Drumming from Death to Life


 

“Mr Feller, can we get sick and die?”

The question was a legitimate one.  Here I was taking a group of 7th graders to the hospital to perform for pediatric patients; most of my students lived in poverty and had never performed volunteer work – and their experiences with the hospital were anything but positive.

“No, you won’t get sick and die.  Honestly, they’re more at risk of getting sick from you than you are from them.  These kids will all be fighting serious diseases – cancer, leukemia, stuff like that.  Diseases you can’t catch by breathing the same air or being in the same room.  But their bodies, because they are so sick, are at danger of catching colds or the flu from you guys, which is why the hospital won’t let someone come and perform if you’ve been sick recently.” I tried to both re-assure them they would be okay, and at the same time give them a glimpse of what these children were suffering from – and how severe it was.

In 1999 my sister, then 20 years old, died of leukemia.  The Thanksgiving after her high school graduation she was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in her knee.  After 18 months of intense chemo and multiple surgeries – including having a fake knee installed and 18” of her femur removed – she was doing well and it appeared the cancer was gone.  Because of her age at diagnoses Erin was chosen as a recipient of a wish from the Starlight Foundation, so in the summer of 1999 we – my parents, her, and myself – all traveled to Alaska and spent 7 days on an Alaska cruise.  Unbeknownst to me, that was the last time I would see her alive.  After the cruise I returned to my home in Florida and she returned to her home outside Chicago; I had made plans to see her that Christmas, but, unfortunately, that didn’t materialize as I had expected.  Instead of coming home for the holidays to go Christmas shopping and enjoy each other’s company, I came home and held the hand of her comatose body and sat next to her as she breathed her final breaths.

I remember visiting her in the hospital and seeing all the kids there, and how depressed they were, and I vowed to do whatever I could to try and bring a little happiness and joy into their lives.  So when I became a music teacher I started partnering with an area hospital and would take my students to perform for the pediatric patients.  Today was the day we were preparing to take this particular class for the first time.  They were both nervous and excited – and so was I.

We spent the class reviewing policies and procedures given to us by the hospital; we talked about what it would mean for the patients; but, mostly, we practiced our songs.  I knew that the learning they were going to have as a result of interacting with these patients was not something I could prepare them for.  So I simply prepared them for what they were expecting – performing music.

The next day we arrived at the hospital and setup in a small auditorium.  The kids were excited to be showing off what they learned, and you could feel the excitement as they chatted and rehearsed their numbers.  As the patients began arriving, though, something changed.  My students were used to performing for healthy people – and even though I had told them about what they would see, nothing could really prepare them for it.  Kids being brought in in wheel chairs, some walked on crutches, and almost every single one was attached to an IV cart.  Kids as young as 3 years old, some who had to be held because they were so sick.  My students looked at me with eyes of concern and fear; I smiled at them, nodded, and simply said, “This is why we are here – it will be alright.”

By the time we started playing there were probably 75 patients in the auditorium.  At first the students struggled to focus, but eventually they found their rhythm and started playing.  As they played you could hear the patients clapping, and I knew from the looks on my kids faces that the patients behind me were smiling and having a good time.

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After the first 20 minutes of performance we invited patients up to play with us.  This was actually the heart of the volunteer program – we weren’t here just to perform for these patients, we were here to drum with them.  My students knew this would happen, but they looked at me with concern in my eyes as some of the patients came up and had IVs sticking out of their hands.  “Will they be okay, Mr. Feller?”  “Will they get blood on my drum?”  All sorts of questions – questions I had anticipated from previous visits; questions birthed in what was becoming true concern for their well-being rather than fear.  My students were starting to build not just sympathy for these patients, but empathy with them.

“They’ll be fine,” I assured them, “The nurses are only picking kids who are healthy enough to come up here.”  My students stood up from their chairs so that the patients could sit in them, and then they were assigned to teach the patient the part for the song we were doing.  In class my kids hated – absolutely hated – sharing a drum; but here, something had changed in them.  They were excited to share, and they willingly offered the drum to the patients.  We started to drum – I taught the patterns, we modeled, and, within just a few minutes, we were making music, only this time the patients were making music instead of watching it.

