Author: Dev Ops

Art & Fear; Reflections from the Day of Learning Self Care Salon

by Justin Daniel

It was COLD.  Teeth chattering cold.  But, here we were, watching participants enter a chilly upstairs space filled with warm light and the smell of burning candles, and begin to take off their coats.

“Keep them on!” we interject.  The facilitators (Heleya de Barros, Andre Ignacio Dimapilis, and I), were about to guide everyone through some sound therapy meditation and, hopefully, fruitful conversations around self care.  We needed warmth!

Despite the cold, we were incredibly lucky to be joined by highly engaged artists, both teaching and administrative, who were willing to sit in silence through beautifully intentional meditation led by Andre, and to engage in personal conversations about the tensions between the importance of self care and the myriad reasons why we as non profit educators often put all of our focus on caring for others at the expense of our own self.

     

What INTERNAL factors prevent you from being your best self?

This question framed the workshop and there were many responses, which included anxiety, exhaustion, concern, and time.  But there was one word that came up dozens of times.

FEAR

Fear of disappointing others

Fear of not following through

Fear of failure

Fear

Fear

Fear

Fear

Fear

Fear

Again and again…

For the participants this sense of fear manifested in multiple ways, including:

Procrastination

Creative block

Depression

Exhaustion

Family Impact

Lack of joy in day-to-day encounters

Defensiveness

Anxiety

Frazzle

Disconnecting

Isolation

It struck me as these discussions were happening, Arts Education Professionals often put on an armour, whether when entering a classroom or writing a grant proposal, yet we are often grappling with internal factors that debilitate us from embodying the attributes we hope to foster in the people we serve.

David Bayles, author of the transformative book Art & Fear, says:

Art is a high calling – fears are coincidental. Coincidental, sneaky and disruptive, we might add, disguising themselves variously as laziness, resistance to deadlines, irritation with materials or surroundings, distraction over the achievements of others – indeed as anything that keeps you from giving your work your best shot. What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit. (Art & Fear, 2001)

The workshop sounds heavy.  Well, for artists, our work and our self are intertwined.  It’s personal. Once again, David Bayles says:

To the artist, all problems of art appear uniquely personal. Well, that’s understandable enough, given that not many other activities routinely call one’s basic self-worth into question (Art & Fear, 2001)

What I loved most was the conversations, while personal and vulnerable, opened up in to  moments of lightness and discovery that left us buzzing. (The sounds of a Didgeridoo played during the Sound Therapy Meditation by Andre helped!)  This buzz led us to many strategies, including discussions around finding good therapists, attending spiritual services, learning how to say no, and setting personal boundaries.

     

For this post, I want to highlight some key strategies that popped up around one of the greatest culprits of self care, Technology –

Consciously Disconnecting from Tech:

One participant told a great story how she was working so hard to cut down screen time for her teenage daughter, but realized she was spending just as much time procrastinating on her own phone.  She came up with a tech cut off time, and now her family locks up their cell phones after 6pm.

I LOVE THIS.

BUT AM I BRAVE ENOUGH TO TRY?

Using Tech as part of your Self Care Routine

On the flip side, many participants advocated using tech to aid in self care, as long as it’s used with intentionality.

Apps like ShineCalmWaking UpForest, and Headspace were all recommended as positive tools for meditation and focus.

Do Not Disturb

Choosing specific hours in the day to be UNAVAILABLE.  This looks like blocking out time on your work calendar if you are working in an office, or simply setting the DO NOT DISTURB feature on your phone during specific times where you want to completely focus on YOU.

Boomerang and Snooze for Gmail

Many arts administrators were frustrated by their constantly feeling like they are working, even outside of work hours.  One strategy offered was to download Boomerang for Gmail, which is a free productivity tool that allows you to schedule emails to be sent in the future.

Snooze is an other free add-on that allows you to literally SNOOZE your inbox.  Really, do you need to be receiving emails at night when you should be watching Schitt’s Creek?  (I highly recommend you watch Schitt’s Creek)

For those of you in the room, thank you.  Thank you for putting up with the cold, for creating warmth with your generosity and collaboration, and for helping create tangible takeaways.

Let’s keep this conversation going on our Teaching Artists of New York City Facebook Group.  What strategies do you use to maintain self care?

     

 

Justin Daniel is the Associate Director for After School Programming at Opening Act, a Teaching Artist, and a Theatre Maker.  A board member for the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable, Justin co-chairs the Teaching Artist Affairs Committee. You may reach him at justindanielnyc@gmail.com

Published: February 25, 2019

Middle School Music and Theatre Students Get Better Grades

Does your middle schooler want to study music, theater, or dance? Do you fear it will be a distraction from academics and put their grades at risk?

A rigorously designed, decade-long study of more than 30,000 Florida students suggests the exact opposite is more likely.

It found students who took an elective arts class in sixth, seventh, or eighth grade had significantly higher grade point averages (GPAs), and better scores on standardized reading and math tests, than their peers who were not exposed to the arts. This held true after the researchers took into account “all the ways that students who did and did not take the arts in middle school were initially different.”

While much research has suggested music and arts training confers academic benefits, the chicken-and-egg question has made definitive declarations difficult. At least one major study concluded music students do better at school largely because smarter, more capable kids are more likely to choose to study music.

