Editor’s Note: Today we welcome our newest member to the AOE Writing Team, Lindsey Moss! Lindsey is an experienced elementary art teacher from Illinois. Read more about Lindsey here, and give her a warm welcome in the comments section!
It’s really difficult to get a teacher’s attention these days; people are inundated with emails, texts, newsletters, and school announcements. Even the postings on the fridge in the teachers’ lounge seem to be ignored. But, I NEED my staff to know certain things about my art program.
So, I talk to them where they can’t avoid me and I have their undivided attention… I talk to them in the bathroom.
Three years ago, I began to notice only my closest friends on staff were actually reading the entire email I sent about the “back-to-school supplies” that are SUPPOSED to go to the art program (or maybe people were consciously hoarding my Sharpies?). Either way, I was really frustrated.
Technology makes everyone reachable, but simultaneously, it makes everything ignorable. An “old school” paper newsletter in teacher mailboxes wasn’t working either. There was too much competition with all the PTO flyers and IEP updates! So, I went where there was NO competition: the staff bathroom.
Using a publisher template, I drafted “The Grande Reserve Toilet Paper,” a bi-monthly bathroom publication I tape (at eye level) in every adult bathroom in the building. At first, I published anonymously. I mean, come on…how much weirder can the art teacher get? The response was immediately positive, and I admitted responsibility after the second issue. Three years later, I am still authoring this public (restroom) publication, because it WORKS. Everyone reads what I want them to because they are, quite literally, a captive audience.
Along the way, I have learned a few things that make a “Toilet Paper” more successful.
Hide The Carrots In The Meatloaf
In other words, you can’t make this a completely art-centric document. It’s just not as effective because staff will feel like it doesn’t apply to them. I have found that a 70/30 mix of entertainment and art information seems to work best. Along with my art show dates, fundraiser info, and calls for supplies, I have used…
- Teaching memes and jokes about education
- General classroom ideas from Pinterest
- A calendar of important building events (What do you know, the art events are on there!)
- Weekday recipe ideas
- Inspirational quotes
- Book reviews (of kid and adult books)
- Teaching Strategies
I try to incorporate any topic that is light-hearted, fun, and can be read in one to three minutes, because you know teachers can’t be in the bathroom too long!
Get Teachers Involved!
After you have developed a reliable bathroom readership, you can expand into direct advocacy with a call to action. Teachers who are involved in art making activities tend to be more supportive of the art program, so invite them to get active! Typically, I have found that a contest with an inexpensive prize (think Starbucks coffee) seems to be the most motivating for my staff. I try to choose an activity that is accessible and non-threatening. Here are ideas for a couple of popular contests that started in my bathrooms…
- Adult coloring page contests
- Best decorated hand sanitizer bottle (during flu season)
- Poetry writing contests about something funny happening in your building
The most positive thing about these activities is that they bring teachers into my art room: to ask for more information, solicit art advice, or just see the other entries. These are the first steps toward developing the supportive teacher relationships that will matter to my art program in the long run.
If you’d like, you can download an example issue below!
As an art teacher, you definitely have an agenda to promote! So, get into your bathroom and start writing!
How could you implement an unconventional newsletter in your building?
What types of topics would you incorporate?
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.