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“Can you paint a mural for my new baby’s nursery? Like, this Saturday?”
“Oh, you’re an art teacher, that must be so fun!”
“Good morning! I brought in this bag of 35 toilet paper tubes. I thought you’d want them.”
Good or bad, there are some stereotypes about art teachers that persist. And, let’s face it, which one of us hasn’t been the disheveled person digging through the recycling bin to save bottle caps and egg cartons, the one with the large turquoise jewelry, or even the one who can never fit groceries into the car due to our curbside “treasures”?
Although some stereotypes might have a grain of truth to them, they’re not always seen as positive. Yet, they remain. Maybe it’s time to embrace them and live up to these art teacher stereotypes!
“You’re an art teacher, you must be a little weird, right?”
It’s time to embrace it; art teachers are weird! But, so is everyone else. Alain de Botton once said, “There’s a whole category of people who miss out by not allowing themselves to be weird enough.” Art teachers have a magical ability to create a safe space for students where weirdness doesn’t exist. Students feel safe to be completely themselves, quirks and all. It’s an amazing gift – something that couldn’t be achieved without a little weirdness.
“Oh, you’re an art teacher, do you just finger paint all day?”
This is one of the most common stereotypical remarks we hear, and it’s true, an art room looks tremendously different from other classrooms. Students are not always in their seats, the room is usually a little bit noisier, and 100s of different activities can be occurring at once. To an outsider, this might look like chaos, recess, or play. But, as art teachers, we know this is student engagement and creativity at work. Learning should be fun. If it looks like play from an outsider’s view, we must be doing something right!
Keeping a sense of humor about our jobs is important. After all, with so many responsibilities, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. If you’re looking for specific strategies to manage your workload while staying sane, you might want to check out the PRO Learning Pack Curbing Art Teacher Burnout. You’ll learn strategies to implement immediately in your daily routines.
“I just broke my shoe, can you fix it?”
“I got this stain in my shirt three weeks ago, can you get it out?”
Some days the art room can feel like a revolving door of the local hardware store. Students are seeking hot glue to fix a broken sandal or duct tape to reattach a backpack strap. Often these students end up in our doorway because they are sent by another staff member. It can be irritating to feel like a “fix-it” person, especially if we don’t have a solution to the problem.
Instead, we should see these situations positively. Students and teachers come to us because they know we can find answers to impossible problems. Using our creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills we show our students how to be innovative.
Have you ever asked a science teacher to help choose plants for your garden? How about a math teacher about your finances? The answer is probably no. So why is it that art teachers are always asked about the best colors to paint a house and sometimes even asked to help!?
Naturally, many art teachers have an eye for design, and most people feel out of their league with even the smallest of artistic endeavors. After you politely decline these ridiculous requests, try to remember it’s a compliment to be asked. You really are viewed as an expert in their minds!
Most of us are willing to embrace this stereotype. A wacky sense of fashion makes our job so much more fun. We can wear bright colors and mismatched patterns and no one will bat an eye. What we wear says a lot to our students. This type of style emits a sense of approachability that allows students to feel comfortable around us!
“You’re an art teacher? Are you a hippie?”
“Do you sew your own tie-dye clothing and walk around with crystals in your pockets?”
It’s true. Art teachers can be eccentric, but with good reason! Being tuned into the art world exposes us to TONS of amazingly creative ideas every single day. This, in turn, allows us to react to our everyday lives in ways that can be viewed as unusual by others. But isn’t it cool that we have the ability to perceive situations and relate to others in new exciting ways because of our profession?
Being an art teacher is one of the greatest jobs in the world. We make impossible things seem possible to our students. With the job often comes stereotypes some good, some bad. How we choose to deal with these stereotypes can either weigh us down or lift us up. If you’ve felt one of these stereotypes bring you down, try embracing the positivity of what it means to be an amazing art teacher!
What art teacher stereotype do you embrace?
How do you respond to stereotypes?
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.