The new study, in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, addresses that issue by following a large group of low-income students from kindergarten through eighth grade. This allowed the researchers to create a baseline level of each youngster’s academic accomplishments, and determine if arts classes boosted their achievement level.

The short answer is they did.

The research team, led by George Mason University psychologist Adam Winsler, focused on middle school, reasoning it is both a key period for brain development and “the first time students can choose to take full elective arts courses, and they can still enroll in these arts-related classes with limited skills.”

Using data from the Miami School Readiness Project, the researchers tracked the progress of 31,322 ethnically diverse, primarily low-income students. They noted each child’s level of school readiness at age four, including cognitive, language, and social skills, as well as their scores on standardized math and reading tests in fifth grade.

They then recorded whether the student had taken a dance, drama, music, and/or visual arts class in grades six, seven, or eight. Forty percent had done so; of those, 65 percent took such a class for only one year. Finally, the researchers looked at how those kids then did academically.

Not surprisingly, they found students who chose an arts elective “not only had better grades in elementary school,” than their peers, “but also showed stronger social, behavioral, language, motor, and cognitive skills seven years earlier in preschool.” This supports the aforementioned thesis that more capable kids are more likely to gravitate to the arts.

However, even after taking into account any advantages enjoyed by the arts students, the researchers found a clear pattern of positive results.

“Those who experienced arts electives in middle school went on to earn significantly higher GPAs and higher standardized math and reading scores, and were less likely to get suspended from school, compared to students who were not exposed to arts classes,” they write. “These are meaningful, important, and ecologically valid measures of actual student performance.”

Given these findings, access to arts education “can be seen as an issue of social justice,” the researchers write. They note that, in their sample, black students were less likely than white or Latino students to enroll in an arts class, for reasons that are unclear but should be explored.

Winsler and his colleagues conclude that “we need to protect and enhance” kids’ access to arts education. As previous research has shown, arts and music training can sharpen developing brains, bolster creativity, and teach kids how to work together to achieve a goal—all of which contribute to successful outcomes, in school and beyond.

Published on: February 12th, 2019
Photo by: Chuttersnap/Unsplash)

Tom Jacobs is a senior staff writer at Pacific Standard, where he specializes in social science, culture, and learning. He is a veteran journalist and former staff writer for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press.

A Teaching Artist’s Confession

By Stacey Bone-Gleason, Teaching Artist and Actress.

I’m not good at everything, and that’s ok. There, I said it!

I know it sounds obvious but, as a teaching artist, I’ve found it’s hard for me to admit. I’ll happily admit the things I have trouble with outside of my artistic field: I can’t draw; I can’t cook a steak; and don’t even get me started on how bad I am at organized sports. However, when it comes to the many different ways I can be a teaching artist, I often try to be the expert in every possible residency. That is simply impossible.

That’s not to say my work isn’t strong, or that I don’t work ridiculously hard to plan for every type of residency that comes my way, or that my strengths and passions might change.  But it is important to find, and know, my niche.

I was given the advice early on as an actress to take any gig that came my way until I could have the luxury of picking and choosing. I believe that was the right path to take when I started both of my careers. As a teaching artist there are so many possible paths, subjects, and populations to work with. It takes time to find your niche. How would I ever find out what I could and couldn’t do if I didn’t try different things? I never would have known that I love, and have a talent for, directing young people had I not said “yes” the first time I was asked. I never would have known how much I love pre-show workshops or improvisation had they not fallen into my lap.

Admitting I should say “no” is easier said than done. First, there is the financial issue. We, as teaching artists, live in a constant state of financial uncertainty. Then there is the ego issue. We WANT to be good at everything as a teaching artist (or as an actress for that matter). So, when we finally realize that there is an age or population or topic that other teaching artists are better with than we are, it’s a blow to our ego and it hurts. I have just now started to feel confident in saying “no,” even when a residency fits into my schedule. And I’d be lying if I said it still didn’t hurt.

For me, the greatest indicator of which jobs to say “no” to is in my planning time. The residencies I dread planning for, that seem to exhaust rather than excite me, are the ones I need to give a second look when the offer comes in.

My advice for early career teaching artists is to take every opportunity you can. Try and find your area of expertise, the style of teaching that truly brings out your light as a teaching artist and allows you to bring out the best in your students. Just don’t be afraid, one day down the line, to say “no” when you realize that’s what’s best for both you and your students.

Stacey Bone-Gleason is a professional teaching artist and actress. She teaches for numerous cultural organizations in Westchester and NYC including Arc Stages, TADA!, CAE, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Purchase College and BAM. She has even taught pre-show lessons internationally in Istanbul. She has helped to develop and perform TYA performances for the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NYC and presented at arts education conferences such as the NY TIOS and Face to Face conferences. As an actress she has performed Off-Broadway, regionally and internationally in shows ranging from classical to contemporary and musical theater. Favorite credits include Unbroken Circle produced by Seth Rudetsky, Macbeth, Tempest and Midsummer (Tempest Ladies) in NYC and Istanbul, The Baristas (South Carolina Rep). Training: NYU/Stella Adler Studio of Acting (BFA) and Educational Theatre at CCNY (MS). www.staceybonegleason.com