Do Art Teachers Have Too Many Extra Duties?

Duties. Sigh.

As an educator and an employee of a system that needs to run like a well-oiled machine, it’s commonplace for teachers to have duties to help out with the day to day runnings of a school. For example, duties could include recess duty, hallway duty, lunch duty, special event duty (ie: dances, prom, taking tickets at a game, etc). You know the drill. I don’t need to go on any further.


However, as an art teacher, I actually find it interesting to look at the time allocations of duties between teacher associates, specialist teachers and classroom teachers. The specialists at every school I’ve taught at had at least double the duty time as classroom teachers.

The reasons for this can be complicated, and mostly it all relates back to the master schedule and how everyone’s time fits. But this also makes me wonder if scheduling isn’t the only thing impacts things like this. There are times (dare I say this) art teachers can feel like second rate citizens when it comes to the hierarchy of employees. I know I have. And it doesn’t feel good.

In the eyes of administration, sometimes I think the specialists are seen as not “needing” as much prep because their content isn’t as important, therefore, they get more duties assigned to them. Yuck.

Coming from a person who has experienced 45 minutes of duty every day, at every school (traveling teacher here) I know I really could have used that extra time. I also didn’t mind getting fresh air every day outside. It became routine after awhile, but in the winter, took about 15 extra minutes to get my gear on and off, completely ruined my hair for the day (heaven forbid) and caused me to walk in from recess as my kinders were walking in, making me me feel a little frantic at times and unprepared to get in the “kindergarten mindset” if you know what I mean.

My mom is a teacher’s assistant, and she always says, “let the teachers teach, and let us help them in any way we can.” She’s a gem. But unfortunately budgets don’t always allow a dream world for our work days. I really don’t have a great solution to this, either, mainly because if your boss tells you to do something, the best strategy is to put on a smile, and just do it! Maybe you can relate.

So, my friends, I am wondering what kind of duties you have at your school and how you feel about it? 

Do you ever feel like a second rate citizen when it comes to the jobs you are asked to do around the school? 

What solutions or coping mechanisms have you found?

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.


  • dawn

    This is the first year in my 17 of teaching where I have any duty periods at all.   I just have one 15 minute 3-5th grade recess duty one day a week. 


    • Dawn, That is not too bad. I think it also depends on the size of your school. A smaller school simply has less people to go around to do all the “extras” so everyone must pitch in more. 

  • Jorena

    As our education budget has been cut each year, we have fewer and fewer assistants.  Our school system has tried not to fire anyone, but as the assistants retire, no one is hired to replace that position.  Currently our school only has assistants in first grade and kindergarten and I feel that will soon go away as well.  Consequently each year, I have had more and more duties.  I have more morning duties and the rationalization is that classroom teachers have students entering their rooms- who can argue with that?  However assistants and encore teachers have to be there earlier still- we open car doors, do breakfast duty, and gym duty. But I feel that my family suffers for the fact that I have to be at school each day so early.  It breaks my heart when my little boy says “Why can’t you be a normal teacher Mommy?”      And yes, the whole thing makes me feel like a second class citizen, but I don’t think administration is trying to be malicious about it.  On the positive side, the assistants that are left have developed quite the camaraderie with the encore teachers.

  • I am having it really bad this year.  My school asked the specialist team to help kids find busses at the beginning of the yeah, in addition to our every day duty.  The problem is, the busses are 20-40 minutes late every day!  Here it is almost December and we are all still doing this “only the first week of school duty.”  It really bothers me for some reason seeing all the classroom teachers drop off their kids and head inside while I am waiting past my contract hours for a bus to arrive.

    • That is really tough. I am all for helping around the school but when it goes out side of contracted time, it becomes really tricky!

