From: Nan Williams
Each disaster I described had a positive result that I attribute to arts thinking. Outcomes?
The art festival hurricane fiasco? It resulted in a special award.
The ridiculous budget? It taught me how to economize, and led to national recognition for a “found materials” study. I figured out how to do a complete 2D / 3D art program without water, and learned to substitute phone books for paper towels, for example. I also learned that limited budgets don't have to mean limited results.
The teachers’ lounge? Beginning with simple paper weaving, we included all types of fiber arts and related studies in math (pattern), science (dyes), geography (fiber sources), world cultures and beliefs, symbolism and more, resulting in a grant called “Ties That Bind” that provided generous funding.
And I learned that K-5 students can sustain a single study for a year with excitement, not boredom. Because everyone was immersed in various fiber arts, set-up was simplified.
The hurricane conference? The nearby academic group packed up and left. Arts folks enjoyed the challenge: “We’ll make it work!” And this became our favorite memory.
Landing in an elementary art room with no training? I turned to NAEA and the great gods of art education. I’d teach by day and read by night. If a process seemed too cumbersome or painful, I learned to simplify and adjust, and became somewhat obsessed with making everything as efficient as possible. (I’m often surprised at how teachers make tasks so complicated.)
From the trenches, we often look with longing at folks like administrators, legislators and other leaders, who seem cuddly and well supplied in their fancy offices. They can take restroom breaks whenever they want. They might even have secretaries. They may get to go out to lunch. They can talk on the phone anytime. They don't have kids sneezing in their faces. They might even have their offices cleaned every day. They don't need to beg to get copies made. They don't have to stand up all day. I once eagerly sat down to watch a TV program on time management, and the first thing the guy did was to sit casually on the edge of his large, elegant desk and say, "Well, first you need to get your secretary (!!!) to block out a couple of hours when you will not be disturbed." I turned off the program.
But I don’t want to be too hard on anyone. Legislators, administrators, parents, teachers, students, custodians, teacher trainers, test makers, curriculum writers, and countless others, all have demanding jobs, but very different points of view. That’s one reason why solutions in education are so fleeting. Yet all have a need for arts thinking that sets the stage for solving every kind of problem as we fly into the future.
Copyright © 2015 Nan Williams