Friday, January 10, 2014

Silver is the New Gold: Reflecting on Creativity Through the Example of Kathy Silver, BHS Art Teacher

A day in any school reveals the classrooms where the energy of youth is nurtured by teachers and where the pride of student success exists as a matter of habit rather than a condition of rhetoric. That is why I am always invigorated when I have opportunities to work with colleagues who captivate the creativity, support the tremendous dreams, an assist all excellence of youth no matter the cost.

Traditionally, the "silver" medal denotes a runner-up or a 2nd place finisher. This isn't always true, however.

I want to challenge the 'gold as greatest' symbolism, because the Silver I know, Kathy Silver - an art teaching extraordinaire - is as golden as any person can be. Her student-centered website, Team Silver, is a wonderful display of student achievement and it showcases the ingenuity, artistry, and clever composing a teacher can accomplish with students despite the obstacles they face. Silver is the new Gold, indeed. She is a coach and mentor, her team wins awards, and she captures student perspectives as they brainstorm together for ways to be heard (additional golden excellence can be viewed at BHS Got Art?).

Graduates from Bassick High School take notice, too. In fact, one - Daniel Trust, a Rwandan genocide survivor - recently created an award in her name:
The Kathy Silver Award was created in honor of high school Arts teacher Kathy Silver of Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut for her passion of teaching, caring for her students, and giving back to her school community. This $1000 award recognizes teachers like Mrs. Silver around the country (USA) who truly care for the success of their students and do great things that give back to the communities in which they serve. 
The award is deserving. Silver most recently solicited Christmas meals with her students to distribute to families in need at her school. The altruistic actions speak volumes of her humanitarian spirit. She is definitely someone I am privileged to know.

The focus too often in K-12 schools is misguided. Educators become policed over numbers, statistics, the negative constructions about youth, new curricular mandates, and 21st century policy shenanigans. Yet, as always, the actions of educators speak louder than any tool the nation creates to measure a teacher's effectiveness. The brilliance and excellence of teachers like Kathy Silver who view their students as more than test scores runs the risk of going unnoticed when we don't acknowledge the tireless contributions they make in school, for communities, and with students.
To be creative, a student must tap into all corners of their heart, soul, and mind. Everything about art calls on them to use higher order thinking skills and to be critical of the world around them. - Kathy Silver
Why art? Because art communicates.
Why art? Because art is emotive.
Why art? Well,
If you hear a voice within you say, "You cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced - Vincent Van Gogh 
Art hurts. Art urges voyages - and it is easier to stay at home. -Gwendolyn Brooks 
The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls - Pablo Picasso 
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance - Aristotle 
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for - Georgia O'Keeffe
Why art in school?

Because teachers like Kathy Silver, deserving of the award in her name, help young people to communicate beyond the voices that oppress them. These teachers provide visual maps for students to use on the journey of life with all its ups and downs. These teachers cleanse the debris students live with and share ways for for them to look within to find the greatest answers. In short, these teachers create opportunities for students to express themselves and to be heard.

There's much to be learned from those who master the art and profession of teaching. This, I argue, should be at the core of every state standard and evaluation system - a truth real educators know. If we want knowledge of how teachers perform in school, we should listen to youth and what they have to say about the teachers who work with them. The validity is more reliable, I've found, than any value-added tool we create to measure teacher effectiveness.

1 comment:

  1. Kathy not only deserves awards for her excellence in teaching and mentoring, she deserves her own school. I like the sound of "Principal Silver" and any system looking to fill such a role, would be lucky to get this giving and insightful instructor to lead their education community.