It is the obligation of the art educator to be consistently engaged in seeking professional growth and to serve as an advocate for arts education. As the arts are constantly being threatened by budget cuts in the public school system, educators must highlight the importance of the arts as fundamental subjects and rally support from the broader community. Through building relationships within the school and with the greater public, the value of the arts is given an undeniable voice. Through documentation, community engagement, a desire to continually improve one’s practice, and being an innovator in the field, the art educator will always hold a solid case in justifying the need for the arts in schools.
Teaching and learning about art should not be bound to the art room. The art teacher must be aware of resources in the community. In an urban setting there are numerous arts and cultural opportunities for students at little or no cost. The art educator must be aware and connected with nonprofit organizations, community programs and partnerships, and local businesses.The teacher should be able to direct students and their families to additional learning resources and opportunities that extend beyond what is possible in the classroom. Grants and partnerships that multiply the resources of the school art program should also be sought out. The art educator should take an active role in helping to bring visiting artists, lecturers and programs to the school that enhances arts education.
In building a strong community around the arts, student work should be showcased as often as possible. Building an art room website and the use of social media allows the art educator to reach parents and a greater public in sharing student work, curricula, and opening dialogues about art education. In the physical space of the school, bulletin boards and display cases should be maintained. Report Card Pick-Up Days, and school events and festivals are an ideal time to open up the art room to parents and the community. Whether through already existing events or in planning a school Fine Arts night, students and their families should be given a chance to create, respond, and share with and through the arts.
In maintaining professionalism throughout the school day, it is important to document both behavior issues and successes. In cases of disciplinary or academic concerns a strong line of communication should be maintained with parents/guardians and school administrators. All issues should be clearly documented to keep everyone informed. It is similarly important to build working relationships with colleagues within the art/specials department, and beyond. Each school day a student interacts with several adults–each offers insight into the needs of the student. The needs of the student are best addressed when faculty and staff are working together as a team.
While a career in education is very time consuming and very rewarding in itself, maintaining practice as an artist cannot slip away. It is hard to convincingly teach students about art without maintaining the same active engagement that is being encouraged. The professional art educator must be a life-long learner and maker. Maintaining an identity as an artist allows the educator to be following the same process students go through in completing a project. Staying connected with this experience allows the educator to always have something relatable to share with students.
This section of my portfolio documents my efforts in shaping my practice as an educator. In building strong lines of communication with colleagues and administrators, membership in the IAEA/NAEA, involvement with nonprofit arts organizations, and in bringing both my students’ and my artwork into the public eye, I continue to grow as an educator. Arts education will see many changes over the course of my career, I will continue to develop my practice and shift to better serve my students and the community.