Beyond Glorified Babysitters: Jaw-Dropping Names Art Teachers Are Called

Each time I walked into a staff meeting in my building, I made a beeline for the table in the back of the room. At this table, I would congregate with the music teacher, P.E. teacher, media specialist, counselor and school nurse. We would sit in the back, horse around, doodle, and just hope we didn’t get called on to share. I called this special little table the “Island of Misfit Toys,” because we really didn’t fit in.

During one staff meeting in particular, I remember each grade level being asked to break off into teams to work on reading goals. As the groups were called out one by one and assigned tasks, our “Misfit Toys” table sat patiently. When we were the only ones left without an assignment, our administration quickly realized something…they didn’t have anything planned for us. They had essentially forgotten about us. Woops! So, they proceeded to quickly run off an article circa 1995 about why the arts are important and had us read and highlight.

I felt so low!

As you know, Professional Development at the building level usually isn’t tailored to us or any other of the “specialists” (at least, that was what we were called at my school). Often, we are good at adapting and trying to let it roll off our backs. In fact, this motivation was one of the reasons AOE was founded. But, this can be hard, especially when the names we are given can be so… interesting.

So, what’s in a name?

Well, as it turns out, a lot.

beyond babysitters
A blanket name given to your group at school can really set the tone for the respect you are given. After all, we are constantly fighting an uphill battle to gain respect as art educators, we don’t need demeaning names to also passively bring us down!

I’ve collected some of the best (and worst) names for us and the other teachers in our group to share with you today. Some come from my interactions with teachers all around the country, while others come from this recent post on our Facebook page. You won’t believe some of the things people shared. Some names are flattering, others are flat out degrading. Some names we give to ourselves, while others are given to us without a choice. And, let’s be honest, some names are just plain funny.

Without further ado: Here are the ‘best of the best’ from all of these sources.


– Electives

– Enrichment

– Exploratory

– Specials Teachers   I’ve never liked this term, as it implies we are special and ‘extra’ – which is not the case. We are essential! This is by far the most common term we’ve heard.

Penny, on our Facebook page actually spoke about the term “Specials” in a positive tone. She said,

Specials. Because that IS what we are. We make the kids who aren’t “smart” feel that they can excel and belong too. They can be recognized for talents beyond Common Core. We are why “those kids” remain in school and graduate. We give them a place to feel accepted, admired and respected. THAT is why I do what I do.

– Pull Out

– Fine Arts

– Esthetics

– Mushrooms – This is self declared, as Kathy said on Facebook, “because we are kept in the dark and at times forgotten!”

– Preparation Coverage Teacher  – Yes, this is an actual job title of someone I spoke with from Canada!

– Encore

– Enhancements

– UA – Unified Arts

– Interdicsciplinaries

– COO – Chief Creative Officers

– Curricular

– Support Team

– Expressive Arts

– Related Arts

– Diversified Studies

– Fun Arts – According to Jeanette on Facebook, she, “hates this, it devalues our educational importance.” I would agree!

– Un-Core – Yes, one art teacher’s entire team was referred to as this at her school. Wow. We ARE core, people!

– VAPA – Visual and Performing Arts – has a nice ring to it!

– Glorified Babysitter – Not funny, but this is also one of the popular (sarcastic) names we hear art teachers give to themselves.
Really makes you think doesn’t it? If you unhappy with your ‘label’ at your school, perhaps some of these ideas could give you the ammunition you need to suggest a change. If anything, maybe this list gave you a laugh. We are all in this together. No matter what your label, I challenge you defy it and exceed it, for it is the time you spend with students and the incredible things you do that will truly label you as “Amazing” by your students, colleagues and parents.

I will leave you with one thought from Jamie on Facebook. She said, “We are called Friggin’ Awesome!” That, my friends, is what you are!

What are you called at your school? Do you like it? Why or why not?

What are other ideas you’ve used to gain respect in your school? 


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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