Anyone who knows me, knows I am a lover of art. Art of many forms: painting, sculpture, photography, literature, film, music and theatre.
Art can be an expression of pleasure. Of pain. Of love. Art can explore serious topics such as illness, racism or equality. Art can bridge divides or prompt conversation. Art can carry us away into fantasy worlds. Even in the midst of heartache or turmoil, art has the ability to suspend reality and provide solace. Picasso said this: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
When cuts in education are discussed, sometimes the arts find their way onto the chopping block. And yet when I see students engaged in the creation of various forms of art, my heart aches to think this could disappear. I have felt goosebumps when students join their voices together in song. I have seen the creative and comedic energy of students revealed in film. I have been awed at the talent of young visual artists who struggle to find success in other areas of the curriculum.
Some describe art as fluff, as an extra. I believe art is integral to the development of the whole child and a valuable endeavour in whatever form it takes.
“Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” George Bernard Shaw
When I work with struggling readers, I see noticeable improvement in ability. For some, it is the learning of letters and their sounds, for others it is the decoding of words on the page and for others still it is improved fluency. Despite the skills we practice, the key is confidence.
Most of these students are aware that their peers find reading easier than they do. But by providing targeted instruction for their specific ability levels, we can help them take small steps of success. Each small step gives a necessary boost of confidence.
Some of these students will catch up to their peers but most will likely lag a little behind. Regardless, they will make gains and find success. I won’t have it any other way.
Last Tuesday at Faith Development Day, David Wells challenged us to examine the ‘why’ of what we do. He reminded us that what matters most in teaching is not measurable.
During the last few weeks, I’ve run into four former students: now adults. It was interesting to hear their excitement as they reminisced about their elementary school days. I also enjoyed hearing what they’re up to now. Our accidental reunions put context to the ‘why’ referred to by David Wells.
We know that our students won’t remember the specifics of each day. They may not even remember what units we taught them. But what they will remember is whether or not they were loved and respected. They will remember you.
Religion. Race. Both have surfaced many times this week. The news headlines in the U.S. The shooting in Quebec last Sunday. An activity to help our students understand the experiences of the indigenous peoples of Canada. And last night a play at the Citadel, Disgraced: a dinner party soured by talk of religion and race.
Our identities are complicated: affected by our upbringing, our values and our experiences. No two individuals exactly the same. And never entirely predictable, either.
When I look at the students in our classrooms, I see individuals. I don’t give much thought to what someone looks like, his or her cultural background, or the prayers he or she says. Despite our religion or race, we all crave one thing: to be valued.
This video exemplifies this need and demonstrates the influence we hold as teachers. (Not to mention the power of words…)