Why Teach Where I Teach: Diversity With Splash of Arts Integration
DeMarcus Lewis, a seventh-grade educator, teaches global studies at Wiley H. Bates Middle School, a performing and visual arts magnet and Title I school in Annapolis, Md. The student body at Bates is 28 percent African American, 40 percent Caucasian, and 26 percent Hispanic. Lewis has been teaching for six years, five of them at Bates.
I teach where I teach because I have the opportunity to teach, using arts integration, a diverse population of students. (Arts integration is an approach to teaching and learning that includes both the arts and traditional subjects as a primary pathway to learning.) I work collaboratively with educators at Bates to help students develop new skills and gain an appreciation of knowledge and learning, all while meeting course objectives and standards. I am prudent and practical in my approach to close the achievement gap and eliminate the notion of the school-to-prison pipeline, a widespread pattern in the United States that affects so many of our students of color. Students who walk through the doors of my classroom know that knowledge is not power, but applied knowledge is. In my classes, students are engaged in learning challenging concepts, such as economic and political systems, through the lens of visual arts, music, and dance. At Bates, arts integration has been proven to meet the needs of our diverse population and assist our struggling learners in mastering the curricula. Artful thinking routines are integrated into traditional academic subjects, like social studies and math, to help students develop independent learning.
Arts integration has also helped me get the results I might not otherwise receive, by motivating students to be accountable for their own learning experience and ultimately raising student achievement one student at a time. Arts integration supports the idea of being a global citizen, which helps shape them into educated, young citizens who will be well-rounded in a diverse world.
Centennial Place Elementary School in Atlanta, Ga., is another school that integrates the arts into its science-based curriculum. Ed Trust’s Karin Chenoweth highlighted the school’s success in her book, It’s Being Done: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools, which also identifies 25 traits found in effective schools.
This post is a part of an ongoing series, called “Why I Teach Where I Teach,” which asks educators in high-need schools to share what has attracted (and kept) them in the challenging environments they’re in. They share important stories and experiences that should remind us all of the power of strong school leadership, a network of supportive colleagues, and the genuine opportunity to have a say in schoolwide decisions. Listen up! They’re teaching us.