The Negative Assumptions of Art & Elective Teachers

By Megan Epley

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“What do you do like teach them to draw?”

“How is that important?”

“I’m sure it’s just recess for students.”

“They’re just elective teachers so they don’t need to be included in this.”

“They have no state testing requirements, they have the easiest job on campus.”

Perhaps you’ve heard of these lines in within the hallways of your school.

I’d like to address the negative assumptions about elective teachers - they must be squashed. And I’m referring to ALL extra curricular teachers. WE HAVE VALUE.

Before I elaborate, I’ve got share a couple of things:

  • All of stARTem’s school partners are absolutely FABULOUS when it comes to supporting elective teachers. They value our classes, teachers and why our classes are important. When I met with each school and district director, it was incredibly humbling to see their faces light up with enthusiasm for our STEAM program. These educational institutions are eagerness to invest in this component of their students’ development. I’m so grateful that after years of not feeling valued, we’re valued more than ever! Thank you.

  • Writing this blog is uncomfortable for me. It’s vulnerable, it’s scary and fear it’s an eye roll to others. Sure I’ve developed this non-profit and presented in front of 1,000+ people, but that was terrifying! I still can’t believe I did it. Honestly I took a stand because I was told art and extra curriculars didn’t matter in schools anymore. I once overhead a classroom leader tell a group of students that the only thing that matters in their career is their number. That number being their test scores. It made me sick, so I developed stARTem’s award-winning program so that students never have to feel like just a number. Sure stARTem’s integrated curriculum will also help improve and student test scores  and growth but it starts with valuing them more than a number. So fighting for them is my courage and hope you keep reading.

The pillars of stARTem are connection, process and creation.

That vocabulary is very common in the art community, including Arizona’s state standards (yes we have standards). But it applies everywhere and I want it to mean more to my students.

We’re not just developing artists we’re developing creative problem solvers, who see the bigger picture and act upon it.

This month’s theme for our high school students is: “How does art start a conversation and bring awareness promoting change?” We discussed current events (since all of my students look like a dear in headlights when I used the term “news”). Students are creating art around climate change, advocates of women's rights, body image, education, government policy and the concept of “giving back.” Their artistic connection to these subjects is where the magic bloomed.

They began to think, solve and become inspired!

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EVERY subject brings opportunity to grow, learn, explore and discover. Some folks undervalue classes that aren’t measurable or state-tested. But a child is more than their number. Giving a child a safe place changes the whole game.

Yes, stARTem integrates other subjects in our curriculum to increase test scores. We have data to defend our structure and research that reflects the importance of the arts and extracurricular opportunities.

But if I’m being honest, what matters to me is how the student has grown as a person.

Elective classes may not be taken seriously at first but I promise you we’re making impact. Student quotes on reflection have been so refreshing to hear:

  • “We love this class for we can be ourselves.”

  • “You actually talk to us and want to get to know us”

  • “It’s fun to create something and be proud of it”

Aren’t these all characteristics that establish strong leaders for the work place and the world? Finding identity then working hard on something to be proud of.

Elective classes create experiences that will make lasting impact. As well as creative solutions within the classroom. Don’t be afraid to put your student first and value their learning practices. Sign up for our upcoming PDs if you need more support or just encourage your students to find their interests. Talk about your experiences that made you the rockstar teacher that you are.

And don’t forget to value those classes that give your student that opportunity for I guarantee you’ll see improvement in your class and school.

We’re all a team to make the dream come alive and make lasting magic on the whole community!

Megan EpleyComment