Friday, November 19, 2010


Like I said last time, I think that Teaching Artists will enjoy the high professional status of plumbers only after we can manage to do two big things:

First, I think that we have to wholeheartedly embrace the idea of accountability in our work. That means we have to have a group of representatives draft a set of core standards and a list of professional competencies that we can all hew to and hate on.

Sure, we’ll bicker, but they will be there, our high standards, uniting us and broadcasting our professional identity as Teaching Artists from sea to shining sea.

And they shall know us  by our jargon.

We have so many terrific starting points for this national conversation. We just need a union, some snazzy letterhead, and an interview with the Wizard.

Secondly, we have to create effective and affordable Teaching Artist training programs that are separate and distinct from the MA programs that train and certify regular classroom teachers.

These Teaching Artist training programs should definitely be in universities, or wherever, I don't care, just as long as they don't cost emerging TAs an arm and a leg, and graduates can get a paper at the end that qualifies them to teach in a public school and earn an actual salary.

Public education is where arts education belongs.

Third, I know I said two, but this is my holiday appeal, so, THIRDLY, we have to get serious and coalesce into something that looks like an actual profession.  The research says we aren't managing to make a collective living in this field we care so passionately about.

According to the previewed results of the Teaching Artist Research Project, the average TA made $17,000 last year.


Stop laughing.

It's true, and it's just ridiculous.

Why are we training people to be Teaching Artists through these MA programs if there are no decent jobs for them? How are emerging TAs supposed to be able to pay off their massive student loans while earning $17,000 per year?

We need to do some community organizing. Studs Terkel didn't hate unions, and that's good enough for me. Capitalism, you might have noticed?

So, if we are going to survive, I think we should pool our resources and get what all the other professions have: plush national and regional offices with overpaid administrators, and lobbyists whose sole job is to make darn sure that Teaching Artists get what we need to get and stay middle class. I am referring to the holy grail of American middle class existence: A living wage, a pension plan and affordable health care. Face it, this may be the last period in American history that these things are in any way attainable and I think we need to move fast as a group, or we’re toast. 

This holiday season, and until our Bastille Day arrives, please, join something nascent that has the feel of a movement. Join and give your time, expertise, and cash for the collective good of Teaching Artists everywhere. It's for your own good.

You’ve got so many choices:

Chicago Teaching Artists Collective is in the middle. At least, they were earlier in the decade. Chicago, are you there?

Please, give to ATA this holiday season.

Give an amount that's significant and meaningful to you.

Next Time on ATA Blog: "It's A Trap" In which I express the creeping feeling that our love for arts integration means we'll always be second-class educators.

Also: Let's Push Things Forward - The Streets

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