Classroom Management

Desk Therapy for Art Teachers

There are two distinct areas in the art room, the studio and the office. In nearly every other profession, there is ONLY an office. Art educators are blessed with the charge of living in dual worlds as there’s paperwork AND artwork to deal with. This duality means you must become an expert at managing both spaces.

I’ve noticed that most of us have no problem managing the art studio, but when it comes to the desk area, we throw our hands in the air and practically give up.

Who has time to sit down and sort through emails and paperwork when there is PAINT to clean up?

By the end of the day, your desk might look something like this example from Julie on Facebook:
art teacher desk
(Have a minute? Check out all the desk views from our Facebook fans– They’re good. Real good.)

Here are 5 ways to find some “desk zen” as you start the new school year.


1. Upgrade your storage.

I am not knocking cottage cheese containers or plastic bins, however, professionals in any other job would NOT consider these items office supplies. Should you? Treat yourself to something a bit more grown up to house your pencils and pens. That polished feeling will rub off every day! On a budget? Try a
thrift store!

2. Maintain your space.

Each day after students leave, take some time to clean your desk, file away a few papers, and collect dishes and water bottles to take home and wash. These tasks will only take 5 minutes, but you will thank yourself when you walk back in the next day.

3. Add natural and personal elements.

Bring in a plant, succulent, or piece of coral—something natural to ground you. It’s oh-so feng shui. A photo of your family or pet is also a must. I am amazed at how many teachers do not display family photos. It’s a personal decision, but I always like at least one, even if I’m the only one who sees it.

4. Prioritize your drawers.

I am, by nature, a stuffer. If I can’t see it, I feel organized. However, this means my drawers often look something like this:
disorganized drawer
Organize your top drawers to house only the things you grab on a daily or weekly basis. Nothing else.
organized desk drawer

5. Only keep the essentials.

More items on your desktop mean more stress for you. If you don’t use something on a daily basis, store it somewhere else. Aim to reduce the stuff on top of your desk by 75%.
I know not everyone is Martha Stewart tidy. That’s cool. However, paperwork and random items can pile up and quickly become a huge burden. Help yourself out by aiming for a tidy desk this year with a functionality and beauty that works for YOU!

What is the current state of your desk? 

What tips do you have to keep your desk area tidy?


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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