Why Teaching Art Is Like Running a Marathon

running shoes on top of painting

The dog days of the school year are here. Spring fever is in full force. Many art teachers see the change of behaviors, as the spring-like weather seems to blossom and grow in our students as well.

You’ve also probably noticed that people aren’t afraid of winter anymore. The trails are much more crowded and it seems that everybody but you is training to run a marathon. I’d like you to take a moment and give yourself a pat on the back because each day you’re completing your own marathon. It’s called being an art teacher. Each day is exhausting, but each day you accomplish something new.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration or a jumpstart in your teaching practices, it’s time to start training for your art teaching marathon. Use the training guide below to get started!


1. Set a Goal

Before you start your training you need to set a goal. Beginning with the end in mind is essential to being successful. What are you working towards? What are you trying to achieve? In goal setting, you must be practical. Determine what is important to you and choose something manageable.

It can be as simple as trying a new lesson with a medium you don’t typically work with or something as complex as taking on your first all-school art show. You will need to step outside of your comfort zone, but that’s where the fun begins!

2. Prepare for Training

Before you jump right into completing those 26.2 miles, some preparation needs to occur. How are you getting yourself ready? Take this as an opportunity to grow as a professional. Find professional development opportunities, take an AOE course, connect with your PLN; each of these gets you one mile closer to your goal.
student work featuring a runner

3. Overcome the Obstacles

Along the way, there will be some hills to climb. You must be ready to face these head on. Without struggle, there will be no progress in finishing your art teaching marathon. Did your budget get cut? Find a way to fundraise. Has no one visited your classroom blog? Find a way to spread the word.

The most important thing is to stay motivated. If you’re not motivated to reach your goal, how will you put in the extra effort when the going gets tough? Arm yourself with the fuel of your family, colleagues, students, and friends to keep you going! If you’re planning a project that has brought about many challenges ask yourself this–is it worth it? If the answer is yes, lace up those sneakers and keep going!

4. Take Rest Days

Take a break. At times, it can be difficult to separate your personal and professional lives. We’ve all brought work home or worked after hours. Plan out days where you don’t do this. Hopefully, you love your job, but living, eating, and breathing work is not good for anyone! Time will forever be standing in the way, so make time to do the things you love. Spend time with your family, go enjoy the outdoors, binge watch your favorite TV show—do anything that allows you to take a break!

running shoes on top of painting

5. Finish the Race

Race day is here. Is your art show hung? Did you teach your first ever paper maché lesson to kindergarteners? You’ve crossed the finish line and it’s time to celebrate!

In the midst of challenging projects, we often say to ourselves, “I’m NEVER doing this again!” But, the funny thing is, you will. Part of the challenge is making it better for the next time! So don’t forget to reflect and determine what was successful and what wasn’t. You’ll thank yourself later when you sign up for the next 26.2 paint and clay-filled miles.

How do you prepare yourself to face challenges?

What strategies do you use to stay motivated when things get tough?

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.


Abby Schukei

Abby Schukei, a middle school art educator and AOEU’s Social Media Manager, is a former AOEU Writer. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

More from Abby