them to support the arts in their schools. They want school to be fun just as much as anyone else, but they are also obligated to ensure learning is taking place at very high levels.
Luckily, we have access to tons of research about how the arts improve learning and how arts integration benefits the whole child. Plus, we also have tons of research that show the arts can raise test scores.
Arm yourselves with some key points from the research compiled here by EducationCloset.
Speak their language
Now, once you’ve seen some of the research yourself, compile those key points and have them on the tip of your tongue when you get ready to speak with an administrator. Use the same educational jargon they are used to using to talk about arts integration. Memorize and use these exact phrases:
- Arts integration improves test scores.
- Arts integration creates equity.
- Arts integration increases parental and community engagement.
Tell a story and ask a question
Each of those key phrases has a story that can be told. You’ve learned the educational jargon to get the attention of your administrator. Now, tell the story and pose a question. Here are some examples:
Arts Integration improves test scores because student engagement goes up as they access the arts. So, if they can learn math through an art form that makes the learning fun, why wouldn’t you want that for them?
Arts integration creates equity because the arts are naturally differentiated. This means students can learn in a manner that best meets their needs. When students learn this way, it doesn’t matter what other personal variables they are dealing with, they will learn. Aren’t we always trying to level the playing field so that all students have opportunities to thrive?
Arts integration increases parental and community engagement because the arts are exciting and fun. Communities love to donate resources and volunteer for arts programs. Parents love to come see their children perform in a play or see their work displayed at an art show. Isn’t it great to think about being able to bring so many of our stakeholders into our buildings as they show us their support?
Not a magic wand
Finally, these suggestions are not the magic wand of getting administrative support for arts integration. Also, keep in mind that true buy-in doesn’t happen overnight. These tips are great starting points. Drive your points home by repeating these points as often as necessary. Take this information and make it part of your daily or weekly conversations with administrators. Share it as often as you can. (Also, smiling while you share helps a great deal to show your passion for the subject!)
Do you have any other ideas? Let’s chat! Drop me a comment below, I do read them!
Amanda Koonlaba, Ed. S. is an educator and educational consultant with over 12 years of experience teaching both visual art and regular education. Her career has been driven by the power of the arts to reach all learners. She is a published author and frequent speaker/presenter at education conferences. Amanda was named the Elementary Art Teacher of the Year for the state of Mississippi in 2016 and received the Arts Integration Service Award from the Mississippi Whole Schools Initiative (Mississippi Arts Commission) in 2015. She holds an Elementary and Middle Childhood Art certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Amanda is on a mission to ensure every student in America has access to a high-quality arts-based education. She blogs at SimpleArtClass.com