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  • Writer's pictureKrista Price

Learning to think like an Artist (Quarantine Day 29)

Updated: Apr 16, 2020


“What do you teach?”


When people find out I’m a teacher, the inevitable next question is “Really? What do you teach?” There’s generally a brief moment of hesitation on my part during which I’m dying to tell the full truth but, knowing the intention of the question, I respond politely with “I teach High School theatre.”


The reaction is ALWAYS the same. “Oh my goodness! How fun!” In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a reaction other than that in the past 22 years. That response is more predictable than literally anything else in my life.


Fun.


Yes, it is fun…but not only in the ways one may think.



We have a crisis in this country, in my opinion. No, it’s not just Covid-19 (although Covid-19 is making the crisis even more obvious to myself and many other artists around the world). It’s a crisis of assumption about the Arts, and the resulting devaluing of these subject areas in our schools at a time when we need artists the most.


The Arts are generally believed, in most schools, to be an extra: “fluff”, “a fun class”, an “easy A”, and when executed badly, “a blow-off class”. The reality is, when mentored well, the Arts can be some of the most powerful forces in any school building. However, not for the reasons you may assume. Arts classes aren’t just there to “get kids involved”, or “make learning fun” or “help kids feel special” (Newsflash: No adult can do that for a kid. We must teach them to do it for themselves.)


The truth is, Arts programs/courses teach a way of thinking and also a way of being in the world. To teach creativity is to teach problem-solving, idea-generation, risk taking, resilience, inquiry, connection, coping skills, trans-disciplinary research, empathy, and persistence.


While I’m passionate about my content area (and likewise confident in my students’ abilities to walk out of my classroom and into any challenging course or program of study) teaching theatre is simply a springboard for what I really teach.


Want proof?


Last year, I sat my Acting students in a circle and asked them a simple question: What is the thing you’ve learned MOST this semester in Acting? Although in my classroom I focus on rigorous application of content and skills, the students’ responses had little to do with those things. I’ll be honest…their responses surprised even me. Here’s some of what they said:


Acting has helped me consider what life is like in others' shoes.

Acting gave me a different perspective and a world view.

Acting has opened my mind to new things and new people.

Acting class has taught me to take risks.

Acting has helped build my courage.

Acting helped me with my confidence and I learned something new each day.

Acting has changed me as a person, and has taught me to look at things differently.

Acting class has helped me not only as a person, but also with my other courses.

I've gained so many great people skills.


The impact of an Arts course is not in the content alone. It’s in the ability to learn a new way of thinking, and to transfer that thinking to every other aspect of life.


In a time when we are left with little meaningful connection to the world, we need artists. We need people who see possibility where others don’t. We need people who aren’t rattled by ambiguity and the unknown. We need people who make connections in the world around them in search of creative solutions. We need people who are empathetic and understanding of the human condition. We need people who entertain and enlighten us with their ideas. We need people who use our collective experience to create meaningful interpretations of the world with which we can all connect.


We need artists.

We need artists.

We need artists.


Yes, art is “fun”, but art taps into our humanity, our systems of thought, and into a deeper sense of who we really are in this crazy, unpredictable, ever-changing world.


I can almost guarantee artists aren’t restless right now. They’re interpreting, they’re writing, they’re creating, they’re making connections, they’re entertaining, and they’re fully living.


The words “essential” and “non-essential” are being thrown around a lot. Hopefully, beyond groceries and gas, these words have caused us all to re-assess what is “essential” and “non-essential” in our own lives. If you look closely, I assume you’ll find that the Arts ARE essential in your family’s lives right now. The Arts are not just “fluff” or “blow-off”. They’re what’s keeping you sane, connected, and grounded…and the same is true for our students. The Arts are the reason many students survive the school day and they help to make meaning in students’ ever-changing lives.


When we start to truly believe that the Arts have real value for ourselves and our kids (and that they are, dare I say it, "essential"), I believe it is then that we will find the curiosity, creative problem-solving, and persistence to make lasting change in ourselves and our worlds.



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