I am sorry, but I won’t be joining Photography Club. My parents won’t let me since I can’t use the photos in any of my classes and it’s “a waste of time.”
However, I will still be part of RAVE Magazine (since my parents don’t know about it).
I hope to see you in RAVE meetings. : )”
I had heard and had gotten hints of the idea that the arts are not important to parents at our school, but this was my first solid piece of evidence to support this stance. My mind started filling with choice things I would like to say to these parents about letting kids be kids, and giving them the right to follow their interests. The art advocate inside me woke alert and ready to fight again. See, unlike other subjects, art teachers not only get to do all the tasks expected of the profession, but we are also constantly defending the right to do what we were are passionate about and were in fact hired to do. We must save the arts from budget cuts and continue to defend it’s right to be in our schools. Sadly, it has become a part of the job description to be ready to stand up for our programs to administration, school boards, communities, other teachers, and parents.
Although I have been a bold advocate for my art programs in my previous position to get them outside of the art room, I am lucky to have had constant support from all stakeholders in the school I used to work at. Of course we are in completely different water now.
Unlike many other international schools who have a wide variety of students from all different backgrounds, ISM is an international school with 95% local students. The students that we teach are from the wealthiest of families in Myanmar. Their parents are business people, doctors, lawyers, real estate owners, etc. mainly the people who have worked hard to get way ahead in this difficult country and are now reaping the benefits. As all parents do, ISM parents want their children to have “better” lives than they did. That means the best schools and a ‘no excuses’ policy for not achieving the very highest. For all of the rigger the parents push on the students they expect to see finite results in the forms of high grades, the best scores, taking the most advanced classes, and winning awards. There is a strange energy in the school where students strive to take AP (advanced placement) classes as soon as they are allowed to because they are constantly aware of the effects their choices can have not on their lives but on their transcripts.
Of course it is uplifting to be in a high school where students strive for excellence and take their education seriously but it almost to a point of detriment, where it is hurting the students more than helping them. They are constantly searching for ways they can look better on their college applications, be it a contest, community service (1/2 of our students are involved in a community service group), or a high grade in an advanced class. This is also reprehensive of the cultural divide and the class differences. I grew up in an environment where you were encouraged to make your own life decisions based on your interests and what makes you happy – so perhaps I am bias.
Just in the past couple years have students begun to branch out from the usual career paths when leaving ISM. The previous art teacher made a bit of headway by helping artistic students get into architecture colleges – parents seem to be okay with this since it is a somewhat prestigious career. There is just still so far to go in helping these parents (and students) understand that what is says on their transcript is not who they are.
And because I can't leave this post without showing how incredibly talented my students are, here are a few captures from one of their recent homework assignments (yes, a HOMEWORK assignment)!