An hour later we were back on the bus.  The mood on the bus was different than on the ride over, though.  What had been chatty excitement had turned to quiet contemplation.  A couple of my students were crying.  As we rode I stood at the front of the bus to debrief with my students what had just happened.  One looked at me and said, “My Feller, where did they go after the performance?”

“What do you mean, where did they go?”

“After they left the auditorium, where did they go?  Did they go back home?  Did they go to another performance?  What did they do?” the student asked.

Even with everything that had happened, my students still struggled to grasp the severity of it all.  “They went back to their rooms,” I replied.  “This is all they get to do – because they are so sick they spend all day, every day, for months in their rooms – laying in a bed, maybe watching TV or playing video games.  But they only time they leave is for treatment, or to come see us.”

“You mean they spend 23 hours a day in their bed, and the one time they got to leave they came to see us?” one of them exclaimed?

“More or less,” I responded.  “It’s not like they’re in prison, but because they’re so sick they can’t go out and interact much.  So, yes, they spend almost all day in their room, and today they got to come do something special – and that something special was to play drums with you.”

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“That’s so sad,” one of them commented.  “I wish I could do more.”

“It is sad,” I said, “But you also need to realize how much you did do.”

At which point they started talking about the looks on the patients’ faces, how much fun they had playing with the patients, how cool it was to teach them songs.  I sat down, thankful that my students were, for the briefest of moments, seeing beyond themselves, and experiencing something bigger than their own lives.

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PLC Training: Day 2


Professional Learning Communities at Work – Day 2

(this is part two of a two-day series summarizing training I attended with a team from across the district. For day 1’s recap click here)

It’s really pretty simple, when you think about it. It’s all about the kids. That pretty much sums up what our representatives learned over the past two days.

Today’s session focused on addressing some of the nuts-and-bolts, so to speak, of implementing PLCs. We spent a good deal of time reinforcing the basic concepts we were exposed to yesterday, which was actually really good because it helped us all keep our focus. Here are some key points that will be used to drive discussion over the next several months (perhaps I’ll actually do a blog post on each of these!):

The Big Ideas of a PLC

  1. We accept learning as the fundamental purpose of our school and therefore are willing to examine all practices in light of their impact on learning;
  2. We are committed to working together to achieve our collective purpose. We cultivate a collaborative culture though development of high performing teams;
  3. We assess our effectiveness on the basis of results rather than intentions. Individuals, teams, and schools seek relevant data and information and use that information to promote continuous improvement.

Because PLCs function as a team, we also identified the Seven Keys to Effective Teams:

  1. Embed collaboration in routine practices of the school with focus on learning (the entire school is a team);
  2. Schedule time for collaboration into the school day and calendar;
  3. Focus teams on critical questions;
  4. Make products of collaboration explicit;
  5. Establish team norms to guide collaboration;
  6. Pursue specific and measurable team performance goals (SMART goals);
  7. Provide teams with frequent access to relevant information.

When you take all that information, you get this basic picture of a PLC: it’s a team who spends time meeting regularly to identify goals for their students and then uses formative assessment to monitor student performance, making adjustments along the way based on the information they receive from those assessments. They also examine the data of these common assessments to look for trends in terms of student performance (who’s weak and strong across the board) as well as teacher performance so teachers can help teachers. It has nothing to do with student or teacher evaluation but with teacher and student growth. The Dufours summed it up this way:

“The heart of work in a PLC is when educators collectively analyze evidence of student learning to (1) inform individual performance practice, (2) improve a team’s ability to achieve it’s SMART goals, and (3) intervene on behalf of individual students. The other steps on the PLC journey (ie, identifying essential goals, establishing norms, creating common formative assessments, etc), are designed to help teams engage in this essential work.”

What educator couldn’t agree that this “vision” for PLCs isn’t the exact same vision we have for our schools in general? Doesn’t every decent educator strive to do the best they can to help the students do the best they can? That’s what PLCs are all about. We’ve gotten distracted and lost our focus (as we often do as humans) and made PLCs into book studies, team meetings, PD sessions, and gripe sessions. But that’s not what PLCs are. “The heart of work in a PLC is when educators collectively analyze evidence of student learning to (1) inform individual performance practice, (2) improve a team’s ability to achieve it’s SMART goals, and (3) intervene on behalf of individual students.”

