I can’t say that it surprises me that good communication is key to launching this project. I have been doing a lot of communicating since July–phone calls, emails, face-to-face conversations. I have asked a lot of questions and listened to others. I have had conversations with students, school staff members, community members, artists, and Coos Art Museum staff. We have shared many ideas about how this project might unfold.
What does surprise me is that the lines of communication are not always as good as I initially thought. I am surprised when a classroom teacher asks a question that I specifically answered in a prior email. Okay, so my emails are jammed full of way too much information and therefore way too long! Of course, our classroom teachers do not have time to read all my INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION, when everything that they do in the classroom is important. Time is limited. Any information that I give to them needs to be concise and to the point. I’m working on that.
I’ve also been surprised that Sunset does not have regular staff meetings. This has also been a communication challenge. I don’t want to “dump” a program on top of an already full day in the classroom. I want to know what teachers think about the ideas we have for this year. Recently, the classroom teacher on our planning committee said that she could take these ideas to the team leader meeting and that team leaders could pass the information on to the rest of the team. Surprise! The next day my inbox was full of comments and questions. Maybe this communication thing is not so hard after all.
The biggest surprise for me, as well as the art instructors and assistants going into the classroom, is how much our art lessons are being embraced by the students and teachers. We know that this is an especially stressful year for the school staff. Their days are very full. Every moment of the day is directed toward student learning. One might think that with such a huge task ahead of them, the teachers might resent any added work that this program might give them. Instead, I hear stories about students making connections between what they are learning in school and what they learned in art class. Teachers tell me about interesting discussions raised in class based on reflection questions that students work on after each art lesson. Teachers send me pictures of students’ sketchbook work. We are getting good feedback from teachers and students. This all tells me that we are making progress towards our goal of making art a normal part of the day for students and teachers. Surprise! Despite some bumps along the way, we are off to a good start!