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5 Ways to Start Strong this School Year

5 Ways to Start Strong this School Year

The first few weeks of the school year have always been so precious to me throughout the stages my life, even as the “first days” changed in purpose over time. The air becomes cooler, summer activities wind down, there’s a feeling in the air unlike any other.

For most years, the beginning weeks of school were inaugurated with buying new notebooks, new №2 pencils, “back to school” outfits, reuniting with friends, and seeing whose name was written in the textbook from the year before. Before I was old enough to go to school, my mother would find me staring out the front door as the school bus drove by, holding my child-sized backpack in hand.

When I became a teacher, the beginning of the year was my time to begin fresh. Time to establish a positive classroom culture, to apply effective routines, to learn everyone’s names, plan ahead as much as possible, all while decorating just enough to keep my room welcoming and warm. It was a busy time, but I loved the chance to organize a new year, a new class of students. I accepted conflicting feelings of excitement and nervousness every August.

The start of school setup is absolutely critical to how we as educators feel going into the new year. In working with Kiddom, I’ve gotten to see other teachers set up their classes and navigate new technology with swift and comprehensive assistance. The capabilities through Kiddom make many of these starting steps much simpler and less of a headache for teachers.

I’ve found from my own experience and from others, there is a series of necessary “back to school” steps every teacher takes part of. From getting your student list to deciding what you’ll teach to investing your students early, we know what we need to start strong. As you read, can you relate to these instances of getting back into the swing of things? If so, why wait for another year to come around when you can start saving time now?

 

5 Back to School Tips for Teachers

1. Create Dynamic Rosters with Kiddom

My student list would inevitably change multiple times throughout the year, especially in the beginning. It was often several weeks into school that student schedules and classes were ironed out completely. I’d have to throw away class lists I’d written by hand, mark out student names that had left, and begin all over hoping this was the last change.

Teachers I’ve been coaching through Kiddom are happy to see how easy it is to edit rosters as their student lists change, deleting and adding students to pre-existing assignments, helping them start the year strong with ease. We can help students feel welcomed and included even when their schedule unexpectedly changes. No more white-out or botched class posters with crossed-out student names.

Teachers have also liked being able to customize their class through their settings, making the class their own, fitting their style. Rubrics that teachers have used for years can be added into their class, attached to any assignment they create. One of our teachers messaged us — “Wow! Thank you! I love the rubric and standard options! Kiddom might combine the two to make my life more manageable!!!” Well, now that you mention standards…

 

2. Attach Standards (State, SEL, or Custom) to Assignments, to Track Mastery Throughout the Year 

I’ll never forget when my school transitioned to Common Core standards; I pored over printed spreadsheets comparing the new Common Core standards to the Tennessee state standards I had just used the year before. Alarming and overwhelming are words that come to memory. But it had to be done! In order to create a yearly scope and sequence, I educated myself.

When our teachers set up Kiddom classes, all of the national and state standards are already there in clear buckets, plus, the ability to create your own competencies are available to you. Phew. One user expressed my thoughts exactly: “Yes! This is what I’ve been waiting for. 😄”

Another teacher added:

“I really like that it includes Marzano alignment since that’s what my school/state uses. I also like that it shows me the status of my students in each standard.”

The scores given to students populate some pretty awesome data for each standard you assess. Keeping these standards options open for teachers who track hundreds of different skills is important.

Even if you don’t use standards-based grading, Kiddom can still save you time and help you reach your goals for the school year. Whether you’re a homeschooling parent or a part-time tutor, you’ll find that Kiddom’s library of over 70,000 resources makes it easy to create lesson plans and assignments that work for you, and share them with your students. More on that below. 💥

 

3. Find & Save Content for Every Unit

Looking through my oversized content binder for 8th grade Math, a mixture of printed and hand-made lessons, from the year before was a ritual every year. What resources did I create last year that were good enough to deliver again, what could I improve, what needed to be thrown away?

