15 Things Nobody Tells You About Becoming an Art Teacher

We all know there are unknowns with any career path we choose. How we handle those unknowns can impact our attitudes towards our professions. While I like to choose to handle curveballs with humor, I sometimes wish that I had had a cheat sheet when starting out. Here are 15 Things Nobody Tells You About Becoming an Art Teacher. Add your own in the comments below! We’re all in this together!

15 Things No One Tells You

1. You will attain rockstar status.

You receive this amazing designation (from your students) simply because you are the art teacher. Take advantage of your students’ excitement and enthusiasm, and provide the art education they didn’t even know they needed! (You might take over a position in which this superstar status needs to be re-earned or re-established. Accept the challenge.)

2. You will have to play nice with others.

School assignments, traveling, and sharing rooms vary from job to job. Here are some tips for sharing your space.

3. You will need to put on your big girl (or boy) pants.

You will need to stand up for yourself, your position, your program, and your materials. You won’t get things you need without asking or voicing your opinion. There will be tough situations. Be professional and stay calm.

4. You have to learn how to say “NO” with poise.

You will frequently be sought out for your artistic eye and school-related (or non-school-related) favors. People will ask to “borrow” your supplies. If you don’t learn how to say “no” to those opportunities that you don’t have time for, or that are, quite frankly, insulting, people will walk all over you. Say “yes” to those things you truly want to help with, but stand up for yourself and your time when you have to.

5. You will have to be your biggest advocate.

Your program may not be in jeopardy at the moment, but it’s always great to be prepared and realistic. Check out these great resources. Advocate through putting on an art show, attending district meetings, and making frequent parent and community connections as you build your program from year to year.

6. You will feel under-appreciated at some point.

It’s going to happen. When it does, take a moment to reflect, but realize that you’re probably doing a fantastic job. Be your own cheerleader, or better yet, find others to join your cheerleading team. And, if you’re feeling burned out, you can take a peek at the Creative Ways to Curb Art Teacher Burnout PRO Learning Pack. You’ll gain valuable insight and strategies you can implement right away to start to make your teaching life a little easier.

7. You will need to use (or develop) some serious organizational skills.

Art teachers have the unique pleasure of having A LOT of stuff to store and use on a daily basis. Finding smart solutions for all your supplies and materials is essential for a functional art room.

8. You will accumulate an obnoxious amount of stuff at school AND at home.

Read how to tackle the school-portion of this dilemma here. As for home, get organized. Plastic containers and drawers are cheap and effective.

9. If you feel like you’re drowning, you’re doing it right.

The first couple of years in a position will be very overwhelming and busy. You will soon learn to tread water and eventually, to swim forward, I promise! Check out my tips for your first (or tenth) year of teaching!

10. You will most likely have extra duties.

Lunch duty, recess duty, breakfast duty, hallway duty. Look at this as a time to get out of your classroom and get to know your students in a different environment.

11. You will have to sit through irrelevant PD.

I try to be positive and make connections to my curriculum during these meetings, but honestly, I’m thankful to have opportunities like AOE courses, Art Ed PRO, and Art Ed Now available. If you have PD money available to you, use it for something worth your while!

12. You will become a crazy bag lady (or dude).

This is especially true if you’re a traveling teacher like myself. I invested in a nice bag (it was actually a graduation gift) that fulfills my daily teaching needs, but also carry an oversized bag from Thirty-One. In addition, I keep a stash of reusable, cloth grocery bags in my trunk to joyfully add to my crazy bag lady syndrome when I just don’t think I’m carrying enough stuff.

13. You will need to stay on top of everyone else’s schedules.

Between teachers and students arriving early and  late and the classes that just don’t show up, scheduling can become a big frustration. Send out a friendly email a few times a year asking teachers to respect your time and tell you when there may be conflicts. With finals, field trips and schedule changes, an email at the end of the year is especially important. Encourage friendly, open communication amongst your staff.

14. You will need a routine for nearly everything.

Entering, exiting, clean-up, work time…there is a lot to manage in the art room! Routine and structure will help things hum along smoothly. If you need support in this area, take a peek at the AOE course, Managing the Art Room. You’ll be able to devote time to figuring out what is and isn’t working in your classroom and learn tons of new strategies to try.

15. Projects will flop.

Inevitably, some of your plans won’t go as, well, planned. Get some pointers on what to do here and here.

What things would you add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!

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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