I’m back in the office this morning but I spent most of this week (spring break in Worthington) in Ft. Myers, Florida. 15 years ago my parents purchased a condo in Ft. Myers and they now split their time between Ft. Myers and Columbus. Four years ago my sister and nephew moved to Ft. Myers and thus the trip was one to spend time with family. (The weather was nice too!)
My sister is my opposite. It’s unlikely that two family members could be so different. She is currently the art teacher at Colonial Elementary in Lee County Schools. (I can’t draw my hand.). She is creative, spontaneous, and adventurous. I am linear, steady and conservative. We have great parents. Somehow we came from the same home.
One of the joys of this trip was getting to see my sister, the art teacher, in action. On our first evening in Ft. Myers she ran an art fair in conjunction with her school’s parent teacher conferences. After meeting with the home room teacher, parents and students moved to the cafeteria where there was face painting, sand art, a photo booth, painting, popcorn, cookies and punch. (Volunteers were necessary and thus along with school staff I took the photos.). On this evening I watched a couple of hundred students and their families benefit from my sister’s creativity and passion. On our final evening in Ft. Myers we went to an art exhibit hosted by the Alliance For the Arts. The art teachers in Lee County all chose 10 – 15 pieces of art and each school displayed their work. The parking lot and surrounding areas were full of families with smiles on their faces coming to see the student work.
As a school administrator and as a big brother it’s really neat to see my sister making a positive difference in the lives of kids. Next year she’ll likely be at a different school because her current school, which serves a student population that is over 90% free or reduced lunch, is being reconstituted. Reconstitution is a reform option under No Child Left Behind for when a school consistently fails to meet improvement targets. The theory of action is that by moving out the current teachers and bringing in new teachers the school will see more success.
From my perspective, and from the research I found, this is a flawed strategy and rarely works without other significant systemic changes. The strategy assumes that the new teachers will be somehow more committed, more talented, more something… I personally don’t think we can or should put system failures on the backs of teachers, but that is our simplistic answer to many things in education today. (I’m not objective here…. It’s my sister.)
So, where she’ll teach next year I’m not certain. After watching her this week I am certain that wherever she is she’ll use art to help students learn and grow, to build creativity and problem solving, and to put smiles on the faces of families.