Reinventing the wheel was my specialty. But thanks to Kiddom, it no longer has to be. 😅

To be fair, I created many excellent resources, but I can also attribute hundreds of hours of work doing so. A teacher’s curriculum is their bread and butter; it’s what will carry their class from day to day.

We know this is crucial to starting strong, so teachers can now search and assign content through Kiddom by keywords, grade-level, and type of resource, “I think you guys nailed putting assignments into a system and being able to grade them quickly.” —  after many of our teacher conversations, there will also soon be a curriculum planner, unit suggestions, and even more content partners. This totally would’ve helped me save time. If only.

 

4. Get Buy-In from Your Students

While administrative tasks were taking place, I was also thinking about my kids and the classroom culture they would be part of! How do I encourage positive behavior, track their development, and send meaningful updates home to parents? On top of everything else.

I wanted to invest my kids early. Many teachers I’ve worked with are excited to know that social-emotional learning (SEL) can also be assessed along with academic standards.

Teachers have been educating students all this time on how to work in groups, communicate their feelings, and be responsible — but most have never had a place to see their development progress tied to data and reports.

Now that we’ve partnered with CASEL, you can. One of our users responded to our emphasis on SEL with, This is about time kids learn to be respected, to handle conflicts, to feel safe expressing their emotions and given the tools to do so in constructive ways. Good for you!” We agree that truly, this should be the priority.

 

5. Take Advantage of Focused and Personalized Coaching

Meetings with my assistant principal, curriculum coach, or grade team were too few and far between. There were days I needed help now, but so did everyone else in the building.

My third year teaching, I was blessed with an outstanding Math coach; I only wish every teacher had access to their expertise. Helping educators adapt to Kiddom is something we love doing, and is at the top of our list during the busiest times of the school year.

Whether we are on the phone, at a school, or chatting online, our teaching staff at Kiddom provides an extra hand in getting started. “Whether I’m having trouble with a feature or have a suggestion, someone always seems to be on the other side paying attention. 🙂

More than I can say for a lot of things we pay for!” Yes, our assistance, like our platform for teachers, is totally free and comes straight from us — we even help teachers put on PD at their schools as they begin adopting these tools. It brings us joy seeing teachers improving their classrooms with Kiddom.

Starting the school year strong was non-negotiable for me. Similar to building a house, the structure will be unstable if there is not a solid foundation set up beforehand. It wouldn’t be until the third month of school that I felt like the foundation had been built and we were in a productive, fruitful rhythm.

The longer it takes to reach those rhythms, the less time we have to devote to learning. The faster we can establish the routines, the more my students got to take part in classroom culture and daily wins. Technology should be created with the goal of closing the gap in this process. 

Although the beginning of the year could be busy and overwhelming, it was still, and always will be, my favorite time. Creating a space where students are receiving personalized learning, individual intervention, and feeling motivated was my goal. 

Setting students and teachers up for success is our goal at Kiddom. Start strong, and the rest of the year will follow in its footsteps.

Teaching Greatest Hits: Meet the Winners!

Teaching Greatest Hits: Meet the Winners!

We Proudly Present “Teaching Greatest Hits”!

Inspired by Teacher Appreciation Week in May 2019, this award series was created with the goal of applauding everyday classroom heroes with a wider audience. We asked learning communities to tell us about teachers who deserve a round of applause (and so much more!).

The Teaching Greatest Hits award series recognizes excellence in four integral parts of instruction: differentiation, interdisciplinary instruction, curriculum development, and classroom engagement.

These categories were chosen to emphasize the many ways that teachers empower students in and beyond the classroom. By crafting thorough curriculum and delivering personalized instruction, teachers invest time, money, and endless effort to ensure that students can get excited about learning. When students leave an engaging classroom that connects them to the world, they are more likely to see everyday experiences as valuable lessons.

