Professional Practice

Gaining the Confidence to Lead Your Art Department


You’re the leader of your art department. Now what?

Maybe it was a coveted position you interviewed for and scored. Perhaps you volunteered with a group of like-minded colleagues. Maybe you were assigned the role. No matter how it happened, this year you are charged with leading your art department. You are The Facilitator. I am proud of you.

As the leader of my art department for two years, before starting AOE, I’ve been there. I’ve seen it all. I’ve walked away from meetings in tears, and I’ve walked away with confidence in my step. Group dynamics can be hard. Art teachers can be tricky.
gaining confidence to lead
You need to remember two things.
1. The ability to meet together, as art educators, even with the hassle associated with traveling from building to building, is worth it. Many teachers don’t get this opportunity. Be grateful.

2. Fake it until you make it. You need to inspire confidence in your team members. You need to start with the type of energy you expect out of them, and you need to be organized and professional for the activities to reach their full potential.
Unfortunately, past professional development can leave a bad taste in the mouths of your team. They’ve been burned before and they are skeptical. They’ve sat in meetings that didn’t apply to them. They’ve been bored out of their minds and been asked to do busywork that had absolutely no connection to their teaching.

Chances are it will take an uphill battle to build back the trust of your team. You are here to show them that professional development can be fun, relevant, and useful for art teachers.

5 Ways to Run Meetings People Actually Want to Attend

So, how do you run a meeting people actually want to come to? Free iPads? Kittens and puppies? Not quite. In my art department, I had to come up with all of our activities, resources, and guides myself, PLUS deal with group dynamics. You will have some prep work to do before your professional development sessions in order to make sure you are ready to lead with unwavering confidence. Here are 5 practical ideas to get started on the right foot with your team.

1. Be transparent and professional.

No mysteries. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you want to spend 90 minutes or a full day of PD? If it sounds boring to you, it will be boring to your colleagues, too. Think outside the box when planning agendas. Here are 15 more ideas to get you brainstorming.

meeting fun


2. Send an agenda.

Again, transparency is key. Your team will want to have a general idea of the day’s activities. They will want to know what to bring, what time lunch is, and all the other (ahem) important things like the where and when to meet, and what type of dress code is appropriate. Expect someone to be late. They are art teachers for crying out loud! Your agenda doesn’t have to be specific, but give them enough information so they aren’t coming into the day or session blind.

3. Involve administration.

You will want to have a neutral party present during some your meetings: someone from the curriculum office, a principal or vice principal, or your art coordinator. You’ll want someone to be the middle man, and also someone to help keep the group on track. The more administration knows about the great things you are doing, the better you are advocating for your program. Don’t be scared. They will be impressed. I promise!

pd for art teachers


4. Don’t ignore team building activities. 

Table tent name tags are a great idea, especially if you don’t get together very often. Even though we did get together a lot, there were still some individuals in our group who didn’t remember anyone’s name and still thought I was a student teacher even after being in the department for 5 years. I suppose name tags can NEVER hurt and will prevent embarrassment and facilitate better conversations.


5. Bring food.

Assign someone to bring a snack to share at each meeting. Fed people are happy people. Period.


This short list is just the START of what a PLC or Art Department leader needs to know to be successful. Look for the next installment about creating Team Norms and Roles coming soon.


Who leads your art department meetings?

What frustrations have you dealt with in team meetings? How did you overcome them?

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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