10 Reasons Art is More Important Than Common Plan Time

One complaint you will often hear from art teachers is how they do not feel as respected or valued as other staff members in the building.

In the study, “Why Do Good Art Teachers Find it Hard to Stay in the Public School System,” Nurit Cohen-Evron states isolation and constant defense of their craft are major challenges causing art teachers to leave public education. Other factors include the lack of job-specific professional development and lack of support.

Echoing this sentiment, forty-three percent of teachers who participated in the 2018 State of Art Education Survey said a lack of respect for the art program is one of the biggest hurdles they face in the art program.

This response comes as no surprise.

You’ve probably heard comments you feel undermine your work.

“I wish I could be the art teacher!”

“You have the best job!”

“Teaching art just seems so FUN!”

While many of us would agree we do have the best job in the world, it is still a lot of work. From assessing and differentiating for hundreds of students to writing curriculum and organizing supplies, it’s no cake walk.

On top of this, art class is often looked at through the lens of plan time.

Have you ever had a teacher drop off a class early or pick them up late because they “really needed their plan time?” Or, have you had an administrator switch your schedule to maximize common plan time for others?

Despite these challenges, being an art teacher is an important job. One amazing thing about the position we’re in is that we can make a large impact on our students and school community.

Here are 10 reasons art is more important than common plan time.

collaborative heart

1. Art keeps kids in school.

I have come across many studies demonstrating a correlation between student attendance and schools with art programs. In the article, “School Art Programs: Should They Be Saved?,” Valeriya Metla shares, “Schools with long-standing art programs have higher graduation rates. In many instances, art classes motivate students to stay in school, especially low-achieving students, by fostering closer ties with peers and creating community-oriented environments.”

2. Art prepares students for the future.

Art provides several of the skills top employers need. In the article, “Google finds STEM Skills aren’t the most important skills,” Lou Glazer shares research conducted by Google. “The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.” These are all skills that can be developed in art class and are transferable across many fields.

3. Art impacts the “whole child.”

While art benefits students academically, it also helps with the social-emotional side of students. Art can be a therapeutic practice that calms students. In “Benefits of Art Education Experiences,” Janet Rubin and John Ceschini state, “The arts engage students in ways that other subjects may not, providing ways into learning that compliment learning styles and encourage creative risk-taking.”

4. Art builds leadership.

The art room is a place where students build transferable skills that will help them in and out of school. Communication, collaboration, and responsibility are just a few of those skills. My past article, “How Art Teachers are Helping Build the Next Generation of Leaders” has a printable listing more skills. You could share it in the hallways or school newsletters with your school community.

global connections bulletin board

5. Art builds cultural awareness and empathy.

Students begin to understand the world around them on a different level when they go to art. The rich art history as well as emergent events that take place allow for a solid foundation of learning about other cultures. Art in Action reported, “By learning about other people, children are able to develop their ability for empathy, essential in working with people from all walks of life, and realize that we have more in common than not.”

6. Art promotes innovation.

Innovation is tied to creativity which is a key ingredient in the art room. As students create, they explore and innovate. Activist and artist, Mary Lou Cook said, “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” I would say that perfectly describes a day in an art class.

7. Art allows for self-expression.

Creating is a beautiful form of putting your mind on paper. Art gives students an opportunity to express themselves and share what is on their mind. This is one of my favorite benefits of art education!

student art celebrating themselves

8. Art impacts the entire school culture.

Imagine a school without art displays or opportunities to come together through art. Art teachers foster art appreciation and bring the community together. This can be done through art shows, hallway displays, and other events. The National Art Education Association believes a high-quality art program and visual art educators help to build positive school culture and climate.

9. Art is Fun

Art is fun. It is a place to play, grow, and be happy. Art for art’s sake is just as important as any reports of how art helps with academics. In the article, “When is Creativity? Intrinsic Motivation and Autonomy in Children’s Artmaking,” Diane Jaquith states, “Play is associated with both problem finding and solving: opportunities for play lead to divergent thinking and flexibility (Pitri, 2001; Runco, 2007; Zimmerman, 2009).” Play is an asset to exploration in the art room.

10. Art can help close the educational gap.

The 2011 President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities report, “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future through Creative Schools,” shares that art education strategies help in closing the achievement gap and lower dropout rates. Art is also an area that benefits at-risk students as many feel successful in these classes and gain a connection to their school community as stated in, “Education Reform Must include the Arts” by Marion Herbert.