The nomination period fell between May 13 and July 30: the perfect time to look back upon the last school year and learn from the most pivotal experiences. For two months, we received inspiring stories from around the world about how teachers strive to make a lasting impact on their community. A special thanks goes out to all of the teachers, students, supervisors, and friends that nominated one of the exceptional educators in their lives. Take a look at how the winners in each category were decided below.

How Were Nominees Scored?

Teachers are the true heroes of every school system. We read dozens of submissions from across the globe, and these words rang true throughout each and every one of them. Needless to say, there were some tough calls to make — so tough that we decided to name TWO winners in the Most Engaging Classroom category!

Each of the categories were scored on a different rubric. But as we saw from the nominations (and personal experience), teachers can shine in a myriad stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme of empowering students:

  1.  Fostering inclusivity by supporting and uplifting students of all abilities, cultures, and beliefs.
  2.  Impacting students beyond the perimeter of the classroom, by delivering culturally relevant curriculum, opening doors to new interests, and teaching the whole child. 
  3.  Upholding equity in education by providing scalable, dynamic, and personalized learning experiences. 

What do they win? Recipients will receive a cash prize, a personalized TGH platinum record, and a featured spotlight in our “Teaching Greatest Hits” series. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter below to catch the spotlights!

And now, without further ado… we present to you:

The 2019 Teaching Greatest Hits Recipients

Most Interdisciplinary Classroom

Janice Jensen is a music teacher at the Tilley School, Alberta, Canada. Nominated by Joan Foote.

“Janice has applied for and won 12 years worth of grants to provide her students with hands-on, real life projects that influence change within the hamlet of Tilley and the surrounding farming community. Her students are always excited to come to class as they don’t know what creative and crazy adventure Ms. Jensen is going to take them on.”

Ms. Jensen’s Teaching Greatest Hits Spotlight is coming soon.

Excellence in Curriculum Development

Amy Swing is a math teacher at Mossy Creek Elementary, Georgia. Nominated by Jessica Sisco.

“Amy has created the gold standard for pacing guides for our county! She developed the template and pacing for 4th grade curriculum that aligns to our state standards. When a fifth grade teacher proposed a scoring system for summative assessments that would provide data that we can correlate to the state assessment, Amy revamped our entire math curriculum and assessments to fit that new scoring model.”

Ms. Swing’s Teaching Greatest Hits Spotlight is coming soon.

Excellence in Differentiated Instruction

Nancy Cox is a math intervention teacher at Burns Middle School, Kentucky. Nominated by Dane W. Ferguson.

“Mrs. Cox is a highly skilled and trained teacher who has demonstrated an incredible ability to improve student performance in math. She finds games and activities that engage different students throughout each lesson. All of her students experienced an average growth of more than 6 points based on MAP Growth Assessment data.”

Mrs. Cox’s Teaching Greatest Hits Spotlight is coming soon.

Most Engaging Classroom

Connie Michael is a teacher at Crow Agency Public School, Montana. Nominated by Connie Michael.

“Crow Agency Public School is on the Crow Indian Reservation. Connie uses a variety of resources to make the curriculum relevant to students. Mrs. Michael has been involved with the Smithsonian American Indian Museum to use curriculum specific to the history of the Native Americans. Teaching from two perspectives allows students to see the world around them from the perspective of their ancestors, not just that of those who wrote the history books.”

Mrs. Michael’s Teaching Greatest Hits Spotlight is coming soon.

Most Engaged Classroom

Tiffany Hamm is an English teacher at Los Gatos High School, California. Nominated by Liv Johnson.

Tiffany pours her heart and soul into her teaching–creating meaningful experiences for her students that go way beyond the four walls of a classroom. She designed an English 12 (and now an English 11) Social Justice Change course, and her passion for the content is contagious. She is the epitome of a lifelong learner–always seeking new material that is relevant, and deeply connected to creating a better world.”

Ms. Hamm’s Teaching Greatest Hits Spotlight is coming soon.

Back to School Checklist: Are You Ready?

Some teachers may be waving a white flag in October, while others decorate it with Sharpie! Find out which one you’ll be with this back to school quiz.

