The times I feel the most frustrated in my work are when I care deeply about something, and it seems that no one is listening. Or that no one cares in the same ways I do. Or worse, that if I simply stopped championing the work, that it would just fall flat; the work over and abandoned. This feeling of fighting alone, of being the only one working hard to move something forward, can be isolating and defeating. And I think that so many of our Michigan teachers are currently feeling this way about the work they are doing in their classrooms. Please let me be a voice to all teachers when I say, “We hear you! We are fighting for you. And we want to support you!”
My sister has been a high school teacher for 19 years. In a recent conversation she described to me how disappointed she and other faculty felt over decisions by her district to remove planning periods, reduce vacation days, and limit substitutes. She felt frustrated and was concerned that teachers’ voices were being ignored. I hear this distress personally, through my sister, and professionally in my work.
It can be hard to know if teachers are being heard when they ask for help or support, especially when we’re talking about an agency like where I work, the Michigan Arts and Culture Council. It may feel like you’re completely disconnected from decisions that are being made to support you. I wanted to share a few examples that hopefully illustrate that we ARE listening, and that through state grant funds we want to help elevate your arts education work.
Just before I started my position at MACC in 2013, the state arts council didn’t have a formal arts education granting program, let alone a dedicated position (which I am proud to have served in now for nine years). When starting, the first question we asked teachers was what they needed most in supporting their arts endeavors. The resounding response was “support for field trips!” Our Bus Grant program has quadrupled since then, and K-12 schools can apply for up to $500 to support the transportation costs for arts related field trips. We’re listening.
The second time we asked teachers what they needed, they said “Arts supplies so we don’t have to. purchase them with our own money.” MACC created the Equipment & Supplies Grant program, which supports K-12 schools purchasing arts related equipment or supplies, or the repair of arts equipment to be used in the classroom. Schools can apply for up to $1,500 in this grant program, and it’s proven to be one of our most impactful, and simple, arts education grants. We’re listening.
Our other direct grant program supporting schools has been struggling to get applications, the Arts in Education Grant (AIE) program. This grant offers up to $20,000 for schools to produce an arts and culture related hands-on project in their schools. We asked teachers why they weren’t applying for this opportunity, and two responses came back most prevalently: the application is too hard to fill out, and our June 1 grant deadline to apply was right at the end of the school year, and that was problematic. So we moved the grant deadline this year to align with the other two grants named above. We now accept applications for the AIE grant on August 3 and January 15 (which means you could still apply for THIS school year). I’m also working every year to make the grant process and guidelines more accessible for educators. And I can’t do that without teachers telling me what they need, and how to make our process more user-friendly.
If you have ideas, thoughts, suggestions, brainstorms, or some other creative insight as to how we can make our arts education grant programs work for you, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise, I’m listening.
Chad Swan-Badgero is a MAEIA partner who serves as the Arts Education Program Manager for the Michigan Arts and Culture Council and is a proud Big Brother through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program in Lansing. Mr. Swan-Badgero is also the Artistic Director for the Peppermint Creek Theatre Company in Lansing and was awarded the Arts Council of Greater Lansing’s Individual Artist Applause Award in 2016. Chad is most proud of being a daddy to Sawyer.
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