I have seen an amazing transformation in our students over the last 6 years. While improved test scores are nice, what I have really noticed far surpasses a test score's importance! Part of our mission is creative self expression, emphasis on the self expression. The arts in our community has created a confidence and demeanor in our students that I never expected. We are equipping our the children of IAA with a vital skill, the ability to share their ideas. More importantly the willingness to take the risk. Because students inherently are comfortable with the arts, they initially don't even realize they are sharing ideas and expressing their thoughts in deep ways. Through amazing teaching and continued exposure they become so comfortable at taking risks in front of their peers and in their community, that it comes naturally.
I often relay this story. A couple years ago we were conducting hiring for several classroom teaching positions. Because we were conducting our interviews over the summer we had each candidate perform an arts integration demonstration lesson at the district (student from all over the district) summer school. This district program serves our struggle readers, writers and mathematicians and assists them on their journey to meet standard. During the demonstration lessons we quickly noted that two groups of students emerged. The self-conscious, unsure group that struggled with idea of acting or dancing a concept and the the other group. The latter group was almost entirely IAA students. They felt confident and secure in expressing their ideas creatively and unconventionally.
I think I know students well. Because of my career trajectory, I feel I know especially well, students that are often from disenfranchised demographics and communities. Due to this knowledge, some students are particularly amazing to witness. I am fairly confident some students at IAA, in other settings, would not have as many opportunities, nor would the be as successful in expressing their ideas with such passion and confidence. They truly amaze me every day.
Differentiating the curriculum in one of the most difficult tasks a teacher faces. The arts is the great differentiator. It gives everyone the opportunity to speak their mind and take risks in front of their peers. The arts breathe life into a school community that, in my opinion, is unparalleled. If you have even one student you rarely hear from, its one student too many. Try a different approach, whether its the arts or not doesn't matter, that engages and impassions a student to take the risk and share the beauty that is in them.