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Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ~Pablo Picasso

Thoughts for the Teaching Artist is devoted to an ongoing exploration of the role of the arts in education. I believe that the arts are an integral, essential part of every person's education. Arts education develops 21st Century Learning Skills, supports all core subjects, creates empathy & builds bridges, and helps develop voice & vision.

The views expressed in Thoughts for the Teaching Artist are mine alone and do not represent the views of my employer or any other persons or organization.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sisyphus at the Precipice

Outside, the rain is falling. The long days of summer live only in memory, and for those Teaching Artists who work in schools, the initial fervor of the new school year has faded into the daily grind of classes, rehearsals, assessments and grades.

We stand at the precipice of danger. The vast bulk of the school year stretches ahead, and even now some may feel that there is more work to be done than ever. Like Sisyphus, we already feel the weight of rolling that boulder up the hill of another year.

Rarely does that boulder have anything to do with our students. Far from it; as Teaching Artists we draw our energy and our satisfaction from our time with our students. Rather, the boulder we push valiantly against seems more often to be made of administrative duties, budget realities, inadequate facilities and colleagues who don’t always understand or value what we do. We are in danger of letting that boulder roll right back over us, leaving us flattened in its path.

We can’t escape the boulder entirely, but we can lighten it to a less unwieldy weight. We can begin by practicing the presumption of good will. The moment we begin to presume the best, the boulder gets, if not smaller, at least far more manageable.

Here are a few suggestions:

To practice the presumption of good will, I must strive to:

o Believe that all of my colleagues, both in the arts and throughout the school community, are acting in good faith.
o Listen.
o Not assume I know all the issues factored into any given decision.
o Not assume I know what other people think.
o Not base my opinion of any group-students, parents, colleagues- on the most critical, disgruntled or loudest 20%.
o Believe that the success of others does not diminish me.

As Teaching Artists, we can endeavor to be resilient in the face of adversity, cheerful when challenged, and strive to positively impact our community because we believe in our work. We believe in our students. We know that art matters.


  1. What wonderful timing... I really needed to hear this. Particularly "not assume I know all the issues factored into any given decision." I think that's something that anyone working at a school can find useful. If we all have the same goal-- to provide an excellent educational experience for our students, then we are all on the same team.

  2. Darc, thanx very much. From a Mom that is feeling defeated in getting thru to my child and the necessity of positive educational experience... I was reminded of things I need to remember in your bullets listed.. Not to assume, that is a good thing to even consider, because in all, her life's decisions will be her own. As a parent, who has done this successfully before, I still find myself self judging that I am in some way the one "failing".

  3. Hillary & Pat,
    Thanks so much for reading & commenting. I am encouraged to know you are reading this blog!

    Hillary, I was prompted to write this post because I was distressed to find myself feeling so overwhelmed so early in the school year. It was helpful to step back and remember that I must be responsible for my own response.

    Pat, take heart in he knowledge that your efforts will not go unrewarded! God will honor your work on behalf of your child.

    All Best,

  4. This reminder comes at a perfect time especially with back to school night approaching and having to explain to freshmen parents why drama has a textbook, tests and projects...and yes they do have to memorize. I often wonder if the core subject areas have to justify their worth each year. Then the evening goes on as I eventually see the senior parents who exclaim that drama is the reason their child comes to school each day. It makes rolling that rock up the hill year after year worth it.

  5. I sat yesterday at the CETA luncheon where seven dedicated theatre educators were recognized for their commitment to teaching. While each had his or her own particular journey to share, there was one consistent thread - passion. Being in a room full of passionate, generous, hard working teaching artists was inspirational. Thanks Darcy, for giving us this room every day!