Welcome Back to School: A Letter From Our CAO

This week all Kiddom employees (many of whom are former educators) received the following letter from our CAO. We were so inspired, we had to share!

Rock the Bells: Personalize Learning with Playlists

A back-to-school story about the importance of embracing bells & whistles like personalized learning to keep students engaged — and how playlists can help.

Teaching Greatest Hits: Meet the Winners!

Following Teacher Appreciation Week in 2019, the Kiddom team is proud to honor FIVE spectacular teachers with personalized awards in instruction.

How One School Does Data-Driven Instruction with Kiddom

We spoke to the Literacy Department Chair at Williamsburg Charter High School about how they used Kiddom data to create a scalable intervention framework.

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to ISTE Philly

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to ISTE Philly

Teachers and school administrators appreciate the value of a game plan more than most. If you’re heading to Philadelphia next week for the 2019 ISTE conference, these tips will give you a head start on using your limited time wisely.

1. Know the Lay of the Land (and Build Your Itinerary!)

Connecting over 300 companies and developers in edtech, ISTE is the perfect place to visualize what technology can do for your learning community. But with so many exhibitors present, getting lost in the middle of the exhibit hall without a plan could really dampen your experience. 

With 20+ hours to navigate the exhibit hall, you’ll have plenty of time to make several key connections that could benefit your school in the long run. If you have any interest in saving time while lesson planning, intervening in student achievement in a timely manner, and making data-informed decisions about curriculum—Kiddom should definitely be one of them!

Six of our team members (see them below!) will be on the floor to answer all your questions about addressing your school’s needs with one investment. You can find us at booth 327.

2. Grow Your Network at ISTE Philly’s Social Events

Learning the latest and the greatest educational methods and technology is important — but what is process without people?

Make the most of your time by attending social events and actually building connections with other educators who are tackling the same problems as you. There is no greater resource than human experience! 

You can find a list of all social sessions here. Even Kiddom is hosting an event!

More about the ISTE Kiddom Happy Hour

Tuesday, June 25 from 5:45-7:15 PM. Kiddom is hosting a formal ISTE-sponsored Happy Hour in the convention hall. There will be drinks, food, giveaways, mingling, and a Kiddom presentation! Invite only.

3. Enjoy the Local Eats and Sights of Philly!

You’re not confined to the conference halls, you know! Make the most of your trip by exploring some of the local eats and sights while you’re in town. Below we’ve rounded up Philly recommendations from some of the Kiddom folks who will be attending. Try them out and come swing by our booth afterwards to discuss!

Abbas Manjee

Abbas Manjee

Chief Academic Officer, Kiddom

“I highly recommend you visit the Mütter Museum while you’re in Philly.”
-Abbas

Aditya Patel

Aditya Patel

Product Success Manager, Kiddom

“Top 4 Philly must-sees: Reading Terminal Market, The Rocky Statue, The Thinker (original), and The Gates of Hell.”
-Aditya

Heather Ryan

Heather Ryan

Director Product Marketing, Kiddom

Philly Magic Gardens — really love this place. Highly recommended.”
-Heather

Melissa Ruiz

Melissa Ruiz

Senior Events Marketing Manager, Kiddom

“Cuba Libre is an amazing restaurant. Also recommend Elfreth’s Alley, a National Historic Landmark dating back to 1702.”
-Melissa

At a typical Kiddom school, hands are in the air, there’s a buzz in the room, and teachers and students are energized. Kiddom was designed to help improve teacher retention and increase student performance and graduation rates.

For the first time, the most important parts of teaching and learning are connected and simplified in Kiddom. Curriculum lives in one place and is easily measured and refined, instruction is personalized to meet the needs of each student, and data serves as a powerful system of support for every member of the learning community to keep students on track.

What People Are Saying

“Kiddom is great for assessing data and then assigning appropriate work based on individual student performance. I love that it's very easy to attach standards and rubric to every assignment.”

