The Arts: Leveling the Playing Field

What do we do about students who are below grade level? For some, the answer is to test, test, and test again. What do we do for our students who are second language learners and their first language is not English? Often, we do the same—test, test, test. A recurring theme popped up as we completed our last week of 2014-2015 Beyond the Classroom programming in the schools, in our Center’s creative spaces, and on our stages: those who struggle in the classroom—for the reasons mentioned above—are able to level the playing field and discover the feeling of success through the arts. Everyone is included, all are engaged, and the feel of community is heightened. 

Through the arts, a blind student is able to feel the texture of tissue paper in his hands and add pieces he created to a small group collage. Through the arts, students who usually take the sidelines in the classroom turn into leaders as they choose key pieces for a group mosaic. And through the arts, a special education student who usually sits in silence with an aide can write just one word that wraps up an all-class poem in the most perfect way.

Can you imagine day after day feeling lost in the shuffle? Not able to participate to the world around you? Now can you imagine how it feels when someone takes the time to show you how you can contribute? Lets you know that your voice matters? Throughout this year, I have observed the smiles, pride, and happiness that resulted from our BTC art sessions between students and our teaching artists—and they were much bigger than any score on a test.  We must remember that the arts bring understanding and empathy, collaboration and kindness into the lives of our youth.

As we draw the curtain on our 10th anniversary season of Beyond the Classroom, I want to send a very special “thank you” to all of our Wilson Center teaching artists who brought much joy to the students at our partner schools throughout this past year. You amaze me!

— Christina Ratatori, Education Director