    • Dkbrown

      Someone “at the top” needs to be informed about late busses or other problems involving  contract hours  and other “duty” problems and fairness to “specialists”. Specialists don’t deserve to be doing more than there fair share. All teachers are professionals and deserve a break and decent planning time to promote a good  all around education. Everyone needs time to set up and get ready for their classroom day! When I taught full time, I had to advocate strongly and defend my (and others) programs as being just as important as any other classroom! I carefully crafted statements to this effect and went in to both the Principals and the Board of Ed. to explain what exactly was being taught in my(and other classrooms) and how it was important to both my curriculum and integrated with other classroom learning skills overall. Not to say, some compromises and negotiating didn’t follow, but if you advocate and stand up to the overall belief of the importance of your teaching and planning time, they seem to gain new respect for how hard you really work and what you contribute to the whole school. I started out going to three elementary schools, ala art on a cart for several years…that was totally insane, but ended up not having to do double duty @ every school after negotiating a fairness clause. Ended up after 25 plus years teaching the last ten @ just 2 elementary schools with plan time equal to regular classroom teachers and same with afterschool duty. Kids not picked up after regular duty time, were sent to wait in the office. O course, I did work with teachers directly and helped with special classroom projects, programs, art shows, and kept in touch with units they were doing in their classrooms that I could enhance in the art room. Don’t let yourself be “bullied”(yes I know this is the new black listed word!)or conned into thinking it’s your total resposibility to be disrespected by doing additional or unfair extra duty….ADVOCATE…can’t say this enough! You don’t have to be rude or bossy…just let them know , otherwise this problem usually doesn’t get better  and you’ll end up feeling resentful and “used”. Parents who enjoy seeing their children’s artworks and other accomplishments  can be  a great advocating help also. United you stand, divided you fall, get the group together to discuss your issues.  Hope this helps to inform!

      •  I totally Agree with you, Dkbrown. We have to be advocates and let others know what goes on in our classrooms and what kind of prep work goes into teaching a whole school full of students. Most people don’t realize how much time running an art room takes. Perhaps doing a short talk at a staff meeting could open people’s eyes.

  • Vicky Siegel

    It actually has been helping to our benefit that we are (all teachers in our district) being observed more by administrators.  It helped me get this new awesome cabinet for storage- since I was constantly changing between grade levels and had no where to put the organized table supplies anywhere.  So- on this note about duties- since we can have some good conversations with our administrators- our MAPEL staff only has “sweeper” duty once every 4 weeks.  We only have to make sure all students are out of the building to catch buses (no stragglers).  So- we are lucky not to have to be outside.  I think they know they are already stretching us too thin with traveling and little prep time.

  • Honestly – I am going to put a WHOLE different spin on this.  I would gladly take on more duties if it meant I didn’t have to travel between buildings.  I love what I do – but I often feel like a 2nd class teacher because I am asked and expected to travel between buildings.  Now, I am lucky in that when I travel I am at each school for the entire day – I don’t switch mid day – but being in two (or more for some of you) is what I think truly STINKS.  I don’t like having a schedule so packed that I don’t get to see preschoolers, or when I need a kid to have a consequence outside of art time – that consequence has to wait 4 days for me to be back in the building.  I don’t like feeling like a guest teacher in my second building…. the list goes on.   I would gladly take on some extra recess/bus/lunch duties if I could be in ONE building.  

    In my old school where I was in one building – I had one lunch/recess (it alternated on the year) a day and then every 4th day I had pick-up duty.  I didn’t mind.  It was great to see kids OUT of my room.  I could talk and listen to their stories instead of hushing them and going on with instruction.  I liked making relationships with them on the playground and joking around with them.  I actually miss it.

    Now, all I have is after school duty at both buildings.  At one I help kids get into cars, at the other I send the buses when the office tells me we are all clear.

  • Tracymathys

    I have at least 2 duties a day with my peak number of duties being 4 on Wednesday, I open car doors, do 2 recess and an intervention time. Some days I feel like I missed the college class where they explained how to juggle duties and all of this new paperwork we have to do in our rooms along with all of the regular lesson prep and grading. 

    • I know! One thing that baffles me about being a teacher is the amount of paperwork and desk work that is needed, but how little desk time is actually given. Many times prep time is spent cleaning paintbrushes, cutting paper and organizing and grading artwork, not doing paperwork!

  • Smoons

    I have a 100 minutes of duty every day!  It is by far my least favorite part of my job.  I deal with it with the mindset that I truly have the best job in the world as the art teacher, so if duty is my biggest problem, then I have it reeeeally good. 

    • What a positive attitude you have! Sometimes breaks in our day are ok, to think about other things and refresh, however, 100 minutes every day is a lot! Best to you!

  • Marciadotcom

    We all have a certain number of minutes they assign us…. a combination of recess duty, hall duty, before and after school, and study halls. It sounds like a lot but I actually have a nice amount of prep time.

  • I have done it all! My least favorite was lunch duty but I have not had that one for years! I presently have bus duty in the afternoon at my schools from 3:10-3:30  at 3:30 the late people take over for the early people.  My schedule is such that there is no time during my day that is available for them to schedule me for anything other than art classes!

  • erica

    My schedule also doesn’t allow time for duties. IT IS CRAZY! Class after class after class with not as much as 5 minutes in between. I get 180 minutes of plan time throughout the week which usually happens at the last period of the day when the kids are going on the bus anyways. 

