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In March of 2020 the country was thrown into chaos as schools announced, town by town and state by state, that they would be shutting their doors to protect students from the Coronavirus. 

In a matter of weeks teachers shifted entire curricula to work online or in packets. We implemented new tools, and created new ways to reach our students.

Now, as we finish up the 2019-2020 school year, we look ahead to what schools will look like in the fall. 

Facing budget shortfalls and loss of tax income, many governments are considering making draconian cuts to schools, axing all art, music, PE, and, in some cases, world language.

In the short-term this may seem like a quick fix, and the simplest way to get through this difficult time. But, is it really?

While it feels like Covid living is the “new normal,” quarantine and social distancing rules will end. Students will return to school for full days. 

This, too, shall pass.

And what will schools be left with?

Our students have been through a traumatic event. The world as they knew it was taken from them. Some will have lost loved ones, others will have gotten very ill or watched family members battle a terrible disease. And those that didn’t witness first-hand the devastation of Covid-19 will only know what they’ve been hearing all these months; The outside world is scary and unsafe.

When we ask them to step back into the world, the arts will help them process what they’ve been through. We know through research that the expressive arts empower students to handle trauma and promote social healing.

Of course, these new student needs go above and beyond the already inherent value of learning art, music, physical dexterity, and a second (or third) language. Those have been written about extensively. You can read more about those well-research topics here, here, and here, to start with.

Additionally, school schedules are built around students receiving lessons in “special” subjects. The daily routines of both teachers and students are structured such that teachers are provided daily planning time while students are receiving instruction from another teacher. This can not occur if schools abolish all non-core subjects.

If schools are hoping to rehire staff when things do return to normal, they may find it easier said than done. The US was facing a shortage of more than 300,000 teachers at the start of the 2019-2020 school year. 

According to the Learning Policy Institute about 200,000 teachers leave the profession each year, with nearly two thirds leaving for reasons other than retirement. 

And that was before a global pandemic was thrown into the mix. 

A survey given to teachers during the distance learning period shows that 44% of respondents are somewhat or much more likely to leave the classroom after this year.

With teacher retention dropping and new teacher recruitment falling far short of the numbers needed to replace those leaving, how will mass layoffs impact already waning interest in education? 

Job security has always been an attractive benefit of being a teacher. Sure, we won’t ever get rich, but we will always have a job, right? Not so fast! Widespread and large-scale layoffs are negating this practical perk that teachers enjoy.

So while cutting “extra” subjects like music, art, PE and world language may seem like the best option, we must all remember…

This, too, shall pass.

However interminable this situation seems, it will end.

When life returns to normal, what kind of schools will we be sending our children back to if we decimate the staff and cut out everything but the 3 R’s?

Before we start to slash budgets and cut teachers we must consider the long-term effects of such drastic measures. 

We can not sacrifice art, music, PE and world language in the name of expediency. Our kids have already lost enough due to this pandemic.

 

References

  • Field, Miranda. “Empowering Students in the Trauma-Informed Classroom Through Expressive Arts Therapy.” In Education, journals.uregina.ca/ineducation/article/view/305.
  • García, Emma, and Elaine Weiss. “The Teacher Shortage Is Real, Large and Growing, and Worse than We Thought: The First Report in ‘The Perfect Storm in the Teacher Labor Market’ Series.” Economic Policy Institute, www.epi.org/publication/the-teacher-shortage-is-real-large-and-growing-and-worse-than-we-thought-the-first-report-in-the-perfect-storm-in-the-teacher-labor-market-series/.
  • Will, Madeline. “Teachers Say They’re More Likely to Leave the Classroom Because of Coronavirus.” Education Week – Teaching Now, 3 June 2020, blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2020/06/teachers_say_theyre_more_likely_leave_classroom_because_coronavirus.html.
  • “Campus Explorer.” Campus Explorer, www.campusexplorer.com/college-advice-tips/637D83AF/Top-10-Careers-for-Job-Security/.

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Covid: This, Too, Shall Pass… the case for keeping arts in schools
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