Monday, April 14, 2008

Teaching Artist Rights

A few frustrations from my teaching artist work:

I attended a teaching artist training on Friday for the organization that I work for. The training includes both teaching artists and the teachers from the schools that we work with. One problem is that I usually teach on Fridays, so to attend the training I miss a teaching day with students and also I receive less compensation for training than for teaching (why?).

The teachers have a hard time attending because they miss days with their students. Often times, when teachers miss a day, instead of getting substitutes, their class gets split up and sent to other teachers (often times teachers of other grades). This is obviously not ideal. Consequently, many classroom teachers have a difficult time getting permission to attend these trainings. That's one issue.

Another one. It came to the time on the schedule labeled "Lunch: Room 408: 12-1pm." As I'm sitting in Room 408 with the other teaching artists and we are discussing our upcoming field trips with the students, my stomach starts growling--I'm eager to get to the "lunch" portion of this session. Finally, I whisper to the person beside me: "Uh, do they give us lunch?" She shakes her head: no. The training was over at 3pm. I know it is a little thing, but to be treated as a professional (or maybe just as a human being), I would have liked to a.) received lunch (as I'm being paid less for the training anyways); b.) had time to go out and buy my lunch; or at the very least c.) been told in advance to bring my lunch.

I like the Association of Teaching Artist's Teaching Artist Wish List. If we really believe that TA work is valuable and worthwhile, we need to push for the profession to be a sustainable one. This means that organizations that employ TAs need to think about the way that they treat them. Obviously, compensation is a major consideration. I am not paid for my planning (which is hours and hours of work), transportation (which is typically an hour each way), or cancellations (which happen frequently). I am also expected to find health insurance...which is a whole another issue.

I'll leave it at that for now, but take a look at the wish list below.

The Teaching Artist Wish List

To be compensated in a way that recognizes professionalism, education and experience.

To be compensated for prep time, as other contract professions do (designers and
therapists, for example).

To have work throughout the school year, not only the last 8 weeks.

To have teachers, administrators, and principals invest in long-term Arts In Education programs and not look for quick projects.

To have cultural organizations with Arts In Education programs recognize the professionalism of Teaching Artists and not continually pay the same rate year after year even though the Teaching Artists demonstrate excellence and mastery.

To have cultural organizations value Teaching Artists as integral to their mission and not rationalize that Teaching Artist can pay taxes, health insurance and transportation on less than $50 an hour.

To not have to hustle for funding and residencies every year.

To not be held hostage to flavor of the month pedagogies and emperors with no clothes on.

To be paid in a timely fashion.

To be able to work with teachers enrolled in certification programs in schools of education to foster the team-teaching collaborative environment with artists. There are great strides that need to be taken in teacher education to take advantage of the opportunity of Arts In Education and nourish it in a way that will allow for the optimal educational experience for the students.

To offer professional development to arts administrators who have forgotten the value of art, Teaching Artists, and what really goes into implementing Arts In Education: living wage fees, prep time, research, travel, and opportunities for reasonably priced health, disability, and liability insurance.

To educate cultural organizations and arts administrators with the message that they are there to support the Teaching Artist as well as the school.

To educate cultural organizations that push their programming instead of understanding the potential of Arts In Education for school reform and for the professional career of a Teaching Artist.

To provide professional development for community organizations who work with Teaching Artists on fees, Teaching Artists, program assessment.

To have funders meaningfully address the training, the lack of work, and how hard it is to earn a living as a Teaching Artist.

To have more connection with fellow Teaching Artists across the country.

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