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An art teacher is a jack-of-all-trades. For starters, our content area, “art,” is an umbrella term that means we teach drawing, sculpture, painting, ceramics, and so much more. When you enrolled in your pre-service education, did you have any idea that you’d have a skill set reaching far beyond teaching traditional art practices? Because you most definitely do. After teaching for a few years, you start to develop skills that go beyond the typical teacher role. I’m not sure why or how all of these skills have come to fruition, but nonetheless, they exist.
Whether a student gets ketchup or paint on their sweatshirt, the art room is the first place they go for stain removal. You will immediately take out your classroom supply of Kiss Off or your trusty toothbrush and dish soap. Start having your students take a number; they can pick up their garment at the end of the day.
Have you ever come across a mystery art supply? Is it tempera? Acrylic? Oil Paint? Open the jar, and within seconds your sense of smell kicks in. You can identify almost any combination of art supplies just by using your nose.
Why hasn’t a permanent solution for clogged glue bottles been invented yet? Sure, solutions like coating the nozzle with Vaseline help, but who has the time for that? Nonetheless, the instant a glue bottle becomes clogged you know just how to fix it. You might even have a special paperclip you keep in the corner of your desk for these sticky situations.
In any given art class, all of your students could be working on something different. This means you are likely in high-demand and your supersonic bat-like hearing will kick in. In any location in your classroom, you can hear everything that’s going on, even whispering two tables away. Maybe this is why art teachers always know the best student gossip.
It’s Monday morning. You forgot you needed to start a new lesson and students will be in your room in five minutes. On top of that, your new art supplies didn’t get delivered. Not to worry. You’ve developed the ability to create an idea out of thin air. With one glance at the materials around the room, you’ll have a plan in an instant.
There’s nothing more irritating than waiting for students to stop chatting as you give instructions. But, sometimes, it’s okay because you get to use your superpower of the dramatic pause. You know exactly when to use it, and when your students hear it, they know you aren’t messing around.
Do you ever get the all-staff email when another teacher is looking for some oddly specific items for a student project? It might sound like something like this, “I have a student who needs pink colored sand, seven green balloons, and two pairs of pantyhose. Does anyone have these available?” Well, since your classroom also doubles as the school dollar store, you probably have a few of those unusual items lying around.
It’s not something we enjoy and probably aren’t always proud of, but we’ve mastered the perfect amount of coffee to water ratio we can handle before our next bathroom break. Don’t you think it’s about time that every classroom had its own restroom?
Dealing with X-ACTO knife slips, linoleum cutter slip-ups, and nasty paper cuts, you’ve basically become the school nurse. Rather than sending your students to the health office, you have a first aid kit readily available for these minor mishaps.
Broken flip-flops, snapped shoelaces, sole-less sneakers; whatever the shoe defect, people come to you. Unfortunately, you don’t have any specialty supplies. So, you’ve learned how to make do with the right kind of glue for any shoe repair situation.
Although we didn’t sign up for any of these extra jobs, they are a great way to demonstrate problem-solving skills for our students. After all, that’s exactly what we’d hope our students would do! Reframing these situations can make them less of a nuisance and more of an opportunity. It’s nice others view you as a trusted individual to help them through a problem!
What strange and talented skills have you developed as an art teacher?
What do students always bring to your art room to fix?
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.