Over the next couple of months I’ll begin to dig deeper into PLCs in both trainings throughout the district as well as posts on this blog, but for now ask yourself this question: Is the team I’m currently working on functioning as a PLC (as defined above) or are we doing other duties? If the answer is “other duties” then I challenge you to reflect on your work and figure out if you could be more focused on what’s important. If you are serving on a functioning PLC as defined above, please contact me because as we venture down this path as a district we’re going to need people to serve as models and supports for the rest of us – and you could fill that role.

PLC Training: Day 1


Professional Learning Communities at Work – Day 1

At the October 28 district-wide PD day we introduced the whole idea of PLCs, or Professional Learning Communities. During the morning training that day all schools conducted a three hour training answering the basic questions “What does a PLC look like?” and “How should a PLC function?” Then in the afternoon teachers were divided into PLCs to begin walking through the new standards documents as they learned how the Revised Blooms’ Taxonomy (RBT) aligns with the new NC Essential Standards.

This week a team of over 40 teachers, administrators, and instructional coaches are attending a two-day training in Raleigh entitled Professional Learning Communities at Work: Bringing the Big Ideas to Life, led by Dr. Rick and Becky Dufour (the training is Wednesday, December 14 and Thursday, December 15). The next several blog posts will serve as summaries of our work there, as well as how this will impact our work here in Pitt County Schools. If you want to follow live updates of the training I’ll be tweeting highlights each day.

Wednesday’s sessions focused on addressing this issue of “What does a PLC look like?” and then began laying the groundwork for “How do we do that here?” Before I give a definition of what a PLC is, however, let’s take a moment to talk about what a PLC is not. When educators hear the term PLC a broad variety of mental images come to mind – and many are not correct. Most schools in Pitt County will report they have PLCs at their schools, but when asked to describe their “PLC” the answers range from what is essentially a team meeting covering the latest information from the previous SIT meeting, planning time to discuss the upcoming parent curriculum night, to something more along the lines of a book study. While these things are not in-and-of-themselves bad things (and they are needed in order to ensure a school functions effectively), they are not a PLC.

PLCs are not a program or event, they are not a team meeting, nor are they something that is short-term. PLCs are an “on-going process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.” They operate under “the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous, job-embedded learning for educators.”

As we transition into the new NCSCOS (the Common Core & Essential Standards), PCS has invested a lot of time and money into using PLCs as a key component to school-improvement. PLCs will form the backbone of professional development in the new standards for the next several years, so it’s important that we have a firm understanding of what that means both theoretically and practically. As our work on the district-wide PD days has demonstrated, much of our work learning and applying the new standards will happen in PLCs.

Some of the Theory

PLCs will need to operate in what Marzano and Waters refer to as “defined autonomy” – meaning that teachers will have freedom to act within clearly articulated boundaries. These boundaries should be established by building and district-level administrators and may include expectations such as how often PLCs meet, deadlines for creation of common assessments, etc. But perhaps the most important “theory” line for us to understand in regards to PLCs is that PLCs “accept learning” (as opposed to “covering” or “teaching”) “as the fundamental purpose of school”, meaning that if students aren’t learning educators must answer the question “Why not?”, even if the answer to that question indicates a deficiency on the side of the teacher (which then leads to teachers working together to grow out of that deficiency). Educators who embrace this principle (or one of several “big ideas”) are “committed to working together to achieve the collective purpose [by] cultivating a collaborative culture” and assessing teachers’ (both individually and collectively) “effectiveness on the basis of results rather than intentions.”

This all boils down to one simply statement shared by the Dufours during the training: “Professional learning communities always attempt to answer critical questions by BUILDING SHARED KNOWLEDGE – engaging in collective inquiry – LEARNING TOGETHER.” Remember our earlier definition? PLCs are an “on-going process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.” They operate under “the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous, job-embedded learning for educators.”

