Giving Compass’ Take:
• Rhonda Bernard, a professor at Berklee College of Music, discusses how arts educators have the power to help students with disabilities succeed in school by welcoming diverse perspectives through artistic expression.
• How does arts education help students express themselves? And what about freedom of student expression would potentially help make students feel more productive in school?
• Read about how arts education can help build community and encourage others to make connections.
This is the second year that I have taught a freshman course at Berklee College of Music about Neurodiversity. Over the 15-week semester, we examine topics and issues in neurodiversity and their relationship to the arts. We start by talking about the origin of the term “neurodiversity,” and we go on to consider issues of language, power, and representation as they relate to individuals with disabilities.
Every time I teach this course, I am struck by the openness with which these freshmen—brand new to Berklee, just getting to know each other, only recently living on their own—share their personal experiences and challenges. Individual students reveal that they have been diagnosed with a particular disability, or that they take medication to help them manage certain symptoms or issues.
The common thread that I continue to hear from my freshmen—who have just completed their K-12 educations—is that school is impossibly difficult for students who are different. Again and again, I hear stories that break my heart. Stories about teachers who don’t believe in a student because that student learns differently. Stories about students who feel isolated, bullied, or given up on because of their struggles.
As arts educators, we have the opportunity to be agents of this transformation. We can close our classroom doors and open up the world of the arts to our students—a world where differences are celebrated and multiple perspectives are valued, a world where all students can find their way to create, express themselves, and succeed. A world where students can reach out for the wide range of possibilities—possibilities for their artistic expression, and for the world around them.
Read the full article about arts educators by Rhoda Bernard at Americans for the Arts
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