Sunday, October 27, 2013

Malala: Growing Peace

New art work I am donating to the Allen HS Arts Academy Alliance's annual "8x8 Event" art auction to raise money for arts programs at Allen High School in the Allentown School District. The opening is on November 13th, 2013 from 4-6:30pm at Muhlenberg College. Baker Center for the Arts. I chose Malala Yousafzai, the courageous Pakistani girl who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban while trying to get an education, as my subject. I think she is a great role model for students, and she should have won the Nobel Peace Prize, even though she is a young 16 year old girl. She is planting the seeds of peace and equality by standing up for her human right to an education. It was difficult working on such a small canvas (8"x8") because I felt a bit constricted, and because I think large work has a bigger impact. I wanted to portray her as being soft, yet very powerful. The color green as a symbol of youth, growth, and hope. The flowers, also symbols of growth, are cut out images of the Nobel Peace Prize. This is a mixed media/acrylic painting on canvas. I hope someone wants to buy it!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Intervention and Enrichment"

7th grade wire sculpture
 "enrichment - act of making fuller or more meaningful or rewarding"

Allentown SD middle school students used to participate in 2 related arts classes per school day. This year, they only get one related arts class, and the extra period is now being used for "intervention and enrichment." Related arts classes have been reduced by 50%, due to budget cuts and bad decisions by school board and ASD central administration. Currently, there is .5 art teacher to serve each middle school. There are over 900 students at Trexler Middle School. The .5 art teacher teaches three classes at Trexler, and then travels to Raub MS to teach three more classes each day. Some ASD middle school students will not even have an opportunity to see a certified art teacher at all this year. When I taught art in ASD (2001) we had 2.5 art teachers per middle school. Then it was reduced to 2, then 1, and now .5 over the past 12 years. What's next? NO art teachers?

 My son (7th grade) will not have tech ed or family consumer science this year (two classes he enjoys) and will not have any physical education until 4th quarter. He has not had an opportunity to take out a library book. There are plans to hire paraprofessionals to work in the libraries, so students can take out books. Right now, enrichment class is used for extra reading, math, or science. The principal at Trexler has told me that since this is a new class, they are still figuring things out. So, as they figure things out, our kids miss out. Also, they are finding out which kids need "intervention" based on test scores and grades. I think ALL kids should have enrichment. It's not right that the kids who are struggling academically are excluded from enrichment. The school already offers free after school tutoring.

Middle school students need breaks from seat work. 7 periods of seat work per day, with only a short lunch break and no recess is not developmentally appropriate, and it is not healthy. The ASD's expectations of "increased rigor and college readiness" are unrealistic. 12 year old students do not need to be ready for college and career, or for competing in the global economy. They will burn out, misbehave, hate school, and not even want to go to college if ASD continues to pile on more reading and math, while decreasing related arts (also known as narrowing of curriculum). It's just a BAD idea, and it is the opposite of the district's stated goal "to develop the whole child." All kids, and especially those who struggle academically or behaviorally, need opportunities to discover their talents and strengths at school.

As the PTA artist in residence chairperson, I told our principal that the enrichment period lends itself to  possible residency opportunities. Residencies should be supplemental and provide enrichment. Residencies should never take the place of certified arts specialists, who are trained to teach a high quality, age appropriate, and comprehensive arts program. Last year we had poetry and visual art residencies that went well and reinforced concepts learned in class. But I do not feel comfortable with a residency unless it is initiated by the teacher.

 ASD must reinstate all certified related arts teachers immediately in order to truly work towards their goal of developing the whole child. I blame central administration and our school board for approving cuts to related arts teachers and essential programs. Our kids only get this one chance, and right now they are being denied a well rounded education. We don't need more administrators, or testing. We need more arts teachers. Our legislators must attach strings to any money given to ASD from the state, to make sure that the money is used to reinstate arts teachers. Parents, call representatives Pat Browne and Mike Schlossberg and tell them you want strings attached to the money. We must take back our schools. We must demand better leadership at all levels of government.