Guest Writer: Caitlin Conklin
Dear Arts Teachers,
At this point in time, my guess is that you’re feeling a bit discouraged by the remote learning experience we are finding ourselves in. For many of us, the magic in our content comes from true human interaction. Art is made for and with others, and, try as we might, the digital screen can feel like more of a barrier than a window to greater possibility. The last few weeks have asked us to push our creativity in ways I certainly never expected to as an artist. Some of us have been fortunate enough to be allowed to continue teaching our content- some of us even have administrations that encourage arts content during this time because they know our students need the release we can provide. Yet, for many of us, we were asked to put our content on hold, to wait until the fall to continue our work or to put our energy towards supporting the academic faculty as they work through the same challenges.
As we approach the last few weeks of this school year, I want every last one of you to celebrate what you’ve accomplished. Whether you found a way to make your performances happen in this new medium, connected with a student or family who seemed disengaged while in the classroom, gave your colleagues comfort and support throughout these weeks, or simply managed to get your lessons up and functional each day, you succeeded. If you managed the day by day at home to the best of your ability or did everything in your power to stay healthy and sane, you succeeded. I know teachers (and especially art teachers), to be the most reflective, sincere, empathetic, and yes, perfectionistic group of people in the world. Our ability to think and feel on the level we do in order to connect with our young learners often means we leave little energy left to give ourselves the same level of empathy and sincere love. Take this moment to enjoy what you accomplished with your students in the time that you had- and take this moment to enjoy the fact that you made the impossible possible this school year.
I wish I could say our work here was done. However, I have to ask you to get ready for a tidal wave in the fall. The hardest season of our career is just a few months away, and we need to be ready for what’s coming.
This fall, a group of students who have been sharing their thoughts and feelings with a computer screen will be back in a world where those same thoughts have to be shared with other, real human beings. And, believe me, these students are going to have a lot to say. Their lives have been completely upended and they have a litany of joys and heartaches looking for an audience who will listen. Fortunately, as arts teachers, we have the power to give our young people the tools to speak. We can give them the space to tell their story.
When you teach your students a new song, you are helping them tell their stories. When you give them new choreography or ask them to play an improv game, you are helping them tell their story. When you give them a blank canvas, an empty stage, or a sheet of staff paper, you are helping them tell their story. These students have lived through trauma, and now, more than ever, their voice matters. It’s our job to tell them just how much their voice matters and show them just how many different ways there are to make their voice heard.
This fall, you are the hero our children need. You are the mentor that can give them release and safety when the world feels like it’s just a bit too much. You are the guide that can push them in the deep end when they’re too hesitant to speak their truth. For all the time you’ve spent feeling less important or not enough, you will now be looked to as a wise sage with the tools needed to process this experience.
This is your time. This is our young artists’ time.
Now, go forth and make art. You and your students have stories to tell.
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