Jackie Curts, Middle School Teacher

“Using Kiddom has made me stop and ask ‘Am I just letting this student repeat what they already know or am I really challenging them?’”

Ann Leghorn, High School Literacy Specialist

“I can see where my class and any student is at any moment in their educational journey. This way I can take action to assist them to work towards mastery.”

Mr. Albrecht, High School Teacher

You might also be interested in these articles:

Curriculum is Culture

Responding to a recent shift from curriculum analysis to culture change, author Geoffrey Schmidt argues that the two cannot be separated.

Data Visualization for Color Accessibility

Data Visualization for Color Accessibility


Let’s talk about color accessibility — the ability to view all colors on a screen regardless of a reader’s visual ability. A crucial feature to low-visibility and colorblind readers, color accessibility can be achieved with good design and attention to color contrast. And it’s important to consider when designing any product, digital or physical — especially if that product relies on data visualization to carry out its purpose.

This is the story of how we addressed the design challenge of visualizing data for color accessibility at Kiddom.

New Product; New Design Challenge

Earlier this year we launched a K-12 school operating system for school and district administrators to measure and act upon classroom intelligence. Academy is our first enterprise product, supporting our free product for teachers and students (Kiddom for Classrooms) by connecting schools and districts to teachers and students on one operating system.

As we began working on Kiddom Academy, we saw an opportunity to define a new visual language. Prior to Academy, our classroom product had been tailored towards teachers and younger students who would be using the products to create, complete, assess, and communicate about assignments, so we optimized the design for these tasks, with some simple reporting and a color scheme that was based largely on the role using the product. For example, teachers had a blue theme, and students had a purple theme.

But, as Academy would stand as the highest-level dashboard for schools or districts to understand what was going on at every level (district, school, class, and student), the newest product would require a greater amount of data visualization.

So the challenge was to keep the visual design consistent and on brand while addressing a functional design change to work with more data — this meant more colors, and those colors needed to be accessible to all. It soon became clear to us that the new product would call for a radical redesign of our existing color palette.

Step One: Analyze the Starting Palette

For the first step, we put all of our color palettes together to analyze the overlap and discrepancies.

This was the palette at the start of our project. As you can see, it’s complex, has tons of overlap, and doesn’t address accessibility for the colorblind.

An overlap example: as you can see here, the colors quickly became muddled in the UI. The primary action color was conflated with the English subject color.

Let’s take a look at reports in the earlier versions of the product. As you see here, there were four colors in the Mastery chart, two of which were already being used in other contexts. There was also no logical progression to the color scheme (red-yellow-purple-green), making it hard to parse at a glance.

It was clear we would need to simplify, and we were beginning to gain a sense of our constraints, but before reinventing the wheel, we decided to check industry standards to see what norms existed in the education technology space.\

Step Two: Study Industry Norms

In our study of industry-specific norms, we would be looking at how others may have handled the color accessibility problem, as well as general color scheme; if teachers expected a particular color for their data, we’d be fighting an uphill battle by changing it.

In normal vision, these charts are pretty clear. The red is bad, green is good. However, turn on colorblind mode, and it’s not clear what each of the slices means. The difference between red and green just isn’t visible.

Let’s take a look at a wider palette that incorporates more colors.

In this example, the middle point isn’t overly obvious, and the ends of the spectrum, although contrasting from each other, are hard to pick out. Upon studying the norms, it became clear there were some common approaches, but no standard. We would have to make the call on what was best for our users.

Step Three: Define Constraints

Thanks to our analysis, we identified two constraints important to us, and a number of action items. As mentioned, our first constraint was color accessibility: Our colors should have enough contrast so that colorblind people can differentiate them from each other. This would be particularly important in any view that shows data reporting.

The second constraint was to reduce color overlap. This was simple enough, as we had a lot of similar colors used for totally different purposes. So, we decided it was clearly time to trim some fat.

It’s time for solutions!

