Studio to School

Priniciples in Action: Relationships Are Key

Understand and respond to evolving community contexts, including histories, strengths, and needs

About a year ago, RACC made a strategic decision to adjust our staffing structure based on input from our school partners. Focus groups with school principals helped us understand the need for a single point of contact from The Right Brain Initiative rather than the previous approach with multiple communicators. As a result, this school year we have seen greater progress toward whole-school arts integration than in the four previous years combined.

Right Brain Arts Integration Specialist Shannon McClure visits a 6th grade classroom as one of the many ways to build relationships with schools.

Two new Right Brain Arts Integration Specialists working in Hillsboro have intentionally built relationships with principals and teachers at Eastwood Elementary and Evergreen Middle School that have further developed the schools’ capacity to “own” and implement the program. This has been a gradual process that began with one-on-one principal meetings, showing up at faculty meetings, hanging out in the lunch room and visiting classrooms.

A middle school student finds evidence to support their interpretation of an image using Observational Thinking modeled in their classroom by Right Brain Arts Integration Specialist Mariam Higgins.

With a better understanding of the school’s culture and the adults and students who contribute to it, Arts Integration Specialists can more effectively work with teachers to develop student experiences that best meet their specific needs.  All-staff professional development on arts integration, the introduction of and classroom modeling of arts-based instructional strategies, as well as support in designing artist residencies, helped teachers see that Right Brain is not “one more thing.” Rather it is an approach that actively engages students in subject area content that teachers are already teaching. For example, Eastwood principal Lindsay Garcia noted that, “Trauma informed care has been a big shift…but wrapping it into our Right Brain residency has assisted teachers with social emotional learning and classroom management.”

Principles are inter-related

Although this was one of the principles our team focused on this year, we discovered a connection with another principle that we had not identified as a priority: Foster mutual commitment and responsibility in collaborations between arts organizations and schools. As indicated in the principle rubric, we have seen that:

  • School and arts organization commitments are integrated into broader plans for the school and arts organization
  • Deep, long-term school and arts organization commitments make it feasible to maintain and improve programming over time
  • Shared responsibility for arts education programming is formalized; expectations, roles timelines, and communication systems are clear
  • There is a shared sense of collaboration, and responsibilities are fulfilled in a timely manner
  • Schools feel that working with arts organizations helps them meet their broader goals; teachers find their jobs are made easier and/or more enjoyable; student find programming engaging and relevant

Over the past five years, I’ve observed growth in professionalism. At the beginning, teachers were tense and now when they see arts integration as an opportunity. I think that you don’t believe it until you live it. When teachers were able to see students learning in different ways, they witnessed their students’ success. Celebrating this along the way means that it all becomes more visible.

Lindsay Garcia, Principal Eastwood Elementary
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