Open Forum

Coping

  • 1.  Coping

    Posted 26 days ago
    Having read the forum all through the summer, checked out scripts, planned for virtual instruction and virtual shows, and been very excited about plans to provide my middle school students with the joy of theatre in these challenging times ... And having shared a summary of the ideas, possibilities, and rationale with the administration (in June and again in August) ....

    I found out the day before teachers returned that my district has cut the entire drama program for the foreseeable future.

    I am devastated, and trying to come to terms with my new role, as basically a glorified sub and lunch supervisor.  They say that it isn't permanent, but that they are "Marie Kondoing" the curriculum.  Implication:  theatre is not essential, and it does not spark joy.  They say it isn't permanent, but I'm not feeling great job security at the moment.  Art, music, and P.E. are all essential.

    I keep telling myself that I still have a job, health insurance, and my own health.  I can channel my inner Pollyanna some of the time.  But I am really struggling.  I also know that there are students and families who will be similarly devastated when they find out.

    Is anyone else in a similar position?  How are you coping?

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    Kristin Hall
    Pronouns: she/her/hers
    Drama Director
    Lincoln Public Schools
    Lincoln MA
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  • 2.  RE: Coping

    Posted 26 days ago

    I am so very sorry Kristin. How devastating. I would say you certainly are on the right track with trying to be positive and see the upside of what you do have. Is there any way of channeling that energy and frustration into some sort of theatre opportunity for students? Be it virtual, extra-curricular... something to keep things going?

    ~Dave



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    David Simpson
    Performing Arts Center Manager
    East China Schools
    East China MI
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  • 3.  RE: Coping

    Posted 26 days ago
    Hi Kristin,

    That is heartbreaking and I am so sorry! Is there anyway to try to show your school district how essential theatre really is? Perhaps creating a devised piece with dedicated students? Perhaps a piece of social justice? Maybe get a petition going?

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    Matthew Fauls-Rivas
    Theatre Arts Teacher
    Oceanside CA
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  • 4.  RE: Coping

    Posted 24 days ago
    Hello, Kristin,

    I am responding to your heartbreaking post by updating an email I shared with Tracy Friswell-Jacobs from DE. Delaware is also relegating arts teachers to covering classes in other disciplines to enable smaller class sizes for social distancing. I am the PA representative serving on EdTA's Advocacy Leadership Network, and I hope other members of the ALN will reach out to you, too. 

    What DE, and now it seems MA as well, are proposing for "arts" teachers has been a fear from the beginning. Actually, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association proposed a similar plan in June to the PA Department of Ed (PDE) and school districts across the state, which included waiving certifications so arts and PE teachers could cover classes in other disciplines thus allowing for smaller class sizes for hybrid or full return to school plans requiring social distancing. Yicks! And no!!!!!

    I suggest you look up MA's ESSA plan. Somewhere buried in it should be language about how "music and the arts" (ESSA language) is covered -- because it has to be. To keep this from becoming the norm in MA, you need to be armed with what MA has already pledged to uphold in ESSA. The language will probably be buried and not mentioned often, but it has to be there somewhere. Then assembling the other counterarguments begins, which I think begins with always saying not "music and the arts" but "dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts". In other words, list all the arts from the National Core Arts Standards.

    Which is your second step: Pull out the MA Core Arts Standards and for more fodder, the National Core Arts Standards. Again, policies that MA has already committed to. 

    To support theatre and all the arts in your school and state, the third step is the eloquent EdTA's Arts Education is Essential. It's an excellent document. I've linked the July verison, but check the EdTA Advocacy Resources at (https://www.schooltheatre.org/advocacy/national) for an updated version as, I believe, more national organizations have signed on since July. You will also find more excellent Advocacy materials at the EdTA Advocacy tab.

    Your 4th step is what is happening in MA and creating a partnership with other state arts organizations:  When the PA School Boards Association (PSBA) made their suggestion cited above, the PA Arts Education Leadership Coalition (PAELC) stepped up. The irony was that the PAELC was formed after some representatives of arts education around PA were asked to join Nathan Mains, CEO of PSBA, in a recorded and later posted discussion about the effect of Covid on arts education. I represented Theatre as I'm on the PA Thespian Chapter Governing Board and represent PA on the EdTA Advocacy Leadership Network (ALN). After the recorded discussion, the arts educators continued talking and realized we needed to work together. Within a week after the recorded video, PAELC was formed in May. 
    Promo + Video Edition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY29TvQHmc0&list=PLJJe4-Ws_S93Nu3YkGRhrvnrWrjSypp2q&index=2&t=0s
    "Courtesy of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association"  

    In June, PSBA posted their recommendations and we were ready, having created our own best practices for opening schools following the format and policies of the PA Department of Education and Health guidelines. We wrote to PSBA expressing our concerns. We succeeded in having another meeting with the staff to promote inclusion of the arts in a "well-rounded" education. You can go to PBSA's website at PSBA Advocacy and Corona Virus in the SchoolsPAELC is rather proud of this section:
    image.png
    You can find more documents that PA found really useful for our Chapter from EdTA , PAELC, and PDE at www.pathespians.org. You can use and adapt this work for your purposes.

    Do you have MA Community Network? Mark Zortman, our chapter director, and our governing board have found this a great tool to disseminating information for the PA EdTA members, including advocacy materials. 

