2. What about your work keeps you up at night?
Keeping up with constant emails from volunteers that like to reach out sometimes very late at night.
Designing cards and finding out the technical aspects were harder than expected and more time consuming.
Prepping enough projects for the next week.
Having enough staff on hand for a messy workshop and whether the school plumbing has indeed been repaired!
3. When do you know your work is making a difference?
Knowing what I accomplish is important for our team to succeed and getting better and faster at completing my tasks.
Teachers using handouts for a class and thanking me!
When a new volunteer attends an event or goes to a class and says this was the perfect fit for them.
When a student wants to stay after class to make another project or tells me about finishing an art project at home that was started in our class.
4. What is the coolest thing a participant in your program ever said to you?
When excited students shared how happy they were to make puppets and flowers.
The director sharing that she was so impressed with my fabulous work that she was sharing handout to the partner because it expressed our curriculum goals better than words.
When a new member excited about volunteering and had all her paperwork submitted and wanted to start helping immediately!
When a grandmother called and said even though no one in there family liked school or graduated high school, that our program inspired her grandson to go to college and he would be the first of his family to do so and how proud she was.
5. What is the most important thing you do to help your teaching artists do their best work?
Coordinating sites for teaching artists that work best with their schedule and age preferences and whenever possible in the communities where they live.
Providing icebreaker banner handouts so students can get to know one another and the classroom can be transformed into a fun place the very first day.
Preparing and packing materials so a class has everything they need to run smoothly and keeping an inventory.
Writing curriculum and training teachers so they feel encouraged to explore teaching art the way they explore their medium – with passion and sensitivity!
6. What is the best tip you can give to someone doing arts education programs like yours?
Tap into the passion and creativity of all staff .
Embrace the spirit of Kaizen – continuous self-improvement!
Develop site specific curriculum that really interests and inspires students and staff member partners. Make art relevant by connecting art curriculum themes with current events.
Provide learning materials not already available to your youth that combine ideas from other subject areas.
7. If you could magically change one thing to make your program better, what would it be?
Be able to provide more than 10 weeks a semester.
Have safer schools and streets.
Have better storage and access to storage in classrooms.
Have enough soap, toilet paper and paper towels be provided at schools and centers so teachers didn’t ever have to bring it.
We have had awesome nature walks in our urban neighborhoods where we have collected insects and leaves to draw and identify native and non-native plants and trees. Students are often amazed at “all that cool stuff we didn’t even notice before” right on their own block.
We regularly used to take students with sketchbooks, bird identification books, binoculars and backpacks with art materials to draw ducks, turtles, and landscapes directly from nature (with the details to make the different species identifiable) in John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. One field trip there though topped them all as student overcame her very real fear of “killer turtles” and extreme dangers of animals not living in this region. It has been nicknamed our “Ninja Turtle” story which while we have shared and chuckled about ever since and points out the importance of learning. It is so easy for youth to fear what they don’t know and for youth to believe what they see on TV and social media.
9. Share a book you read that changed how you think about your work.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (makes reader connect to and think like a child thinks)
The Butterfly Effect (asks reader to be aware of your choices and realize small choices can have a big effect)
The Little Engine That Could (read to me by my grandmother reinforced importance of thinking “you can” when faced with adversity and continue persevering) and The Giving Tree the beautifully written and illustrated book by Shel Silverstein that my college professor used to to teach teachers.
Horton Hears a Who ( Horton knows “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” Once convinced of the Whos’ existence, the other jungle animals finally vow to help Horton protect the tiny community after not believing him.)
10. Best. Snack. Ever.
Kind bars, chocolate covered expresso beans and grapes – its grain, protein , caffeine, hydration and dessert that can fit in a small side pouch of a backpack.
Homemade Lemon Ricotta cookies
Thank you Stockton Bartol Rush Foundation for inspiring this conversation!