Your To-Do List: Speaking With Your Principal
If you’re a parent, you have a strong voice in shaping your child’s classroom experiences. And this is important for a variety of reasons.
1. Gather a group of parents to meet with the principal in a civil and organized manner. Many voices will bring strength to the conversation.
2. Keep your message simple and clear, perhaps to a sentence or a few bullet points. Identify the key point you want the principal to support. Make sure to align your message with the basic values of the school.
3. Designate a third party to speak on the arts’ behalf. For example, ask a supportive business owner or prominent artist to talk with the principal about how skills gained through the arts are valuable.
4. Ask the principal about a personally meaningful arts experience. Explain this is the kind of rich experience you’d like to see provided for your child. Link your case to what you hear from the principal.
5. Ask for the principal’s support of your issue before leaving the meeting. A committed administrator will be more likely to follow through on facilitating the change you discussed.
Many significant studies have found that achievement gaps close most rapidly at schools where parents are highly involved. In fact, parents working in partnership with teachers and school administrators not only help their own children, but they also often empower the entire school community to exceed expectations.
Speaking to your principal about the valuable role the arts play in education is one of the most important ways you can influence the quality of your child’s school experience. Although most principals are supportive of arts education, it may be challenging for them to find the appropriate support, including qualified teachers, space, time, and supplies. If these issues exist, you can offer to help.
First, find out if your school has sufficient resources for arts education. If not, consider how the parent community can support teachers’ efforts in the classroom and make these suggestions in a meeting with the school principal. Develop an actionable plan in consultation with teachers and your principal, and engage other parents in the process.
Even if an arts curriculum already exists, you may want to look for ways to reach out to local arts and cultural organizations that offer unique opportunities, such as teacher training, artist residencies, workshops, discounted tickets, or field trips. Contact the education directors of these institutions. Their programs are linked to state curriculum standards to strengthen arts programming already existing in the school or to fill a void.
If district funds are limited for these programs, ask your PTA to consider supporting the usually nominal costs of these outside opportunities. Some communities may also have a local education foundation that makes funds available to support arts education programs. Additionally, you may be able to interest members of the corporate community in funding programs through their own community outreach or marketing departments or charitable foundations.
Another point to make when speaking with your principal is that students who participate in arts experiences improve academically and are often more successful in other areas of learning and life. Students with high arts involvement perform better on standardized achievement tests than students with low arts involvement. And independent studies have demonstrated that the more arts classes a student takes, the greater the likelihood the student will achieve higher SAT scores.
Share these studies, which can be accessed on the Internet, with other parents, teachers, and administrators. When school achievement data is released for your school, ask if the results can be sorted comparing students who participate in the arts with those who do not. Make sure you’re aware of any results that speak persuasively to the benefits of arts education.
Don’t be afraid to approach the person behind the door marked “Principal.” Remember that taking an active role to increase learning in and through the arts benefits all students in your community. And voicing strong support for arts education motivates school leadership to make the arts a priority. If parents, teachers, and administrators work together to improve education for all children, we can ensure that every child has a strong foundation for academic and personal success.