It’s the final countdown! Students stroll down the hallways chatting about summer vacation plans, teachers eyeball stacks of books in the corner and make plans for clean-up and storage, and school leaders are wrapping up teacher evaluation cycles and planning end-of-the-year assemblies. Everyone is racing to the finish line! Now would be a terrible time for arts organizations to reach out to schools to talk about future partnerships, right? WRONG! As they wind down, we should be winding up.
I have a confession … during my years as a school administrator, nothing thrilled me more than the anticipation of a new school year and the untapped potential that came along with it. After about a week of recovery, our leadership team was ready to get to work planning the upcoming year. That was also the time that we were the most open to new ideas and opportunities! As you begin to brainstorm ways to connect with your local schools, here’s a quick list of tips to make the most out of their summer vacation:
1. Timing is everything
Most school leaders work through the summer, so go ahead and get a date and time in the books to meet in person. I recommend trying for a time in June or early July. That is typically when school leaders are ready to hear about new opportunities and how you can support their students’ academic and personal success. I’d also recommend following up sometime in August. While June and July are typically “big picture” months, August is when the nitty gritty of planning the next school year takes place.
2. Let them experience the arts
Our school leaders may or may not have had an experience in the arts while they were in school. You can’t assume they have. Make sure that you invite them to an upcoming educational event. If you have some opportunities over the summer, bring the dates with you to your meeting. A personal invitation may be just what they need to tip the balance from “I’ll check my calendar” to “Yes!” Once you get them into the room experiencing the arts, they will be hooked. If your organization happens to have programming that involves students, even better! Every decision that a leader makes for their school is grounded in what is best for students. It’s our job to help make that connection.
3. Create arts-integrated lesson plans
If your organization has an education department, get them started writing lesson plans. In fact, bring some of those plans to your meeting. That way, you can share some of your arts-integration strategies and they can guide you through any requirements their teachers have in writing their lesson plans. They may even have a standard lesson plan format that their teachers use. Most lesson plans have the following components: big idea, state standard(s), essential question(s), formative/summative assessment(s), and a lesson agenda. Teachers in public education are masterful at writing lesson plans for their particular content area, but writing a new plan from scratch takes time. If you want them to embrace the idea of the arts being integrated into their curriculum, all of the hurdles need to be removed. Arts-Integration and STEAM instruction is already a little outside of many teachers’ comfort zones. By creating complete, ready-to-use lesson plans, we are removing barriers that might keep them from integrating the arts into their instruction.
4. Keep trying
While the summer is an ideal time to talk with school leaders, you might not get a response the first time. You may have called on a day when they are in an all-day training session, or stopped by when they are in the process of interviewing for new teaching positions. The work is worth the effort. While principals are sometimes more difficult to connect with, it is vital that they are supportive of your programs. Don’t give up!