Professional Practice

20 Tips for Your 1st (or 10th!) School Year

Going into my second year of teaching, I’m still finding the beginning of the year a tiny bit intimidating:  the room prep and organizing, the planning, the supply ordering, the school meetings, and the first day jitters.  Last summer, I prepared by setting up and sorting through my entire art room.  It was a really great process that allowed me to take inventory of what I had, what I would need, meet other staff members, and settle into the space to make it mine. It also allowed me a little more time to enjoy THIS summer!

Reflections of a First Year Art Teacher-1

While gearing up for this school year, I started to reflect on last school year…my very first year. To help me prepare for this one, I started to compile anecdotes, realizations, suggestions, and hints that I found to be extremely helpful in becoming a more effective (and less stressed) teacher, which I’d love to share.

Here are my Top 20 Tips

1. Smile and stay positive (even when it’s really hard).

2. Realize everyone is learning and can make mistakes, even you, the teacher.

3. Prioritize your tasks; make lists.

4. Know it’s okay to joke around and have fun – let go and allow your personality to shine.

5. Stop being your own worst critic.

6. Be flexible.

7. Understand it’s okay to say no sometimes – especially to time-consuming requests.

8. Ask for help when you need it.

9. Connect with other art educators (AOE, Twitter, Conferences, Districts, etc.).

10. Connect with parents, families, and the community.

11. Keep in mind those extra night and weekend hours may go unnoticed – have a life outside of school.

12. Establish clear boundaries so that students may experience freedom and creativity within those boundaries (You may want to check out the AOE Class Managing the Art Room).

13. Know it’s okay to not follow-up immediately with consequences.

14. Let go of some of the prep and clean-up responsibilities. Have the students do it. After all, it’s their room, their supplies, and their learning (AND they love helping!)  It also allows them a greater sense of ownership and helps them develop responsibility!

15. Have a solid sub plan for when you’re gone (going in to do sub prep while you are mid-stomach flu is no fun).

16. Realize it’s okay to scrap an unsuccessful project, even in the middle of it.

17. Organization and preparation are key. I know every art teacher is different, but if I hadn’t spent all that time last summer organizing, I would have felt extremely overwhelmed.

18. With that said, organizing your closets or cupboards doesn’t have to be done before the first day of school, though it may help you feel more organized and less pressed for time during the school year, it can be done after the school year starts.

19. Art should be a fun experience (within reason). If you aren’t having fun, or your students aren’t having fun, it may be time for a little reflection.

20. Keep your perspective. Remind yourself why you’re there in the first place!  The ultimate goal is to facilitate the best arts education you can for your students.

We’d love to know: What is the best tip you learned your first year? 

What do you wish someone would have told you before you started teaching? 

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek

Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek, an elementary school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She is passionate about teaching and reaching students through an innovative and meaningful arts education.

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