The lazy hot days of summer are about to give way to the frantic pace of the school year. How do I know? The Target back-to-school aisle was being assembled during my last trip for cookout essentials, and a little piece of me died inside. But seriously, rather than mourn the rapidly passing July days, here are four “must haves” to help you embrace your season and prepare for a fantastic fall.
1. Tools to Ease the Most Annoying Parts of Your Job
In general, art teachers have one of the best jobs around. There are also a few mundane, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks that can begin to make your days drag on and on. Instead of sacrificing the sense of joy in your classroom, apply the same principles artists have used for years: use the right tool for the job.
- Can’t stand cutting cardboard in bulk? Try this handy gadget from Amazon. It will save your sanity and your wrist muscles.
- Sick of spending hours prepping for clay projects? Use this tool to streamline the amount of time you are using to cut slabs for your students.
Think about the most annoying part of your job, and see if there’s a solution out there!
2. A System of Planning That Actually Works for You
Regardless of your teaching philosophy, effective planning is critical for giving your students a well-rounded, personalized art experience. But filling out a planning document can seem like a drag, especially when compared to other fun workplace tasks like exploring new techniques or unpacking new supplies.
If you notice you aren’t looking forward to your weekly planning routine, it may be time to rethink the format you are using. Tweaking your system might be all the motivation you need.
If you like to work on your computer…
- Browse Teachers Pay Teachers
This site has several editable planning documents at a variety of price points. Although many are designed for regular ed teachers, it’s easy to edit them to fit your specific classroom situation. The best ones I’ve seen are created with Google slides, making it a natural fit if your district uses the Google platform. It takes just a push of a button to share it out with a student, teacher, or administrator.
If you enjoy the traditional paper route…
- Check out Erin Condren
These planners are the Cadillac of the paper planner game. They have visually appealing lesson plan books as well as weekly planners in a variety of formats. Their designs are beautiful and the paper quality is unmatched. Even better, they allow a certain amount of customization; so if you need additional grading sheets for your thirty elementary classes, this company will do it. You can even get your name or a personal photo on the front, so you never forget it at a faculty meeting.
- Consider the Michael’s Happy Planner
This paper planner is an affordable alternative for art teachers. The lesson plan book and weekly planner are similar to Erin Condren, and many additional features are available for purchase. This company has also invested a lot of time in the production of stickers to make scheduling reminders fast and visually appealing. Who doesn’t love stickers?
Or, Just Create Your Own!
No one understands the intricacies of your planning process like you do. So, why not invest a few hours in generating your own planner? Use your talents to go the paper and pencil route, and create one in the bullet journal style. Or, if you are tech savvy, craft a custom template ideal for your teaching situation.
3. Something That Inspires You
Remember, your students look to you as a living example of a life well-lived through art. But, if your well has run dry, you have little to offer! Make sure you set aside some time to do things to reinvigorate and inspire your teaching.
Here are a few methods that always encourage me.
- A New Professional Book
Find something that directly or indirectly speaks to the way you teach and leaves you wanting to take action. If you are looking for fresh ideas, ask colleagues for a professional book swap, browse Amazon or plan an afternoon at your local bookstore. Don’t forget sometimes; the best inspiration can come from outside our genre.
- A New Children’s book
Children’s literature has a way of making a big impact in thirty-two short pages. It is an impressive mental feat to distill big ideas into such a short format. Children’s books have a way of inspiring me, and I love passing them along to my students, too. I’m looking forward to getting the book Drawn Together this fall.
- A Piece of Original Artwork you LOVE
You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Well, I am going to argue, “You are what you look at,” too. The things we visually consume on a regular basis affect us! Start the year off right by being intentional about the art you will see every day in your school workspace. Support a local artist, a former student, or an Etsy shop you admire. The best part? Your students will ask about it, allowing you teach teach them what it means to be a patron of the arts.
4. Necessary Self-Care Items
During the summer, it seems easier to exercise regularly, get eight hours of sleep, and fill your weekly menu with salad. But then, school starts and the best-laid plans seem to dissolve into a bag of Cheetos hastily eaten from a vending machine while drinking that fourth cup of coffee. No wonder we get sick those first months of school! Avoid these pitfalls by prioritizing self-care this school year.
- Make a Plan to Drink Water
Dehydration seems to be an epidemic experienced by almost everyone in the educational field. And yet, we also know that one of the best things we can do for our personal health is to drink more water. If your schedule doesn’t seem to allow for bathroom breaks, make a plan with another teacher to watch each other’s classes for three minutes. Then, purchase a reusable water bottle you won’t lose, and plan to stay hydrated!
- Cultivate an Art Friend
Physical health isn’t the only aspect of self-care teachers need. Our jobs are mentally challenging and can take an emotional toll. Combat this by purposefully seeking out an “art friend.” Having a relationship (in person or online) with someone who truly understands you and your job can be an invaluable comfort throughout the ups and downs of a school year. Keep your eyes open at conferences, district meetings, and in online groups for a kindred spirit. Reach out with plans for a curriculum swap, to attend a workshop or to grab a cup of coffee. These are the relationships that will sustain you throughout the storms.
- Buy the Baddest Apron on the Block
You are the art teacher, and that comes with the right to dress a little bit like Ms. Frizzle from time-to-time. To keep your fashion-forward looks stain-free, express yourself further with a dynamite apron or smock. Start the year with one you can be proud of. Not only will you “look the part,” but you might save some money on replacing professional clothes in the long run.
So, as the back-to-school displays begin to flood the stores, don’t forget to make plans in these four “must have” areas. An inspired art teacher is a happy art teacher. Your students will thank you for it!
What is on your “must have” list for the fall?
What categories would you add? Do you have any tools that make life easier in your art room?
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.