Now all that theory is great, but it still begs the question, “What does this look like for me?” So let’s get practical!

Practical Implications

Every teacher in the district will be involved in a PLC, and the make-up of that PLC may be content or grade level focused, or perhaps it could address vertical articulation from grade to grade. But the point is that educators in our district will continue investing in themselves and each other through the PLC process. PLCs will meet not just this year, but throughout the coming years to answer the question (by examining the standards):

  • What are the essential learning outcomes students need to master by the time they complete this grade/course?
  • How will I know they have mastered these learning outcomes?
  • What common formative assessments can we as teachers develop so we can track not only student growth but also teacher effectiveness (not for evaluation sake, but for the purpose of bettering our instruction so students achieve more)?
  • What do these common formative assessments tell me and my colleagues about where students are weak and strong? What do they tell me I need to improve on as a teacher?
  • What do I need to address these deficits?
  • How can I use my strengths to help other teachers who may be weak where I am strong?

Wow! That’s a lot of stuff to cover – much more than I can address in just one blog post; which means the answers will be given over multiple posts, but also in trainings offered over the next several months throughout the district.

Check back tomorrow for more on what our team is learning from the Dufours!

Be Thankful for Your Teacher and a Vet


Recently I received an email from my Aunt who lives in Arizona.  She likes to forward those emails that everyone gets, but one caught my eye and, upon further investigation, it actually appears to be true.  Below is a copy of the email she sent:

 Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.  When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.

‘Ms. Cothren, where’re our desks?’

She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.’

They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.’

‘No,’ she said.

‘Maybe it’s our behavior.’

She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behavior.’

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom.  By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms. Cothren’s classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, ‘Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.’

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.  Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place, those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned..

Martha said, ‘You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it.’

By the way, this is a true story. And this teacher was awarded Teacher of the Year for the state of Arkansas in 2006.

Here’s why I share this story (one that honestly brought tears to my eyes as I read it).  The power and influence teachers have over children is absolutely astronomical – teachers can single-handedly chance the course of a child’s life, for good or bad.  Recently I was on vacation and was lucky enough to spend a day at Sea World – one of my absolute favorite places.  While I was there I kept thinking to myself, “Wow – what a cool place to work!”  That thought was immediately followed by, “But I’m not a science person, this isn’t the job for me.”

But that’s the funny part – when I was a kid I absolutely loved science – it was my favorite subject.  There was one teacher in particular who made the world come alive for me in a way I had never experienced – everything was hands-on and inquiry-based.  We asked questions and solved problems.  And we learned – if you asked me to identify the different types of clouds I can still recall laying on my back in the middle of the field during class as we looked up and learned about the types of clouds back in elementary school (much more interesting and engaging that learning it from a textbook).

Then I got to a new school – I was so excited to go to science, but once I got there my excitement quickly faded, in large part because the teachers just didn’t cut it.  They were boring, had low (and I mean LOW) expectations, and didn’t challenge me to learn.  The same is true in the field of art for me.  My wife loves the visual arts (her grandmother was an artist).  But me?  Not so much.  For the very reason I don’t understand it.  When we visit art museums I get bored, because I don’t understand what I’m looking at, and I can’t appreciate it.  But when I go with her and she explains it to me I enjoy it much more.  And guess what – my visual art teachers weren’t always the best, they were unable to connect with me (in all fairness, there was one in particular who did a great job, but by the time I got to him I was already turned off to art so I just didn’t work as hard as I could have for me).

But then there were teachers I absolutely loved – teachers whose class I didn’t want to miss for anything – teachers I worked hard for and invested time in because they did challenge and engage me.  Those teachers were ones I signed up to take extra classes with when I could, because I knew my time would be rewarded.  Choir, music, photography, English (I still remember my Lit G class to this day!), and history – all classes where the teachers taught me to think for myself, encouraged (and expected) me to ask questions, and helped me find answers.  When one of those teachers first said to me, “I could picture you as a teacher one day.”  It was the first time that thought had ever crossed my mind, but it’s the thought that stayed with me and helped direct and entire career path that’s brought me to where I am today.

