Thursday, October 30, 2008

Around the Corner

I am sitting in Washington DC surrounded by leaders of arts education projects nation-wide. Seven years ago we all fitted around one long table in Charleston SC. It was a lot more intimate and in some ways more helpful. The question in my mind is whether it represents a true change in the direction for educational reform. ASCD started the Whole Child initiative and Hal talked about a shift in public opinion as part of his Imagine Nation report. Is this shift real? Or does it stay in this room? The realities that we see in schools are still far from this vision. They may be around the corner, and we who are very close to the wall with our eye on the classroom cannot see it coming. It could also be that we are simply “going to church” and dreaming of a better world, willing to suspend our belief until we go back to the challenging environments of schools and high stakes.
The only way to go and change is low stakes assessment of students and teachers- regardless of how much money or directives we can write. If we are to move in the direction of an Imagine Nation we need teachers ready to do that. Art education is rarely taught in teacher preparation program by full time faculty. Very few research universities have faculty researching Arts Education. So a shift to an Imagine Nation needs a shift in our teacher preparation programs- are we even close? I am eternally skeptical and would love to again be proven wrong.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Working with future teachers

I spend a good portion of my time with pre-service teachers. For a while I was reluctant to challenge them with arts integration. But now that I am bringing it up and even modeling a full VIEW process I can see the difference it makes. About a third of my students decided to integrate the arts into their writing lessons in practicum. The message has definitely resonated with my students and I am oh so curious to see what will happen.
For me this was in some waysan unintended consequence. While it makes sense it took me a while to connect this aspect of my research with my teaching. Now, I am consiously looking for ways to help future teachers see the connections. It is about turning the tide from a fragmented elementary curriculum to a more cohesive integrated approach.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bracing for Impact

No matter who wins the elections next month we can expect a shift in the way education is talked about and funded. (Education Week is sponsoring a debate between the two education advisers)
I wonder how funding for Arts education will change or even if it will.
Regardless I feel that those of us who are integrating the arts need to start looking for funds beyond the ones earmarked for the Arts. If we can support our claim of benefits going both ways we should be able to convince grant panels in literacy math and professional development. I am not we will be successful immediately but a change in administration may be just the right moment to try.
A short post of some fairly random thoughts this time.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Boots on the Ground

Our project is challenged by working in two very different contexts. In California we work mainly with generalists (classroom teachers) while in Nebraska the work centers on the collaboration between specialists and generalist. Further complicating this issue is the geographical distance of 1500 miles. The Department of Education have asked us to present about ways we resolve the conceptual and geographical distance effectively.
This is where technology is enormously helpful, and I am always technology happy. Experience have taught me though that technology can have only a supporting role in a project like ours. I believe very strongly that professional development can be most successful when we understand each others context and practices. Further, there is no way to understand context and practice without sharing the same contextual space, seeing students, classrooms, and interactions.
As a former soldier it is a "Boots on the Ground" approach. Beyond understanding the context I believe that deep professional development the kind we know makes a difference is about relationships of trust shared experiences and even friendship. Such relationships can only happen in face to face meetings.
We travel from site to site for more than just a 4 hour PD we visit classrooms, and when budgets allow we take teachers with us so they can learn from the different contexts and practices.
Technology used on top of that can help maintain the relationships created during face to face meetings but not replace them.