Social Justice in the Arts

There’s been such an assault on our sense of safety in our classrooms and schools in recent times with mass shootings – and a cacophany of opinions about what to do.  What do we do?  What would you do in this situation? Arm the teachers!  No, Only some of them!   Don’t take away our 2nd amendment!  Guns don’t kill people, people kill people!  Ban assault rifles!

There’s that. Then there’s what do you do in the aftermath?  It’s one thing to be prepared for a crisis, but when that crisis is over and we’re dealing with the damage that ensues, we’re in it for the long haul.  The time of grieving, healing, fixing, consoling, counseling, coaching, teaching is just beginning.  Parkland students were old enough to take their anger and frustration at the lack of response from our elected offiicials on themselves.  The Sandy Hook little ones never had that chance.

After the initial grief stages, there’s shock and awe and anger that is exacerbated by the lack of responsible action by adults to fix this.  There is post traumatic stress syndrome – and not only from the victim schools – but all that witnessed it. That’s all of us.  We’re all in this together.  We all have a responsibility, a moral obligation, and for god’s sake, we’re teachers, so of course we’re going to do all we can for our kids.

So many important questions have challenged us recently.  What do we, as teachers do, when our students want to walk out and protest, but are not allowed to by the school district?  How do we take care of ourselves in this insane time so that we can take care of our students?  How do we put our own mask on first?  And if we are arts teachers, what role can the arts play in the grieving process?  In social justice?  In social protest?  Where do we draw the line?  The lines?  The shapes?  The colors?  The feelings? How can we use our powerful voices as art and music and dance and theater teachers to help us all through this process?

A conversation with a great group of arts teachers in Maine, through the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative’s Winter Retreat, is happening Saturday, March 10.  I’ll keep you posted about the ideas discussed.