    Of course, you are right up against school opening and this devastating policy. It seems the decision has been made for now. But there is the future that you alluded to including next year when districts and states still will be facing financial insecurity. You want to preserve the arts for your students beyond the current Covid response. 

    One of the biggest arguments is SEL that theatre and all the arts supply both curricular and extracurricular. I would ask you to look at the SEL in the Theatre Classroom Toolbox that was created in PA. There are also Toolboxes for Dance (trying to find this one! May not be finalized.) Fine Arts (PAEA Website) Music (PMEA Website). Members of PAELC had input into these toolboxex. The generic "stuff" is the same, but there are specific ideas for each discipline. (Many thanks to Cory Wilkerson, EdTA Education Director, and Leah Ball, Education Associate, for supplying so many resources to the SEL in the Theatre Classroom Toolkit.)

    These SEL Arts Toolkits prove -- with strong research -- what we already know: the arts provide Social and Emotional Learning, both planned and as a by-product of creating art, that all students thirst for at any time, but especially now. We were already dealing with a crisis in social, emotional, and mental health pre-Covid. The virus has increased the chaos for students and for us. Now, more than ever, we need to educate our administrators and decision makers that an investment in the arts is an investment in the social, emotional, and ultimately that also means, financial security of our "kids" for they are "All Our Children" - thank you Arthur Miller. 

    I hope these resources can help you. Actually, putting them all in one place -- and there are more to discover on the websites I've shared -- was uplifting. There are resources and there have been minds changed in other states and administrations.

    If you have more questions, I know other members of the ALN will chime in. They also have many wonderful resources and ideas to share. 

    I know this is a long post, but I want to add that not all Chapters are represented on the ALN -- and we could use your voices. With the sad changes in the EdTA due to the financial burdens of these past months, the ALN, like all areas of EdTA, is going through a re-thinking and re-organization process. But the 20 plus of us on the ALN are determined to carry our work forward as it is more needed now than ever. We know we have the support of the EdTA staff because they, too, know how crucial it is for all of us at our district and state levels. If you would like to "join in our crusade", please contact Jim Palmarini, Educational Policy Director, at jpalmarini@schooltheatre.org

    Be well; stay well. Blessings,
    Andrea
    Andrea Lee Roney
    North Penn High School Theatre Teacher, Producer,
    North Penn High Theatre Thespian Troupe 5464 Director
    1340 S. Valley Forge Road, Lansdale, PA   19446
    P: 215.853.1294

    Pennsylvania Thespian Chapter Governing Board
    Educational Thespian Association Advocacy Leadership Network PA Representative
    Pennsylvania Arts Education Leadership Coalition






  • 5.  RE: Coping

    Posted 23 days ago
    Thank you to all who have responded on this thread and via email.  You have provided the boost that I really needed.

    Andrea, the situation you describe is just what is happening in my district.  Most of the arts and Wellness (PE) teachers are covering cohorts, in order to keep the class sizes down.  Just one art and one music teacher are working on arts curriculum and lessons for the district (two K-8 schools).  It is set for the immediate future, but with a plan to re-evaluate how things are working in November.

    At the moment there are no after school activities, but a conversation on Friday gave me a glimmer of hope that there may be scope for some remote theatre in the afternoon.  I have all sorts of plans and variations ready to go (including devised work, improv club, radio plays, and student written shows).   The district has said that clubs and extra-curricular activities "may" start up after we've settled in to the "new normal."  I know that there are a number of students and parents who will be clambering for theatre (and I'll use the petition idea if it is needed!).

    I had tried lobbying for integrated drama (thanks, Elizabeth), but I am now (as of Friday) responsible for a cohort, and won't have the flexibility during the day to work with other teachers.

    I do understand that the administrators have been flat out all summer, and that they are working with an unbelievable number of challenges and constraints.  And I know that people worldwide, including our colleagues in the professional theatre, are struggling.  But I also know the value of theatre in education, and want to provide that for my students, this year and in years to come.  Andrea, thank you for all the incredibly helpful advocacy links.  I will definitely be using them in my conversations with the administration in the year ahead.

    Thanks, everyone ... and I'll send an update if/when things change.
    Kristin

    ------------------------------
    Kristin Hall
    Pronouns: she/her/hers
    Drama Director
    Lincoln Public Schools
    Lincoln MA
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Coping

    Posted 22 days ago
    @Andrea Roney

    Andrea,

    What do you mean by, " sad changes in the EdTA due to the financial burdens of these past months"?

    Thanks,

    Maria

    Sent from my iPhone


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  • 7.  RE: Coping

    Posted 22 days ago
    Edited by Julie Theobald 22 days ago

    @Maria Stadtmueller

    I believe @Andrea Roney is referring to the message in the video linked below:

    EdTA Executive Director Julie Cohen Theobald provides important updates regarding organizational priorities and staff changes that will sustain member services for the long term while addressing the financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic: https://youtu.be/M-UKw7dbQ84

    Thank you to @Kristin Hall for reaching out to the community, to all who chimed in with ideas and support, and to all educators who are coping and adapting right now.

    EdTA is here for you.​​



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    Julie Cohen Theobald
    Executive Director
    Educational Theatre Association
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