Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
CREATING A MISSION STATEMENT by Heidi O’Hanley
As a teacher, you should have specific goals in mind for your students to achieve, and as a school, a mission statement helps give meaning to student learning. As a team, you and your art colleagues should be open to defining your department’s mission how to share that mission with your students, colleagues, parents, and community.
For years, our department didn’t think to have a mission statement in place. Our group knew what had to be done, what standards to follow, and what the district expected of us with our lessons, assessments, and community engagement. When we were asked to present to our district how the arts played a part in our district’s mission, we were determined to have a set statement in place that tied in with our district’s mission and reflected how important we were within our district’s core curriculum. After our presentations, we had wonderful reviews, plus teachers in attendance were communicating more on how they could incorporate more visual art into their own classes.
1. What is a mission statement? A mission statement is a declaration of the core purpose of your program that remains unchanged over time. You can include your department’s reason for existing, and your intended overall goal. Your mission statement should assist in guiding the actions of your art team, such as providing a path for an overall goal. Your mission statement should tell the public what your core intent is in educating the students within your community and how the arts play an important part in a child’s development.
2. Why have a mission statement? Without a mission statement, your department may not be taken as seriously as you would hope. Your students may not see the purpose of having an art class, and your parents could possibly just see you as “one of the side classes,” meaning not as important as the core classes.
As the advocate for the arts in your schools and district, you need to shine your light and share why we are there and why the arts are important in a students’ education. According to Jessica Balsley from The Art of Education, “Leaders need a mission. Teachers are leaders. It would only make sense for teachers to have a mission for their work.”
When parents and community members visit a school website, they want to see right away how the school plans on making the future generation model citizens and creative innovators. In the top of any school page you visit, the first thing you see is the mission statement. If you have a Web page of your own, why not share your intended purpose for advocating for the arts in your classes?
3. What should I include in an art department mission statement? Begin with these five basic questions that define your mission:
1. Who are the teachers in your department?
2. What do you do in your classes?
3. How do you deliver the instruction?
4. Whom do you deliver instructions to?
5. What value are you bringing to your students?
Once you have answered those questions, combine your answers into a few sentences that define your mission. For example, for the first sentence you may say, “The Indian Springs School District art department teaches visual literacy skills with the intention of preparing our students for a lifetime of creativity.” That sentence answered who we were, what we do, whom we delivered instruction to, and what value we brought to our students within a short span of words.
If you want to dive further into what it is that you teach and how your lessons further develop a child’s progress, consider going more into detail of why you teach the visual arts. Do you assist students in becoming critical and creative thinkers and problem solvers? Do these skills help students make personal or professional choices to become successful? Do your projects assist in improving physical development, such as fine motor skills and craftsmanship? Do you incorporate cultural awareness and social-emotional learning goals? Take a sentence or two to describe how the arts are important in a child’s education.
4. How do I share our mission statement? Once you have your mission statement created, share it anywhere that your art department is advertised. If your school or district has a webpage, add your mission to the top of your page if one is created, or ask if you can add a page for the art department. Do you manage a blog or a school-based page on social media? Be sure to add your mission statement to any page created. Any viewers that visit your sites will know that you have a mission in place and determination to have students reach their academic goals.
For those teachers who have their mission in place, thank you for being leaders in art education!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT) teaches elementary art for Indian Springs School District #109, in the Greater Chicago Area. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com