Susan Riley | August 2014

Let It Go: Leaving Fear of Integration Behind

If you have children or know children who are of elementary or even middle school age, you know the song, Let It Go.  It is the award-winning theme song from Disney’s Frozen and one of the top songs of the year.  If you’re a parent like me, you are probably sick of hearing it.  My own daughter belts it out whenever she gets the chance: in the car, outside on the playground, even in the shower.  If there was ever a song that I wished would stop being played, it’s this one.

Still, the message behind the lyrics is remarkably transferrable.  While the song is intended to reflect strength and the ability to follow your own path rather than succumbing to peer pressure, it can also serve as a theme song for pushing through anything or anyone that is standing in the path of something we know to be remarkable.

Leaving Fear of Integration Behind

This is certainly true of arts integration and STEAM initiatives.  What is holding you back from trying or moving forward with arts integration and/or STEAM as an approach to learning?  Is it fear of not being an “artist”, or of not having enough time, or even – how this might effect test scores?  It’s time to Let. It. Go.  Let’s explore these lyrics as a case study into how we can leave the fear of integration behind and embrace its powerful possibilities for our students.

Lyric 1: A Kingdom of Isolation

How many times have you felt isolated in your teaching practice?  If you’re an arts educator, there is probably only one of you in the building.  If you’re a classroom teacher, you can feel closed off from collaborative teaching practices due to scheduling, philosophies or school culture.  Schools can be some of the most isolated places in our world.  Arts Integration helps to break through that isolation to embed a culture of collaboration and exploration!  By embracing this approach, you won’t need to be alone!  You’ll have others who can support you – whether that be as an integrated team in your school or through an online community like this one.

Lyric 2: Don’t Let Them In, Don’t Let Them See

Is your classroom a mess when then principal comes for an observation?  No?  Why not? So often, we want our administrators and peers to see a Pinterest-Perfect classroom.  This, unfortunately, is not how learning occurs.  In an integrated approach, learning is messy but it is deep and meaningful.  You can allow people in to see what learning really looks like – for your students AND yourself.  You can show the world that you believe in creativity and student-centered learning!

Lyric 3: It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small

When we are in the midst of change or learning a new approach like arts integration or STEAM, everything feels overwhelming.  All of these thoughts start swirling around like, “how am I going to find time for this?” or “I can’t draw or sing – how will I ever do this?” and they get larger and larger in our minds.  Give yourself some time and a little distance.  Let your brain mull it over for a while and think about one thing you learned that you might want to try.  Once you have some distance, time and a manageable starting spot, all those worries seem much smaller.

Lyric 4: It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through

There comes a time in everyone’s journey with arts integration and STEAM when it’s just time to get out there and try it.  No matter what the obstacle or challenge, you need to take a deep breath and give it a shot.  Use what you have learned, apply it and see where it takes you.  Push those boundaries and don’t look back.  You may fail, but even in failure you’ll succeed.  We learn from our failure more than our successes.  The only way you’ll ever be successful with this approach is to test it out for yourself.  Because then, you’ll be able to…

Lyric 5: Let it go and rise like the break of dawn

Once you’ve pushed through the fear and taken a chance at using an integrated approach, there’s no turning back.  You’ll experience what it’s like to see children truly make meaning for themselves and come alive in your classroom.  And it really is like watching the break of dawn.  There’s nothing quite like it in the world.

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan