March 20, 2013

How Have You Been?

We all really want to forget the tragedy at Sandy Hook and go back to the days before it ever happened. But it still looms here. It looms in every angry word, violent action or simple neglect that we see and deal with in our schools. Every day when I wake up with my daughter, I think of the countless parents who don't. Some of these tragedies we can prevent. But, it starts with being proactive. This post is not about gun legislation (although I could go on for hours) but it's about art education. What could be more proactive in creating peace then arts education? I think it's time we started the conversation about how the arts education creates peace in our schools, hearts, and minds of our children.

I LOVE the title of our late friend Xinme's blog Created to Be Creative.  I often think of just that, we are created to be creative! All of us. To nurture that creativity is to become closer to our creator, ourselves and each other. When you replace hate, fear, and loss with love, forgiveness and compassion you create new healthier communities. There are so many layers to this issue of hate and violence, I can't pretend to understand all of it's complexities. Although I don't have answers, I feel like I need to speak up for what I do know, art works. So I have written my Senators. I invite you to do the same if you feel moved. What we do is important.

Here is what I wrote if you need an idea. You can google your states Senators and all will have a place to contact them.

I am a teacher.  I live and work in one of the lowest performing schools in one of the poorest cities in our state. We are not the idyllic neighborhood of Sandy Hook. Much of our youth is desensitized, neglected, emotionally malnourished, in many cases do not have enough food or adequate shelter, many are on and off of drugs for attention and behavior that make them unrecognizable shells of themselves. If this happens in a place like idyllic Sandy Hook, then we are at grave risk.
 I am asking you to do what I do in the trenches of this school with my 600 students everyday (I am an art teacher!) Show compassion, leadership and a little tough love to stand up for what is right.  Stand up against violence, hate, and support a ban against assault weapons.
 But please don't stop there. Do what teachers do everyday when we lock our doors, practice lock downs, give smiles and love to our students, BE PROACTIVE. Invest in Arts and Peace education in all schools. By reducing our schools and children to standardized test scores, we have contributed to creating a violent generation that is searching for a different way. Please don't just stand up against gun violence, stand FOR something. Stand for Peace Education and the Arts to build an emotionally literate generation.
Pinch myself everyday.
This is my sunshine and raison d'etre!

I know this letter might sound naive but I am always hopeful. It's my biggest flaw! 


Anonymous said...

Hello! I just wanted to leave a note saying that I appreciate your blog very much. I too am an art teacher (my second year!) working in a school with similar issues. The work that you do with your students inspires me and reminds me to try my best and teach with love and patience =o)

Phyl said...

Beautifully written, Erica.

julie bardell said...

People don't realize the impact of writing a letter, showing up at the state capitol,speaking out is so important and believe it your selectman, mayors, politicians appreciate it. Thank you for your well spoken and formulated thoughts, compassion and for walking he walk.

Anonymous said...

Erica.... now I see why you have always been so special and so very special to me!

Hugs, Marilyn

polkadotparka said...

Here here!

Unknown said...

Thanks for all the support! Keep up all that you do everyday art friends... It's not as easy as we make it look but it's one of the most important things we do!

Ms Novak said...

Good Day!

I was thinking pretty much this exact thing today when I was on my drive to school - listening to the radio about an 8th grade boy who committed suicide in his school's bathroom.

How is it that people are so far removed that they don't understand that we are failing our communities because we fail in the humanities? We need more arts - visual and performing.

::sigh:: I am right there with you - all the frustration, angst, hope, determination --- I get you, and agree.

Unknown said...

Mrs. Novak I'm so sorry to hear that story! Tragedies like these are far to frequent and senseless. I try to remind myself and my kids, whatever you are going through is NOT forever. IT'S A TEMPORARY SITUATION ( as my mom always told me)
I'm so glad middle school is only a few short painful years. Luckily there are awesome teachers out there like you that guide their students.

Sending prayers and light to that boy and his family.