During my first four years as a teacher, I had an administration who supported the arts and gave me carte blanche to teach in any way I wished. I regularly brought in painters, dancers, musicians, and other creatives to help me develop lessons that were as fun as they were intellectually engaging. There was a strong sense of community in my classroom, and I loved my job; however, after four years with this administration, things changed. A new administration took over, and test scores and teacher obedience were the focus. Despite the negative elements of the change, the new situation forced me to examine the why behind my practice, which led to my volunteer work with different organizations in order to continue my work. As I did, I probed people to help me explain why the arts are so transformative in education. During the second year of this new administration, I decided that I needed to continue the research full time in order to educate the educated as to why the arts are needed in schools. Of course this has spread to many other areas, but art in education continues to be a paramount focus in my work.
In the essay titled, Reflections on Art and the Spirit: A Conversation, American Sculptor, Stephen de Staebler explains,
Art lets us transform reality. So much of play, like when you are a child, is transforming reality: wanting to be big, driving a real truck, and not little, pushing a toy truck. Much of art is that kind of play in a serious sense, like magic, trying to restructure reality so that we can live with the suffering.
After reading this essay and finding the quote, I realized that one of the main reasons why the arts are so powerful is because the arts are a form or play. They are a introspective act where we create, explore, and express ourselves. This is the core of what it means to be a human being, and with today’s busy world, it is more important than ever. I realized that one of the main reasons why I enjoy working with children is because they still have their imaginations and they turn everything into play.
Click here for some powerful images of children transcending their bleak realities through creative play.