Which gets out back to where I started… For those teachers out there who follow this blog, look for ways to engage and encourage your students – which will often require a dramatic shift in how you think about education (that’s what the story above demonstrates, a dramatic shift!).  And for you Vets out there who served and sacrificed so that I and others could go to school, thank you.

Every year I create a list of what I’m thankful for.  This year you can believe that teachers (some very specific ones) and Vets (again, some very specific ones) are on my list.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Lesson Mastery Part I: Having a Clearly Defined Destination


Back in August I did a post in regards to establishing procedures for students as a basis for a successful school year – today’s post will be part II of the time Harry Wong spent speaking to our teachers.  Remember that he identified three characteristics of effective teachers:

  1. Good Classroom Management (note, this is not the same as discipline)
  2. Lesson Mastery
  3. Positive Expectations

I ended that previous post with this question:

[F]or now answer this question for yourself, “What’s my procedure for _________?”  If you don’t have one, create one.  And once you have it, teach it, model it, reinforce it, and require your students to demonstrate it.

I trust that at this point in the school year – approximately 30 days into the year – you have your procedures established and you have progressed beyond teaching procedures in your classroom to actually teaching your students the content they need to learn.  One reminder the Wong’s made on August 17th is that “Learning has nothing to do with what a teacher covers but with what a student accomplishes.”  So let’s look at that a little bit.

You should begin all your lesson planning by asking the question “What do I want my students to do as a result of this lesson?”  Answering that simple question will make the difference between planning an engaging learning experience for students and an entertainment show that students watch.  If you begin your planning by asking, “What will I do on?” you have missed the boat.  Begin by asking “What do I want my students to be able to do on?” and then ask yourself, “So now what do I need to do to make sure that happens?”

There is a major emphasis in education right now – partly as a result of the Race to the Top grant – on Teacher Effectiveness.  And everyone is asking, “What makes an effective teacher?”  Others are asking, “How do we measure effective teaching?”  And, let’s just be honest, a lot of people are making a lot of money by examining this question.  The Wong’s gave one of the best definitions of the word “effective” I’ve heard yet: To be effective is to produce the intended results.  Which begs the question, what is our objective (our intended results)?  And, do students know the intended results (objective)?  Are you aware that telling students their learning target for the lesson can increase students’ learning by as much as 27% (a statistic shared during the presentation)?

Yet something so simple is so rarely found in classrooms.  This past week I was out visiting schools and meeting with teachers and administrators from across my district.  As I was walking around one building I noticed that of all the classrooms I entered not a single one had a daily objective posted and not once did a teacher communicate to the students what the learning objective was (and when the students were asked by an observer what the objective was they couldn’t answer the question!)  My question is, “Why?”  Why don’t students know what they are supposed to learn?  Why don’t they know what they are supposed to do to show they have mastered the objective for the day?  We as adults want to know how we will be evaluated (which is one reason we have such a lengthy evaluation document), and we want specific examples of what it is we are expected to do.  Yet too often – far too often – we fail to give our students the same level of specificity in regards to their objectives.  Just like we do better when we know where we are going and what is expected of us, our students perform better (learn more) when they know where they are going.

As you plan your instruction, plan it so that if an observer were to ask the questions listed below any student in the room could answer them appropriately (thanks to Jake Burks, a consultant I met this summer, for sharing these with me):

  1. How will you be asked to show the teacher that you really understand and can use this learning?
  2. Why do you think it is important to learn this today?
  3. How will you use this learning?
  4. If you do not understand or use this knowledge well, what will that mean for you?
  5. How will you be asked to use this learning tomorrow or in the future?
  6. Can you teach me what you are learning right now?

Trust me, if your students can answer those questions when asked then they are authentically engaged in the learning experience you have planned – and you have empowered them by giving them a clear objective.

What’s the Deal with the Arts?


Warning: if you are breathing, something in this post will most likely offend you…

Arts In Education Week was established as the second week in September back in 2010 by a declaration from the US House of Representatives, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to share my feelings on the arts in education.

I’ll make it short and simple: it’s important.  No, it’s vital. (okay, now I’ve probably offended all those non-arts people!)

