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As art educators, we know something most others don’t.
The secret is simple, yet important. The art room is the MOST important room in the school!
Over the years I think I figured it out. And once I figured it out, I got loud with it. Not annoyingly loud, but professionally loud. And, I let my students in on the secret, too. But guess what? They already knew!
Hopefully, the tips below will help you share the secret and garner the respect you deserve!
As an elementary art educator, you teach every single student in the school building. Every. Single. One. At the secondary level, you likely see hundreds of kids throughout the year, too.
At one point in my career, I taught over 1,300 K-5 students. I loved every second, but it was hard! I had to learn names, make connections, and become an effective classroom manager. I had to differentiate learning for the entire school population including gifted students, ELL students, and students with special needs. My job was never-ending, so I also had to become effective at managing my time.
If others in the building didn’t realize the magnitude of what I did, I made sure they began to understand.
If you’re in the same situation, here are three ideas to try.
If you are at the secondary level, make sure you’re teaching kids who want to be in your class. The art room should never become a dumping ground for kids counselors have a hard time placing.
You have to be an advocate for your program. It’s your job to educate counselors, administrators, and the school community. Art class should be open to students who are eager to dive deep into their learning, put in countless hours of work, take risks, and learn about themselves as dedicated artists. The goal of education is to create a community of life-long learners, and the arts do this.
We all know the arts are about problem-solving. Students are given a challenge and asked to visually and creatively solve it. It’s interesting that the rest of the education world has just started to see the benefits of project-based learning. It’s what we do all the time!
The world is seeking creative-minded workers. From graphic designers to engineers to fashion designers, the list is endless.
Art teachers pick up where vocational schools have left off and can help set kids up with visual arts careers from the very beginning. This is even more true with all of the scholarship money available!
When we work with other teachers in the school, we can develop creative lessons that complement students’ other curriculum. Art connects with math, literacy, science, and social studies all the time whether we’re actively thinking about it or not. It’s an inherent joy to teach something as diverse as art! We get to teach students about the images that document our world and teach students to document their world. How lucky are we?
Art plays an integral role in ensuring the school is a beautiful learning environment. Yes, it takes time. But, I have always been a huge advocate for displaying student art in as many places as possible!
Of course, you could always paint a mural. But, what about working with the custodians to paint the campus trash cans? Or, working with the football team to design a game logo. These connections can earn respect for your program. So, get your students involved! Art clubs and National Art Honor Societies are all about earning community volunteer hours; be the guide and make a difference.
It’s one thing to make your school beautiful, but why not take your student’s art out into the community? Display art everywhere from your local library to your local coffee shop. Or, paint a town mural or your town’s trash receptacles. The possibilities are endless as to how you and your students can be a powerful force in the community making a huge difference.
It can be a lot of work. But it is worth it when your students and your art program are recognized for caring. Because, let’s face it, art matters and art teachers care!
Collaboration is such an important way to pull a community, or a school together. Be the leader!
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Hiding out in your art room and feeling unappreciated isn’t going to do you or your students any good. Put yourself in a leadership position and share the benefits of what art can do! I guarantee it will be therapeutic for you and your staff.
Getting your students involved in the community teaches your students about social responsibility. Do a quick search to see what types of service learning lessons are out there and how you can get your students involved. It might be as simple as a bus safety poster lesson. Or, it may be as emotional as the Memory Project, where your students honor the identity of another through the art of portraiture.
Opportunities like these will not only garner recognition for your program; they will change your students! These experiences will show them their art can change the world one mark at a time. And, it will change the attitudes of those around you who think art is a frivolous elective and can be easily cut.
I’ve often said art is everything. It’s the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, and the buildings we inhabit. It’s the books we read, the movies we watch, and the music we can’t get enough of. It’s the chairs we sit in, the desks we work at, the beds we lie in. Art is everywhere! So why in the world would it ever be considered an extra-curricular? It is the most important class anyone will ever have, especially when it’s taught with love!
I hope this list makes you think. I hope this list pushes you a bit out of your comfort zone. But more than anything, I hope this list makes you realize you are incredible and what you do, every single day, truly matters!
Thank you for dedicating your life to teaching our kids through the vehicle of the visual arts!
Do you think the art room is the most important room in your school building?
How do you advocate for your students and your art program year-round?
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.