Step Four: Determine Color Overlap

First, we looked at how much overlap we could remove. Let’s take a look at where each column’s colors were used in the product.

These colors were almost the same as our subject palette. Since our subjects were more integrated in the design, we chose to remove the content type.

As mentioned, our original intent was to theme the app depending on which role you were using. The available roles in the earlier products were Student, Teacher, and Parent.

However, with the addition of the Admin in Academy (green), we were adding a lot of complexity to this palette. So we made the decision to simplify by removing the overlaps of each role’s primary color.

Step Five: Improve Color Accessibility

To exemplify how we improved color accessibility for data visualization, we’ll use the example of our Student Mastery scale. On the surface, this design worked pretty well. With the exception of the purple, there was a clear progression. The middle point was extremely visible and the endpoints stood out nicely.

However, when we put our colorblind shades on, you’ll notice the contrast was super reduced. The mid point became almost invisible, and the ends were still visible, but only the “Exceeding” section really stands out. From here, we decided we could do better.

From here, a number of iterations followed. First, we tried red and green with higher contrast. This worked to highlight the ends of the spectrum, so users knew where to focus. The middle point was still obvious, but when we took a look in color blind mode… Sadly, although the middle point was still obvious, the ends of the spectrum were almost identical.

Then we tried an approach with more blue. This was the ‘hot and cold’ concept. And generally worked fine. However, we became concerned with the potential palette overlap with the Interaction Blue our buttons (mentioned below), so we tried a bit of purple. The purple gave us a similar issue, but overlapped with the purple in our Subject palette.

In the end, the teal approach was the most successful. We could have an obvious, contrasting middle point, while still highlighting the ends of the spectrum:

Step Six: Simplify Color Palette

Now let’s move back to the complex palette. Instead of predefining every variant of a color, every tint, every shade, we thought perhaps we could be smarter about the way we define our palette?

So we changed our approach and defined a layering system. There are now two layers: the primary color, and the overlay (tint).

By placing a tint on top of a primary color, we were able to create a consistent result, regardless of the primary color. This meant that Classroom and Academy could use the same system, but only differ by one color.

Of course we still needed a contrasting color for buttons and links, so we included a global ‘interaction’ color. To adhere to our constraints, we went for a loud blue that is AA+ accessible. And here’s the final color palette:

We hope you enjoyed learning about the discoveries along our process as much as we did, and we encourage you to check out our product for teachers to experience it for yourself!


If you have any comments, suggestions, or concerns, please let us know by sending them to info@kiddom.co. We are constantly iterating our product for teachers and for administrators, and your feedback is aways appreciated.

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What did Studying the Arts Mean For Your Education?

What did Studying the Arts Mean For Your Education?

The arts are critical to our foundational skills and understanding. For National Arts in Education Week, we’ve asked members of our team at Kiddom what studying the arts meant to their education. Here’s what they said!


I always thought I was “bad” at all things artistic, and avoided taking art classes all through school. I only gained an appreciation for arts education after I began teaching high school, and met colleagues who supported our students’ sense of self-efficacy through hands-on art projects. During my years teaching at an alternative high school for over-aged, under-credited high school students coming from incarceration or transitional housing, I watched students who had struggled to find a voice at school blossom in art classes taught by a dear friend and colleague, Lisa Barnshaw. Students in her class learned that it was ok to make mistakes and how to express their pain, activism, and aspirations in a multitude of ways. She created a calm, warm classroom environment filled with opportunities for choice and collaboration, and framed all of her feedback with positivity and a growth mindset. In fact, on days when I was particularly stressed about my own lesson plans or classes, I would retreat to the back of her room to sketch or create alongside our students — it was one of the most meditative and safe classrooms I’ve witnessed in 10 years in public education. Thanks for all you do, Lisa!

Students getting a well rounded education by Studying the Arts

Studying the arts taught me that art (music, poetry, illustrations, paintings, etc) doesn’t start and end with the piece itself. It’s a timestamp of thoughts, feelings and issues, in a point in human history. Art not only becomes something to admire, but a window into one’s mind in an era and place.