  • Joycedorian

    3 days a week I have to cover a classroom teacher’s class while they go to a meeting. I bring work with me, so tht while it is bus call or there is some down time, while the students are doing work, I am using the time. Also, I have my 5th grade students who are behind in their art projects meet me at the classroom that I am at (they have recess at that time). I feel that it lets the other teachers know how busy I am, and I actually do accomplish things during the time.

  • coopcollection

    My colleague and I have a variety of duties.   I have school opening 3 weeks a year,  study table after schools 3 weeks a year: she has morning detention 3 times a year and the same study table duty.  In addition we are often called upon to make things for our administrator’s  charities, such as 3 cornhole games for the senior center’s silent auction, artwork for the school’s annual fundraiser, Christmas cookies for the chamber of commerce, etc.  We teach K- 12, 11 periods/day with 3 mins. between classes.  We have 45 mins prep time per day, with a 30 min. personal lunch.  Have I worn you out yet?

    • Yes. You have. Whew. You must have magic powers to get it all done!

  • LisaArt

    For 10 min. in the morning, my ‘duty’ is to greet our elementary students as they come down the hall. Then for 20 min. after school I assist with dismissal duty. I feel it is reasonable and agree that it is nice to connect with students outside of art class. My dilemma is more with our heavy load of work not being recognized by classroom teachers. I just would love to work in a school culture that acknowledges that *everyone* plays a valuable role, is under pressure, and has much to do. Also, I find that we teachers (art or otherwise) who always step up to the plate, are the ones who get asked to do more while others seem to sit back and let us. Last year, I gently discussed this frustration with my principal and as a result, this year she did the unthinkable! She actually has a spreadsheet in the lounge showing the names of every teacher and the main committees, duties, etc. we serve. I was shocked to see it but I do appreciate that she is using transparency and venturing to spread the work. For me, I’ve had to learn to set boundaries and think before I volunteer for tasks on the table. Also, I contacted the local University Art Ed Dept and asked if any pre-service teachers would like to volunteer with me on a regular basis. To my surprise, I received resumes which led me to a wonderful student who is thrilled to come volunteer at least 2 hours every Friday!

  • Nana Bee

    for several years I had recess with 7&8 th grades at one of my schools (I travel as well)  This year I have to assist the 1st grade teacher with morning work for 90 minuteshelping students who have difficulty staying still, or have not had their “meds”. This duty is from 8:10 until  9:30 and my first art class is at 9:40 with the hardest and largest groups, 7-8.  So I have to stay after school longer getting prepared for the next day so I can keep them engaged.  Some times the teacher lets me leave a little early but never enough time to do copying or other “housekeeping” chores for MY class.

    Do I like it?  As far as helping the kids, that is great!  I have built a good rapport with these students, BUT as an art teacher I hate it more than anything I do because it sucks up MY valuable prep time.

    I have always felt that the importance of fine arts in a system where sports reign supreme, falls somewhere between recess and studyhall.  Most classes I have are barely 30 minutes long and the ones that are 50 minutes long are usually huge and full of the most unruly and disrespectful students.  I am a break for teachers…who only get this 30 minutes for planning, which is obscene in itself.

  • Christy Humpal

    maybe I’m a little weird, but I really like having recess duty – it’s nice to get out and get a little fresh air mid-day (except when it’s 10 degrees…), and I like seeing the kid outside of the art room, in a whole different environment and set of circumstances.  I do thank the lord every day that I no longer have lunch duty (can’t stand it) .  After shool duty is not my favorite (especially when in runs past contract time) but the plus there is getting some face-time with parents coming to pick up their kids – they don’t often come visit the art room, so seeing their kids give me a hug before they head home for the day is the best advocacy I could ask for :)

    • I also enjoy the fresh air. It becomes a good way to get your Vitamin D from the sun, too! Sometimes we do need to be “forced” to get out of our rooms and interact. Thanks for your positive take on the whole subject.

  • Heidi O’Hanley

    I have felt that way, and as a traveling teacher myself, I hated the extra duties.  It’s gotten better over the past few years though because I communicated with the administration.  I invited them into my room (or cart) to see the amount of work I was prepping.  I do morning/afternoon car/bus duty twice a week, and lunch duty once a week now.  Better than it was in the past!

  • Cheek754

    I lived this for 18 yrs…until I left public and went to a private school. It is abusive and underminds the effectivness of every specialist. I have no answers.

