Each day educators interact with young people facing challenges like food insecurity, immigration, and deportation issues, social or emotional health, fear of school shootings, sexual and gender orientation, just to name a few. In addition, teachers are challenged with standards, assessments, student behaviors, media literacy, school climate, student engagement, and much more. Many of these topics are intertwined.

Teachers cannot go into their classrooms, close the door, and just teach. Educators, in and out of schools, need to face these and many other challenges. Most importantly, the priority for arts educators must be to provide an excellent visual and performing arts education and provide access to that opportunity for all learners.

Traditionally, the arts have been powerful tools when it comes to confronting and processing issues. The arts help us to lean in, be brave, and help us to find and use our voice.I’ve learned that teachers are making the social and emotional needs of students a priority. Simultaneously, they have to address their personal needs. If the leaders in arts education aren’t considering the health (mental and physical) needs of teachers, how can we expect those teachers to in turn support their students?

We see a shift in young people. They are no longer being only seen and not heard. They are finding their voices, being empowered, and taking action. Our role is to listen to what they’re saying.

For seven years the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) has provided opportunities for visual and performing arts educators to learn and build on their knowledge in a collaborative environment. MALI’s work shifts slightly each year based on the feedback from arts educators across Maine while not losing site of the mission. Students are at the heart of MALI’s work.

Read the full article about leaning in with the arts by Ms. Argy Nestor at Americans for the Arts.