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Everyone’s Art Time Should be Cut

That’s right, I said it, your art class time should be cut! Before you click away, hear me out!

This issue is perhaps one of the most anger-inducing issues art teachers are facing right now. As people try and squeeze out the arts in favor of more math and reading time, we’re left defending what we do in our classrooms. Often, the “middle ground” is that art isn’t eliminated outright, but precious minutes are shaved off of each class.

If this is your situation, I want to help you see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I want to show you how to make the most of your changing schedule, and maybe, even see how you can benefit from it.

My Personal Experience

Three years ago, each of my art classes was cut by 15 minutes.

As someone who was always working hard up until the very last minute, this seemed to be a truly devastating decision being thrust upon the teachers in my district. Looking back, I’ll admit that perhaps having my art time slashed was the single most important thing to impact the way I teach.

When our art time was cut, we were told it wasn’t about how much time you have with students; it was about what you do during that time. In other words, it was all about how you maximize the time.

To be honest, at first, I thought that was ridiculous. I laughed. I was angry. I was confused. Now, I believe that message. Here’s why.

Now, I appreciate every single second I have with my students. I don’t fluff up lessons or allow students to free draw for 50 minutes because they rushed through the lesson. Before, when you walked into my art room, kids were all over the map. Today, they’re much more focused.

My current lessons are planned to the minute. If we have ten extra minutes, I squeeze in a new concept or introduce the next lesson. Before, I would just hold off introducing new things until the next class. It sent the message that it was ok just to hang out. My room felt more like indoor recess than a visual arts studio.

My students now have a different perspective on what it means to come to the art room. They don’t dare waste their art time, and I promise them I won’t waste theirs. Instruction is brief, so they can get right to work. They take art more seriously now, which helps a lot with management issues.

Finally, I can be more consistent with my curriculum. I know exactly how much time I have to teach concepts, and I stay on track because we can’t afford to lose any time.

So, do I want my time back? OF COURSE, ARE YOU KIDDING?

Once you lose time, it’s very difficult to get it back. But now, if I got back that precious extra time with students, I would use it much differently. My curriculum and day-to-day teaching would both be more focused. I would be sure to use every minute to present a balanced, spiraling curriculum (rather than spend two months on Monet just because I like him.) I could use the time to find more quality, creative ways to advocate for my program.

I truly hope your art time is never cut. But, I hope I’ve helped you see that you should never take the time with your students for granted! Your time with students should be filled with quality art projects, critiques, assessments and conversations surrounding art.  At the very least, I want you to know there is hope, and you can get through this. You are not alone!

Tell me about the time your students spend in art.

How have you coped with cuts?

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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