Professional Practice

10 Things to Stop Doing Now as an Art Teacher

You are accustomed to people adding things to your plate. You probably feel obligated to do more because it’s ‘the right thing to do.’ Today it’s time to think differently. Instead of doing more, here are 10 things you can STOP doing as an art teacher to improve your practice.
1. Stop trying to cram so much content into your school year.
Rushing through too much content in your curriculum is a recipe for disaster. Your students will feel the pressure and so will you. Try doing less in a school year, but go deeper into the items that you choose to cover. My friend Cassie Stephens chooses one culture to really focus on each year because she only sees her students for 30 minutes a week.

2. Stop putting things off. 
Instead of waiting until the last minute to get the art show signs up, see how it feels to actually do them a week ahead of time. Chances are, the job will take less time than you think.

3. Stop feeling paranoid about your principal and administration.
This lesson is hard to learn, but it’s so important. No one is watching you as closely as you think. Everyone has their own agenda and list of TO DO’s that probably doesn’t involve you. In fact, you might feel like you made a mistake during an observation, but your principal saw a positive. Don’t assume the worst, just work to your fullest potential each day and good things will come back to you.

4. Stop buying cheap art supplies.
Each year I would purchase an “off brand” of construction paper, and each year I would get upset when the paint soaked in and the colors dulled. In the spring when you order, it might seem like a great idea to save a few bucks, but you will live with this regret every single day the following year when you put these supplies in the hands of your students. Don’t skimp on the basics like paper and paint. Save in other areas.

5. Stop waiting around for people to come to you.
Why hasn’t the 2nd grade teacher who does an amazing dinosaur unit reached out to collaborate with you? Why haven’t you been asked to present at the school board meeting about the art program? Why hasn’t your principal observed you or stopped by in weeks? One question: Have you asked?

6. Stop working through your lunch without taking a break.
A break in your school day can be the very best thing you do. Even 10 minutes of reading your favorite book or checking Pinterest can be the tiny indulgence you need to get through your overflowing afternoon classes. Get outside and breathe in some fresh air. Productivity loves leisure. We need one to have the other.

7. Stop talking politics in the teachers lounge.
Teaching is one of the only professions I know where individuals feel it’s ok to talk politics at work because ‘everyone is of the same political party anyway, right? – we’re teachers!’ This is not true and political conversations aren’t ok in any workplace. You can’t assume.

8. Stop trying to ‘be all’ to everyone.
There are times when you must say yes to a committee, or draw a poster for the school play, but true excellence is actually about your ability to say NO. This allows you to focus your energies on the true task at hand: Teaching Art. If you have a choice, and really don’t feel it’s a good opportunity, respectfully say NO.

9. Stop counting down the days until summer.
This is one of the most destructive habits of teachers everywhere, and so so hard not to participate in. The second you start counting the days until summer, the slower they will go. It puts a negative spin on your work. Instead, think, “How much fabulous art can we cram in until the very last day of school!?” This attitude will make things easier on yourself and your students will notice.

10. Stop letting yourself get overwhelmed.
On any given day of teaching, the feeling of being overwhelmed can rear its ugly head and try to take over your logical consciousness. The fact is, anything can easily become overwhelming. Take one task at a time, chip away at the tasks, and know there will always be something on your TO DO list, no matter how frantic you decide to get about it.

Which tip resonates the most with you? 

Do you disagree with any? 

What would you add to the list? 


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.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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