While some may have a fixed mindset, we can still do our part to show others the importance of art and our role as art educators. A big key is to build relationships with your peers and be sure to advocate for yourself. Advocate by showing student reflections, placing standards by art displays, and adding write-ups near projects in the hall. Art is worth speaking up for!

What is the craziest thing you have heard about being an art teacher?

What do you do to advocate for your career?

Wynita Harmon is an elementary art teacher in Plano, TX. She enjoys providing authentic learning experiences for her students that promote innovation and critical thinking skills.


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  • Vicky Siegel

    Great article! I totally felt all the negatives and positives you stated! So hard to keep doing all of this, but yet I can’t imagine doing anything else!

    • Wynita Harmon

      Thank you! Totally love being an art teacher!

  • Just Cindy

    I was offered a contract to teach the same classes I teach now, but at less than half my salary and no benefits, because I was told, ” you don’t need as much planning and prep time that you have had for the last 6 years.” I teach about 250 students a week in one hour classes for 1st -5th (same grades not consecutive), and hald hour classes for K.

    • Wynita Harmon

      Wow! That is so disheartening for someone to say. You definitely need equal planning and prep time. Know that you are making a difference each day with your kiddos!

  • Lindsey Bailey

    This is an excellent article! Thank you so much for sharing! I can’t wait to click through and read all of the articles that you have linked throughout . . . Keep up the fabulous work! Also: I grew up in Plano! Hooray for things!

    • Lindsey Bailey

      PS: A few things I do to advocate–I involve my students in as many community events as humanly possible! We just finished two back-to-back parades with kid-made floats! And we have artwork hanging, installation-style, in our local bookstore windows. We also hold several shows at our local art center and in our county fair. Not to mention lots and lots of school-based events! I am ready for summer! ;)

      • Wynita Harmon

        Hey there Lindsey! Thanks so much for the positive feedback, I truly appreciate it. Love the ways you advocate for your students too! Keep up the great work! You surely deserve the upcoming break!

  • Craftilyeverash

    My favorite was I asked a teacher when a meeting was she said, “don’t worry about it, you don’t have to go you aren’t a real teacher.”

    • Wynita Harmon

      That is horrible! I can’t believe someone literally said that to your face. Well I know you are a real teacher, keep up the great work with instilling the love of art in your kiddos!

  • Jenna Fergus

    Wynita, This article is such an important one! Thank you for sharing these 10 things that make what happens in the art classroom such a good investment for all educational stakeholders. I have two more reasons why Art as a subject is as significant as all other subject areas, if not MORE so. 1) I teach a pattern of questioning called, CRIT, that leads to problem solving that can be used in ALL academic areas. The process follows Feldman’s DAIJ critique process. Students do not only use the process of questioning to look at art, but to produce and present the work as well. Students of the 21st are struggling to think, mainly because most thinking happens through asking questions. We do it without even knowing that is our approach. 2) Art class, particularly my Advanced Placement Studio classes are the ONLY research-based classes taught in high school, even including science classes. Students must research artist methods, critique art, research various techniques. Research-based learning produces the most impacting takeaways from all of education. Any art class that gives students options, teaches them to think.

    • Wynita Harmon

      Wow, that sounds like an amazing technique and great information about your class. Thank you for sharing that with all of us. In addition, I truly agree that art classes that gives students options teaches them to think for themselves. Such a valuable experience for students to have as well! Thank you!

  • Mike Jancart

    Thanks for the encouraging, insightful article. I’m a first year, career switching art teacher and I have to say I feel so privileged to be at a school that values the art program and myself. This is actually surprising in light of the fact that we’ve had 5 art teachers in 4 years! I’m planning to break “The Art Teacher Curse”!

    When folks do occasionally make dumb comments, I brush it off as ignorance and choose to be thankful I don’t have their job! HAHA!

    • Wynita Harmon

      Glad you enjoyed the article! And I brush it off most of the time to or state something from this article :)

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  • Christen Pratt

    Thank you for this insightful article. Not only are the factors of why art is so important organized and clearly defined, but I enjoyed reading the logic behind them. As I read I was reminded of the important work we are doing in our classrooms, not only teaching art making skills, but fostering an environemtn where students are learning team building skills, social skills, and foundational skills that can be applied in other aspects of their lives.
    I found the connection between creativity and innovation in #6 fascinating. It is true that when students are willing and able to take creative risks in art that they will be more apt to take creative risks in other areas which could lead to inventions and improved problem solving skills. I had not seen this perspective until after reading this blog.

    • Wynita Harmon

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I am glad that this article gave you new insight!

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