  • I have been on both sides of the fence.  I taught K-1 for 26 years and and currently living my dream with my 2nd year in art.  As a classroom teacher I had lunch duty one day a week and recess duty one day a week,  but still had my planning time daily while my kids were at recess. Last year as an art teacher I had afternoon bus duty every day,  which only lasted 5 minutes at that particular building.  This year, however,  I have DREAM duties if you don’t like having duty!  Our district is BIG into RTI (interventions)  and I have all of my classes crammed into my day up until the last 45 minutes of the day while the students are there.  This is my planning time,  however,  my principal didn’t give me bus duty so I can just keep working the additional 45 minutes straight through until our contract day is over so I can work 90 uninterrupted (yeah, right,  NOT)  at the end of the day.  Then on Wednesdays our district gets out early for PD on a weekly basis and I do have to take one 15 minute bus duty,  so basically I only have one 20 minute of duty a week!!!!  Shhhhh,  don’t let the other teachers know.  :)    I think this is her “compromise”  since I do 2 art shows,  which I am not contracted or paid for.  As a kindergarten teacher I NEVER had it this good.  I LOVE my job!!

  • Chanicrow

    After reading some of these comments, I feel really lucky to be teaching at my school. Art really is appreciated and valued and I am not expected to do any more or any less than any other teacher. Although, I will admit to sometimes finding it hard to be organised enough to run back-to-back classes smoothly! But even with the crazy schedules and struggle to stay on top of things, this is my dream job and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

    • Sometimes all it takes is a little perspective to make us grateful. Someone is always better off or worse off… So the key is to be happy and content where you are at! It sounds like you are doing a great job of this!

  • Marie

    I’m so glad to read that I’m not alone of the lack of prep time. My school is K-8 and I’m expected to carry out lunch, morning, and dismissal duties. All of my classes are 1 hour long. I only get 1 hour of planning and nothing on the schedule mentions LUNCH, so we have to take it then… which leaves me with 30 minutes to plan? Not to mention, back-to-back classes and if I’m lucky, I see 5 minutes of prep time in between classes. My school is also open campus so teachers are always running late picking up and dropping off. Not to mention, NO budget for supplies. Please tell me this isn’t the worst story you’ve heard, I’d actually love to hear it!

    • Elizabeth Evans

      charter? Sounds like my school. I’m also at a k-8 and open campus

  • SharonArt

    In my school, I have time off where I have to act like the other grade level teachers and teach a “Parallel Block,” where I have to re-teach what the grade level is teaching in their classroom. I don’t have one group all week, only for a couple or one day a week and then another specials teacher. So It is very hard to teach something consistent with my groups. Especially since, i don’t just have one grade of Parallel Block, I have four different grades. So it becomes very stressful for me, because I don’t know the way to teach what is being taught in the grades.

  • Toby

    In my district it is written into the contract that specialists are not to be given any extra duty assignments.

  • Art Teachers Hate Glitter

    We’ve got it good at our school/county (don’t hate me). I have AM bus duty twice a week (I only work three days a week) which takes about 10-15 minutes. That’s it. Last year I had bus duty in the AM and PM once a week. I actually enjoy getting out of my room and greeting the kids. Our classroom teachers here have recess duty (about 30 minutes). Our school has lunchroom hostesses (I think they’re called something else), so no teacher or IA (Instructional Assistant) has to cover lunch.

  • Elizabeth Evans

    I have 90 straight minutes of recess duty every day but wednesday. Wednesdays I have 45 minutes of breakfast duty and 45 minutes of recess duty because my schedule is so packed that they had to give me one of the lunches off for me to eat. On that day I start my duty at 7:45 then have class 1-4 period, recess duty 5th, lunch 6th, class 7-9. It’s a crazy day.

  • staci

    Funny, the music teacher and I at our elementary were just talking about this yesterday. We have to do bus duties and breakfast duties in the morning, and then if we happen to get a few minutes of free time we are usually assigned another lunch or recess duty (she got an intervention assignment this year). For example, I have a “makeup art” slot this year, because the principle was unable to fit in art once a week (another example of classroom teachers taking priority – she wanted their planning time to be longer so their meetings could be – therefore the students don’t get art once a week :/). And I’m grateful for the makeup time, but was told if a class isn’t coming I need to go do lunch/recess duty. Which is fine, but the teacher who does bring their class for this extra thirty minutes isn’t assigned a duty – they get extra planning. We don’t mind helping, of course, and it’s nice to see the kids in the morning as they come in, BUT… its frustrating that we aren’t quite treated like the “teachers”, who if they have extra time, get extra time. We have the same degrees, we paid the same amount (sometimes more) for our education, and it would be nice to have the same respect when it comes to planning/”free” time and duties.