Here’s the next truth: too many arts teachers (and when I say “arts teachers” I am referring to all disciplines we teach in the schools: visual art, music, theatre, dance, etc) put too much emphasis in the wrong area in regards to the students they teach – and that needs to change (okay, now I’ve offended everyone that’s an arts teacher and was all excited about my first point – so I’ve kept my word to offend everyone!)

I’ll start by traveling back in time a little so you know my background and view on this subject.  Not only did the arts, specifically music and theatre, consume my childhood but they also directed the path for just about everything I did after I graduated high school.  I attended college on both music and drama scholarships, I graduated with an undergraduate degree in K-12 Music Education with a minor in musical theatre, and to this day I am still heavily involved in the arts as a music director for two different organizations.  My professional arts experience includes work at amateur, community, and professional levels in theatre (both musical and non-musical), opera, solo singing, directing, arranging, and conducting.  I’ve conducted choirs, handbells, and string orchestras; I’ve served as a clinician in Florida, and obtained certifications in Orff and World Music Drumming.  Believe me, I love the arts.  My daughters both started ballet when they were two, my oldest daughter has been taking violin since she was three (my youngest daughter hasn’t started yet  because she’s only 2!), my wife has a masters degree in accompanying and vocal coaching, and I spent 9 years in the classroom as a music teacher before making the switch to administration.  When I talk about the arts I feel as if I have some understanding and perspective on it.

So here’s the thing: all that brain research you read (or hear about) that says the arts improve cognitive function, reasoning skills, creativity, innovation, people skills, etc, etc, etc, is absolutely spot-on.  The bottom line is research indicates students who study the arts do better in school – I know of no reputable research out there that would disagree with this statement.

And for those people out there who think arts teachers aren’t “real teachers” you need to re-examine what they do.  As a arts teacher I can tell you that these are some of the best teachers in the building to speak to in regards to issues such as differentiated instruction, mastery learning, classroom management, adapting instruction for EC students, student engagement, or higher-order thinking skills.  Students in the arts are constantly asked to create and evaluate (at least if they are being taught well), and teachers in the arts often have to reach every student (even the ones that are allowed in “regular” classrooms), they have to engage and motivate students (since their grades “don’t count”), and they have to constantly fight the never-ending battle to justify their jobs and their responsibilities when funding is tight.  These teachers deserve not just out thanks, but our respect as professionals. (okay, now I’ve really offended the non-arts teachers, so I guess I need to offend someone else).

But here’s where too many arts teachers go wrong: too many (though not all) of them forgot that the most important class they teach is not Honors Chorus and Advanced Photography or Modern Dance IV.  No, the thing that the regular education teacher gets all too well and the arts teachers forget all too quickly is that we can not put all our emphasis on the “chosen few”.  Too many choir directors I know have said they don’t want students in their choir who have never learned to sing or read music; too many visual art teachers don’t want students in their studio who have no talent.  And what they do is turn off the vast majority of the population that will never be on a stage or have an exhibit on a wall.  Yet in so doing we forget that without the people to attend the stage performance or visit the gallery there would be no reason to be on stage or hang something on a wall.  The truth many of us (myself included) need to remember about arts education is that perhaps the most important class we teach is the basic appreciation course for the content area itself.  Why don’t people like listening to symphonies?  Because they don’t understand them.  Why don’t people like to visit the art gallery?  Because they don’t understand what they see on the wall.  And that, fellow arts educators, is the problem.  Too much of our “art for arts sake” is incomprehensible to the general population because we have not done an adequate job of explaining to them how to understand it.  When I taught I constantly reminded myself that the most important class I taught was General Music; it wasn’t my guitar class, my handbells, or my choir.  It was the class where I had to teach the music consumers what it was they were consuming so that the music creators would have someone for whom to create.

So in honor of Arts of Education Week I challenge the consumers to take the time to thank the teachers who empowered and taught the creators how to create.  And to the arts teachers I challenge you to not forget the arts consumers who are the ones for whom you create – both are needed, and when we lose sight of that fact we fail at that which we work so hard to achieve.

Arts education is important – actually, it’s vital – but it’s not just vital for artists.  It’s vital for everyone.