The Art Teacher as “Teaching Artist”


I recently had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Russel Granet, Executive Director of Lincoln Center Education, an organization in NYC that places artists in schools with the purpose of infusing the Arts in Education. Here are some take-aways from his lecture:

Art As Your Mission

Russell wants us to remember that we are first and foremost Artists. He says that the work we do in the classroom should be in support of our art, instead of in place of our art. The passion and serenity we get through our craft carries over immensely into the classroom. We begin to picture ourselves as the learner, and therefore can relate to our students, sharing our experiences and discoveries with them, while following alongside their learning journeys.

Expecting Excellence from Ourselves

The Teaching Artists are expected to meet and surpass certain standards with their classroom contributions. I feel that we, as art teachers, should hold ourselves accountable to high standards, regardless of what we are measured upon within our school sites, district affiliations, or state evaluations.  We can always find at least one area of strength, and one area of improvement, and focus on those things as we strive to continually improve ourselves.

Teaching Artists with the program are graded on the following criteria

  1. Artistry
  2. Lesson Design
  3. Facilitation
  4. Engagement
  5. Inquiry
  6. Reflection
  7. Partnership and Collaboration (Partner Planning, Co-facilitation, Communication and Educational Context)

The Arts as Catalyst for Change

To implement their Arts integration program in some of the nation’s poorest communities, the Lincoln Center gathers inspiration from an unexpected source: Arthur Ashe. The renowned tennis player was a strong advocate for both Diabetes and HIV Awareness.

His process was simple: identify the influencers of the community, and train them on the facts, and alert them to the urgency of the issues at hand. The information then disseminated through the rest of the neighborhoods. The success of his campaign was measured in the increase of the number of clinic referrals.

As Lincoln Center introduced their Arts Integration programs in communities in a similar fashion, the data suggests that the programs are making a noticeable difference in communities with high concentrations of students labeled, “at-risk”.

This data, instead of merely tracking student performance through high stakes testing, measures increasing rates of student attendance, more frequent occurrences of parental engagement, and higher percentages of teacher retention. Major gains provide measureable indication that these programs are effective.

Advocating for the Arts

Mr. Garnet called us out as art specialists. He feels that we, as artists and professionals, do not advocate enough for what we do. Realizing that what we do, and why we do it, is hard to put into words, he dared us to articulate whythe arts are important.  He challenged us to invent an “elevator pitch” on the Arts in education.

SO, here’s mine….

“Where else can kids benefit by taking creative risks and decisive action? They’re experiencing cause and effect firsthand- ‘If I do this, then what will that look like?’ -that’s ownership, planning and responsibility. With the Arts, they not just the recipients, they are the engineers of their experience… and they take those lessons with them- to the classroom, to the workplace, to society. The Arts are absolutely crucial to their overall success.”

What’s yours? 🙂