BLOG POST BY PTAC MEMBER PAUL BAKNER
When our children return to school, they will need the arts, humanities, librarians, physical education, electives, and mental health professionals more than ever. The Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee has called for equity in access to these areas in the organization’s Recommendations for the 2020-2021 School Year. I teach high school music in northeastern Pennsylvania, and I saw this need in my classroom every day even before the closure of schools in March.
When I started teaching roughly 20 years ago, a student confided in me that she only comes to school for band. This statement initially surprised me, but it has been shared with me by dozens of students during my career. An important part of my career as a teacher is to create a place where students feel safe and valued.
The arts, humanities, librarians, physical education, electives, and mental health professionals are well adapted to create spaces where students feel safe in schools. At the start of every school year, the first question I am asked by students is when I am handing out lunch passes so that they can eat in the band room instead of the cafeteria. These classes are the areas where students flock to find friends and allies.
The arts, humanities, librarians, physical education, electives, and mental health professionals are well adapted to create spaces where students are valued. In my classroom, students’ interaction and collaboration with peers is required and everyone contributes. One of my drum major’s favorite sayings is, “There’s no bench in band.” Everyone contributes, everyone counts, and everyone matters.
In my classroom, I teach more than just music. I teach students to be someone. I teach students that achievement and success are group activities. I don’t just help kids make great music. I use music to help make great kids. I think that’s what the world and our country needs most right now.
The arts, humanities, librarians, physical education, electives, and mental health professionals fill a void that other subjects cannot. Kelly Pollock, the executive director of Center of Creative Arts (COCA), has given me permission to share her insight. I think that the quote eloquently sums up the importance of sustaining access to these subjects and professionals at every school and every grade level as we move forward toward the next school year.
“The true purpose of arts education is not necessarily to create more professional dancers or artists. [It’s] to create more complete human beings who are critical thinkers, who have curious minds, who can lead productive lives.” – Kelly Pollock, Executive Director, COCA
Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee