This week is Arts In Education Week, when we celebrate the Arts being an integral, inseparable part of education. This is my story about why the Arts in schools matters.
At seven years old I was a shy and quiet girl. I was in the second grade, and I had a teacher who encouraged me to write. There was a statewide contest for children’s stories and she thought I should enter something. So I stayed inside at recess and I wrote my story about a girl and a magic pumpkin. I was a big Charlie Brown fan, and I’m sure my story must have been inspired by The Great Pumpkin, and probably Thanksgiving was coming.
I don’t remember much about the story, but I remember the feeling of writing, of being alone although my classmates were just outside and the teacher was eating a ham and cheese sandwich at her desk. As I held the #2 pencil in my hand, the outside world dimmed and the world that was always somehow inside me came to life. It came to life as images and characters and a sense of something happening, and I put it down in words on a piece of paper I gave to my teacher.
She entered the story in the contest, and a month or so later she told me I was a finalist. Then one day I was allowed to miss school and my mother took me to the contest award ceremony. I was a shy, quiet girl who stood up and read my story out loud to an audience of parents and educators and the other young writers. People clapped. I was given a first place medal. I was celebrated for listening to the internal world of my imagination. I was celebrated for dreaming onto the page.
At fifty one, I’m still shy and quiet. And I’m still dreaming onto the page. I’m still writing. It is a part of me, as necessary as breath.
I am grateful for my teacher, a woman who felt that art mattered. I am grateful the state of Arizona sponsored a writing contest for children. I am grateful for the arts having been in my education. It meant everything.