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Sometimes, I like to wear sunglasses and a baseball cap INSIDE Target. I fantasize about wearing wigs and trench coats as I peruse the produce. I feel this way because I have the privilege of living in the community where I teach.
Don’t get me wrong, living where you work has many great benefits, and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s rewarding to deeply and profoundly understand your students’ community. It’s pleasant to have a short commute. It is also really, really difficult to grocery shop.
Anyone who teaches art at the elementary level should be able to relate. No sooner do you fill your cart with a couple of items, then you hear the familiar voices of incredulous and excited students who can literally not believe that they have run into you. “Mrs. Moss, is that you? You are here?! YOU go shopping at Target?” they squeal as I internally thank my lucky stars that I am in the cereal aisle and not in the wine section.
Sometimes, it is easy to forget we are important and fascinating people in our younger students’ lives. Your quirks, hobbies, and opinions can be deeply interesting to them. This is true of the other staff members in your building as well! This interest creates ample opportunities to work with our coworkers to hook our students in creative ways.
Instead of constantly reminding students to wash out the sink or wipe spills off the floor, create a sign featuring your custodian. At my school, our custodial/maintenance staff is well loved. If I ask kids to clean up, they might comply. But, if I post a picture of my custodian looking extra sad next to a dirty sink, the message seems to really hit home. Suddenly, they understand that their actions affect others within the school.
Whether you teach traditionally or have a TAB classroom, you always need project or technique process images to share with your kids. Why not ask a colleague to help you create something for art room use? In my experience, many adults are eager to de-stress with an art activity. It can be something very simple. “Hey kids, Assistant Principal Breyne wrote you a secret message in white crayon. Let me show you how wax resists works so you can read it!” Her “celebrity status” makes this a much more exciting demonstration than they are used to.
The ultimate use of a teacher celebrity happens when they unexpectedly “show up” in class. Think of the excitement you would feel if you accidentally ran into your favorite celeb at the airport- yeah, pretty jazzed. It is the same for our younger kids. Invite a classroom teacher or administrator to spontaneously visit the art room in the middle of a lesson, and ask the kids to teach them what they are doing. (Tip: Students seem especially excited when it is a classroom teacher from a previous year!)
If you are tech-savvy, you can even have a teacher make a virtual appearance. Whether you create a full flipped education video of a lesson (like a “Screencast-o-matic” narrated by your PE teacher) or just a quick clip that reinforces your classroom management (like your own version of Cassie Stephen’s clean up video), the appearance of an unexpected staff member, especially in costume, drives the younger kids wild.
So, next time you are feeling traumatized because a student recognizes you in sweatpants at Walmart, take a moment to pause. Recognize and remember you have an important impact on children’s lives- and that makes them interested in YOU. Embrace your inner celebrity, and see how it changes your day.
What strategies do you use to share a little bit of your personality with your students?
How do you use other faculty to promote your art program?
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.