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Advocate

14 Mar NAEA 2017: 5 Ways to Advocate for the Arts

By Jenny Windom, Rubicon International

This year’s NAEA convention has come to a close, and what a convention it was! Filled to the brim with creativity, art, and inspiration, NAEA left me ready to do exactly what President Patricia Franklin urged us to do in her General Session: accept the challenge, and lead change.

Art educators are flexible and able to adapt to the ever-changing climate of education. In many instances, we’ve learned to embrace change as it pushes us out of our comfort zone and into new areas of exploration in our art. As both artists and educators, this constant push is essential for growth.

While actively advocating for arts education in school is not new territory for most art teachers, it can be challenging to take what we’ve already been doing and push it to the next level. Where can we start? The list below summarizes ideas gathered from various sessions and conversations heard throughout NAEA 2017.

1. Develop a vision/goals for your program.

Where do you want to go? Why do YOU believe art is important? You need to know what you stand for to be able to effectively advocate for it. You should also know what your school’s needs are: how can art help other parts of the school reach their goals?

2. Publicize.

Stakeholders of the arts want to be able to see what they’re supporting! Use both traditional and new methods to reach them. Art shows are great to bring community members into a common space, but don’t forget that digital avenues are available and can reach wider audiences.

3. Gather information.

While art and data collection may not seem to go hand in hand, our ability to advocate is further supported and bolstered by any information we can provide. Read and listen to the news, clip out excerpts from journal articles, make connections from the classroom level to what’s happening at the state—or even national—level.

You also have a wealth of data at your fingertips: your students and their work! Identify anecdotal evidence of students who stay engaged in school because of the outlet art provides them. Use rubrics on assessments and identify growth in your students, showing stakeholders how students are progressing from year to year. The possibilities are endless! The more we can show, the stronger our argument for art can be.

4. Lead and Foster Relationships.

It’s important to work as an advocate for art in your classroom and school, but there is power to working at a broader level. If you have the time and capability, why not take advantage of advocacy opportunities by running for office? Taking an overt leadership position not your thing? Focus on building relationships with decision-makers at all levels (school district, city officials, state and federal members of Congress) to ensure that leaders are articulating their support for the arts. Find other, like-minded educators and arts stakeholders by participating in groups or coalitions. Finally, consider bringing in allies to support your work. Obvious choices include other art educators, artists, and local/state arts organizations, but widen that reach! Try to reach out to business leaders, retired educators (both in the arts and in other content areas), print and broadcast media, and even higher education faculty in education.

5. Know your Ed Policy.

Yes, policy. It can be a dirty word to some educators—evolving politics and bureaucratic red tape—but, if we gain more familiarity with what is happening at the policy level, we can better advocate for our students. One place to start is with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This legislation states that every student needs access to a ‘well-rounded education’. And, the definition of a ‘well-rounded education’ now includes the arts, which provides more flexibility in the ways funding can be allocated. Learn how this can be used to your advantage!

Want more inspiration? Here’s a quick video from educators emphasizing takeaways, both big and small, from this year’s conference! We talked with pre-service teachers, substitutes, teachers from other content areas, and current and retired educators from around the U.S. and even other countries.

Were you at NAEA17? What were you most inspired by? What will you be taking back with you? Tweet us at @RubiconAtlas or find us on Facebook.

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