Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be Your Best Advocate

In a time of decreased funding and support of Arts programs, it is easy to get swept into the whirlwind of despair. I have seen the results of layoffs and pink slips and changing faculty as a result of tough budget cuts where "extras" are trimmed and as a result students are short changed.

Although this is a challenging time for Visual Arts teachers because these classes are often viewed as being an "extra" part of the day, it is also a great opportunity to show how critical this subject area is to fostering student success and achievement.

Every day our students walk through the door, we expect them to show what they know. Through application of skills and concepts, students manipulate media and visually express meaning.

Why not apply this thought or expectation to ourselves?

In the Art:21 blog, Joe Fusaro makes a great case for being your own best advocate by documenting what happens in your classroom to share with others. This can be done in traditional ways like annual art shows; it can also be done through classroom blogs, websites, online portfolios (like Artsonia), and video sharing sites (like Vimeo or Animoto).

One teacher who does this exceptionally well is 2011 Illinois Art Teacher of the Year Tricia Fuglestad from Dryden Elementary. She employs digital media to involve the community in her classroom and as a result she builds support for her program and her students. I have been following Tricia for the past five years and I feel personally connected to her classroom even though I have never stepped foot inside. Her ability to document and share - to show what she and her students know - is something that makes her a wonderful advocate for her students and Visual Arts education.

To get to the point Tricia has with her websites, videos, blogs, and more takes time. Instead of trying to do it all at once, decide on one goal at a time. Maybe it is to make a video using Animoto of your favorite assignment, or starting an online gallery on Artsonia. Both sites offer great tutorials and easy guides to get started.

As times change, we adapt. In this time of challenging budgets and program decisions, we need to take the opportunity to show what we all know - that Visual Arts is critical to student success and achievement.

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