I’m fortunate that I work in a school district where the arts are appreciated and celebrated. We’re an elementary district with students from early childhood through eighth grade. We still have music teachers in our schools; general music for the younger students, and choir, band, and orchestra for the older ones.
Art is alive in our district too, but to a lesser extent in most of the schools. Many of our students don’t have a very strong start in life, and as a result they begin school missing some important skills and experiences. Unfortunately these children spend a great deal of time trying to “catch up” to their peers, and as a result sometimes the fun things (like art) get pushed aside, especially when the pressure of testing is added to the situation.
It’s a pity, really, since the arts are where so many children shine. They have the opportunity to express themselves in ways that are different than the typical classroom setting, and for kids with language delays, learning disabilities, limited English proficiency, behavioral challenges, and more, they are a saving grace.
The arts allow kids to approach the world from their own plane, wherever that may be. They can sing out, dance, paint, draw, mold, model, and manipulate their world in a way that makes sense to them. They are a release and a gift.
Our fourth grade students have been given that gift again this year, as they participate in an original musical conceived, written, and directed by our very talented music teacher. He even made the giant glow-in-the-dark puppets that take the stage and raised funds for the black lights that make the whole show pop. Oh, and he wrote all the music too, as well as taught every lyric to the entire fourth grade. Whew!
Our kids are lucky. They will perform for their friends and families and they will keep the individual puppets that they each created and will use in the show. They are growing up with the arts as an important part of their lives. Too many children are not. Too many schools are throwing out the arts. Too many families shun the arts in favor of less enriching activities. I get it, as parents we’re tired, and helping kids write songs and put on skits and dress up as various characters takes time and energy that we have precious little of. It’s worth it, though. The arts promote creative thinking and problem solving, and they help to increase communication skills, as well as promoting a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Let’s take some time to share the arts with a child. Drama, poetry, ceramics, painting, dance: whatever you enjoy can be enjoyed with a child. I would encourage you to share your talents and interests with some special young person in your life. You will both benefit.