Professional Practice

5 Ways to Keep in Shape While Teaching Art

I was recently on my way to the staff lounge when a student stopped and examined my lunch. The student simply said, “Salad again? Why are teachers always on diets?” I chuckled and couldn’t help but think he was totally right. I know in my staff lounge the latest diet or health craze is often part of the lunch discussion.

In comparison to other professions, art teachers have a lot of activity in their day. From moving around the room to loading and unloading the kiln, there is a lot of movement that happens. The role of an art teacher is physically demanding and we need to be prepared for our duties!


Today I am going to share five ways to keep in shape while teaching art.

1. Get Rid of Your Desk

The result of a sedentary lifestyle can really be harmful to one’s physical health. As an art teacher, you might feel as if you don’t have very many moments to just sit and be. Since switching from the elementary to middle school level I have found there are more opportunities for me to sit as my students need me less.

A few years ago I decided to ditch my desk. Besides being another surface to stack things, it really didn’t have a purpose in my room. As a result, I found myself walking around the room more and accomplishing more throughout the day. For different health reasons, you may find the need to sit at some points in the day. Instead of plopping down at your desk, try sitting among your students. This way you can engage with your students and relax your feet at the same time!

2. Make Exercise Part of Your Classroom Management

When you think of your most unruly class chances are the classroom management techniques that work for most classes don’t work for this one. This type of rowdy class needs an element of surprise. My classes like this are often filled with boys who are motivated by physical activity or sports. Why not try to use that to your advantage? On days where students really seem to be out of control I’ll throw in a little wager. For example, I might say, “If everyone stays on task for the rest of class I will do twenty push-ups.” Surprisingly, this sparks their attention and actually works! Don’t be afraid to do a cartwheel, handstand or a few bicep clay curls to aid in your classroom management routine.


3. Take a Walk Outside Your Classroom

If you teach art on a cart feel free to ignore this advice. As a former art teacher teaching from a cart, I know the realization of running around all day! Now that I have my own classroom, I don’t have the opportunity to venture around the school like I once did.

If you feel stuck in your art room all day long, make it a habit to take a lap around the hallways of your school. Not only will you get a few extra steps in, but you will also have an opportunity to check out the amazing things your colleagues and students are doing. You may also want to make it a point to visit the areas of the school that aren’t as supervised just in case you come across any suspicious activity. Your principal will thank you for this!

4. Plan Exercise in Your Day

There’s no question that teachers have a high-stress job. Unfortunately, that stress leaves with us at the end of the school day. A great outlet to de-stress is through exercise. Teachers are excellent planners, so why not make exercise part of your routine? Give yourself 30-60 minutes a day where you can sweat out the stress of the day. You might even find yourself growing as an art teacher while you listen to your favorite podcast or catch up on your shows at the gym!


5. Set Up an Activity Challenge

Isn’t it funny that the pedometer has really never gone out of style? Take a look around at your next staff meeting to see how many teachers are wearing a Fitbit or other step-tracking device. Why not use this to your advantage and set up a school-wide challenge to encourage movement and health? Many PE teachers often set up these types of challenges between classes to encourage student activity, so why not get the teachers involved too!

If you find yourself feeling a little lethargic as the winter months continue to set in, try out a few of these things to get you moving! Remember, movement is good for everyone, you can even try it out with your students.  

What do you do to keep in shape?

What part of being an art teacher do you find to be most physically demanding?

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