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Art and Poetry Across the Curriculum

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ImageAs 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.

Art is an amazing communications tool

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You cannot not communicate. If this was an English class, the double negative would stand out a bit. But in a Speech Communication class, it is an important concept. Everything we do communicates. What you say, how you say it, what you wear. Even if you stand not moving with your arms folded and don’t say a thing. You are communicating.

I tell my students this becomes important when they go to a job interview. In the book “What the Dog Saw” by Malcolm Gladwell, an example he uses applies this concept to job interviews. A study where a group of individuals watched a short video clip of a job interview. We are talking about a very short clip. The interviewee coming in and shaking hands. Just a few seconds. When comparing the choices on who should be hired, the actual interviewers in comparison with the individuals who watched just a few seconds of the interview, the results of who should get the job was pretty much the same. In those few brief seconds, much was communicated. You cannot not communicate. Just saying your name and giving a handshake sends volumes of communication.

I liken this to what happens in our writing and art contests. So often, we are sent poetry or art where the presentation of the material is lacking. A piece of art where the concept is good, but it lacks the professionalism that separates quality art. Simple things like the paper that is used, messiness with the medium or clean lines. I mean, no matter how good the art is, when it is presented on three holed lined paper with smudges of color like something was spilled on the edges, something is lacking. You cannot not communicate. The presentation sends a message. The student did not take a national contest seriously.

In all our interactions, be aware of the messages you send. Look at the total message as you are always communicating something and we are often not aware of the message we are sending.

On an end note, enjoy the small pleasures of life. I just put my 12 year old daughter, who is in a wheelchair, to bed for the night. Her feet felt like they were frozen. But take a soft cloth bag filled with beans, 3 minutes in the microwave, and a foot warmer is a small pleasure that makes her comfortable. There are so many things that we miss when we rush through life. The smile on her face. My heart took a picture. Her smile communicated volumes.