Shout out to Ms. Leatherman, my 4–6th grade music teacher.


Throughout middle school and high school, art class was the space I had to clear my mind and think creatively amidst busy school days. As a student who always felt the pressure to achieve academic perfection, understanding that everything had right and wrong answers, studying art helped to balance my personal perspective on performance. Studying art provided room for subjective expression, room to test the waters in an area where perfection cannot be defined. I learned that even in a field where technique can be studied and basics can be learned, it takes courage to think abstractly and take risks on a canvas that will not let you know you are on the right path. Having confidence and having faith in the process in art is just as important as the end product, one that can always be changed, improved, and interpreted in many ways.

Shout out to Ms. Gourieux for creating an open, creative, and relaxed atmosphere where we could learn about different types of art and appreciate a space different from our core content subjects. She formed genuine connections with her students and took the time to learn about our interests and our talents. I took her classes every chance I could get!

 

 


As a child, I gravitated towards theatre and performance. I still remember my first play at age 9, looking out into the audience from the stage, hearing the applause, and thinking “this is what I want to do when I grow up.” I went on to study theatre in college, and realized that theatre is so much more than just putting on a show.

Studying the arts taught me how to look at the world through different perspectives. It cultivated my ability to collaborate, to work with a group of people, to bring a story to life. It taught me empathy, compassion, critical thinking, creative problem solving. It taught me vulnerability. Studying the arts taught me who I am.

Shout out to all my acting, dance, and singing teachers in high school for encouraging me throughout the years.

students Studying the Arts by rehearsing a play on stage

I didn’t appreciate the arts until I started a rock band in high school. As the singer and lyricist of the band, I quickly realized this was going to be anything but formulaic, which is how I learned a lot of the core subjects in school. I struggled a lot through this project, but it helped me realize art can help eliminate the borders of isolated disciplines in schools. It’s inclusive, ignites curiosity, and gets young people to get messy. And it’s totally okay to get messy!


Studying the arts taught me how big the world is, and the different ways in which different people perceive things. I remember being blown away when I discovered that vanishing points weren’t used in early paintings because they weren’t invented yet. I thought the painters had chosen not to use perspective, when in truth the concept hadn’t been discovered yet. Now it seems so obvious! While studying the arts I was also amazed by the similarities in humanity; like the vibrant colors we see in early Greek statues. Ancient Greek sculpture looks so solemn and serious to us now, but when you learn how they were painted back then, there was just as much bling as we see in modern culture — they just didn’t have access to neon lights!

Ancient Greek sculpture of soldier on a horse during a battle with lance in his right hand

Studying the arts taught me how to “get the metaphor.” It taught me how to understand and accept the fact that certain concepts can never be contained fully with words, and can only ever be touched on with the help of stories, sounds, images… you know, art! This was crucial for my education, and ultimately helped me accept bigger things, like that life is more complicated than the easy labels we use every day, and that sometimes “the metaphor” is the only way to create an area of mutual understanding between two people. One thing I’m still learning from the arts is how different types of art convey meaning differently for people. For me, prose, poetry, and music were the best means to land a breakthrough. But for another person, photography might be the vehicle. Breakdancing, baking. It takes all kinds.

Shout out to Mr. Williams, a former lit teacher who first sparked my love for literature and writing. He made a point to give my class stories that broadened our perspectives. Through those stories we learned how varied yet similar the human condition is, which was so good for a class of small-town kids in East Tennessee, where many of us hadn’t travelled far beyond ourselves.


And that concludes our team post for National Education in the Arts Week. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did, and that you gained a sense of how important the arts are to our foundational skills and understanding, as evidenced even in this small sample size.

If you are an arts educator, check out our free eBook, Standards Based Grading in the Arts to learn how teachers of all subjects use Kiddom to quickly create arts-based lessons that align to standards with one click. And as always, happy teaching and learning!

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