By Laurie Hargrove, Guest Contributor
When reflecting upon school and community partnerships, I can see how my thinking has evolved. I once viewed community partnerships in a narrow lens or similar to a one-way street — only seeking support for many initiatives. However, I neglected the term partnership and its meaning completely — only Shallowly listening to family suggestions and concerns. Now, when thinking about community partnerships, I view it as a two-way street, with mutual goals and voice.
One may wonder, what triggered this evolution in my thinking and the answer is simple. The more I learned about community partnerships and family engagement the greater my appreciation for these partnerships grew! However, something clicked once I read “Artful Spaces/Safe Places: A Gallery Provokes Voices that Interrogate Common Narratives of Latino Immigrant Children.” This article challenged my thinking, personal values, and beliefs. It showed the true power behind partnerships and the depth behind those relationships.
However, what stood out most was the value placed on immigrant voices. In the article, the authors analyze student artwork in a local church/community. The purpose of this work is to uplift the voices that are often silenced.
“During the summer program, the children participated in a curricular activity called ‘hanging journals.’ Here they were asked to think about their lives and to remember important events. Next, they thought of a way to represent this event by forming clay objects.”(Bixler Borgman and Penalva, 2019, p. 10)
Now, creating artwork may seem dense to some, but this allows students to reflect upon their story and share it!
As a teacher, respecting student’s voice and building relationships are my niche. It is the one thing that drives me every day and I’m always looking for ways to foster relationships with my students. “It is not only critical that students have opportunities to create these narratives, but that they have time to reflect on and dialogue with others about these stories.” (Bixler Borgman and Penalva, 2019, p. 17)
The incorporation of art, symbolism, and the personal narrative has so many benefits to educators and students. First, students can express their ideas without the constraints of finding the right word or following the many grammatical rules. It allows them to share some of the most intimate details of their lives and those they love. As an educator, it allows you to connect deeply and bond with your students, which is far more meaningful than any tool or strategy. Furthermore, this article challenged me to think about in what ways can I incorporate art into my lessons, to uplift the student’s voice.
Laurie Hargrove is an Educational Leadership Master of Arts student in the IU School of Education at IUPUI.