As the entries come in for the art and poetry contest, I appreciate more and more the time that teachers take to have their students enter our contest. I received an email last week from a teacher who stated that even though her school was asked to not teach poetry in order to make time for more testing, she felt the benefit of entering our contest was too great to ignore. She related that she was going to teach poetry to her kids and send them into our contest no matter what. We appreciate the support, but more importantly we appreciate what she is doing for her students. Through the demands of state, local and national testing, classroom time is filled. It is a challenge to fit in everything that is required.
When I was teaching in Illinois, the state added speaking and listening assessment for all public schools. I traveled the state through the education service centers to not only explain the state requirements, but to also help teachers use as little class time teaching the requirements as possible. Cross discipline teaching became the key as teachers used math story problems to assess listening, or history oral reports to teach content in history and assess speaking skills.
Poetry and art are the same. Each year we receive hundreds of poems written about science and math topics, and art that breaks down the parts of a flower. These come from teachers who felt the teaching across the curriculum not only helps teach the concepts of the parts of an atom or the battles of the Revolutionary War, but also teach language and art skills.
I hope classroom time doesn’t get so filled with the tedious tasks that we lose sight of what is important. It takes thinking outside the box and some creative energies, but working art and poetry into more “academic” subjects can sometimes achieve several objectives at the same time.