  • Diane Koch

    I am embarrassed to tell you how lucky I currently have it (you might kick me out of the group!) This is my 1st year teaching High School I have spent 16 years in a much more hectic K-8 environment so I have paid my dues in the past. This year I have I have to be at school at 7:15 – have an advisory and then teach 2- 65 min classes. I then have from 10:30 – 1:15 off every day for planning/ prep and lunch. (That is over 2 1/2 hours!)1 day a week I have 35 min. lunch duty and 1 day a week we have a team meeting for 45 min during this time. I then teach 2 more 65 min classes and about 10 min. of dismissal duty. After that have 1 hour after school to be available to students that are struggling or need additional time to work. When there are students in my room it is enjoyable to me at that time anyway. I can then leave school at 4:30. I am loving my job this year and have never felt this completely happy with working!

  • apple

    I don’t know t our school the Art teacher has 122 minutes of prep time a day, while the classroom teacher has 90 minutes a week.

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  • Kimberly

    As a 15 year high school art teacher, I have never had much time. We are told that we have hallway duty between each class, a 20 minute lunch and a 50 minute planning period. We are given responsibilities of a homeroom and clerical work to monitor that homeroom students grades through the school year and I teach 6-50 minute classes a day. We are also responsible to create lesson plans for Intervention programs for students who aren’t identified as at risk. It has become even more stressful because the increase of students in our freshman class, they are using our Arts and Humanities classes as a dumping ground. All 3 of my art 1 classes have at least 30 students. When I try to express my frustration, and tell them that visual art needs more one on one feedback to be effective and they need to lower the cap size, they try to tell me we have to up them somewhere. Being the only art educator in the building I feel as if my needs are ignored and overlooked. We all know how much we have to do on our own personal time to just be able to stay on top of grading. I’m worried that I won’t be able to hold our for 13 more years.

  • Laura McGowan

    I know this is an old thread, but I’m really feeling the pressure of extra duties this year! Not only do I have hall duty for 1/2 hour every morning, and lunch duty for a total of 3 hours and 20 minutes per week, I also have to staff the in-school suspension room for one day a week (all of my classes are squeezed into 3 1/2 days) and teach 4 reading groups as well! AND we specialists were told last week that we need to incorporate reading into all of our testing grades’ lesson plans. This is too much! My actual job of art teacher to 550 students is seen as completely superfluous.

    • Alecia Eggers

      That sounds really tough Laura! That’s a lot! Is there someone in administration, or even your principal you could talk to about this? I would recommend going in with solutions as well ;)

      • Laura McGowan

        Actually this is all coming from my principal. I’m pretty sure he thought – “Who can help us bring these reading scores up? I know – the specialists! They’re not doing anything important.”
        Anyway, thanks. It helps to hear back from someone who can sympathize.

  • Jen

    I do not have more duties than other teachers but my classes are most definitely a dumping ground. Students that fail a lower level class are then put in a higher level class. Prerequisites are thrown out the window when inconvenient and every seat in the room is full. When I point out what should clearly be mistakes on my rosters I am told , “your classes are so big because they like you”. Totally patronizing as these are incoming freshmen who have never met me. I know what the classes could be, but this just makes them a circus. Every year I am told it will not happen again…not a good way to keep experienced teachers.

  • Beth Young

    I am super stressed because my art time has been reduced to thirty minutes. That might not be too bad if I didn’t have another duty within the thirty minute time slot. I have to pick up kids from PE, let them get a drink of water,get them to their room,and put the chairs down from their tables. Then after all of that -mind you that all of this stuff that I mentioned is within the thirty minute time period that I was allotted- I might have a few minutes to explain the project, pass out supplies and then finally for maybe ten minutes the kids can do their art. Help!!!!!! I know that this is a little off topic, but I need some good advice.

    • Aubrey

      The P.E. teacher usually has less prep and supplies to organize than art classrooms. Can the PE teacher walk the kids down? Also, why arent the chairs left down? I ask my custodians to leave them down because some of like kids are too weak to take them down on their own. Another idea- can the older kids walk themselves down to you? At our school we try to have the kids be in charge of themselves as much as possible.Final idea- can you pre record yourself giving lesson instructions so all you have to do is press play…kids watch and you can work on other things around the room to prepare.

      just some thoughts.

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