10 Strange, Amazing Skills You Will Develop as an Art Teacher

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.

Here are 10 Strange, Amazing Skills You Will Develop as an Art Teacher

1. You Practically Know How to Run a Dry Cleaning Business

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.

2. You Will Be Able to Identify Any Art Material By Smell

paint tray

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.

3. You Will Be Able to Unclog Any Glue Bottle

glue bottle

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.

4. You Will Develop Supersonic Hearing

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.

5. You Will Have the Ability to Create a New Lesson Idea with Minutes to Spare

student artwork

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.

6. You Will Perfect… the Dramatic Pause

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.

7. You Will Be Known as the Supplier of Wacky Items

assortment of art materials

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.

8. You Will Develop Extreme Bladder Control

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?

9. You Will Become Well-Versed in Simple First Aid Procedures

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.

10. You Will Study the Cobbler Trade

student artwork of shoes

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?

Abby is a middle school art teacher in Omaha, NE. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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  • Vicky Siegel

    So true for all of them! Was waiting for the “shoe shop” one!!!

  • Megan Dejo

    I am laughing OUT LOUD!!!! This is so scary how true it is!!! Thank you for the laugh. Have a great year! Art On!

  • Cassie Etheridge Irwin

    LOVE this article, so true and funny! I’m only in my second year teaching art after teaching a myriad of other subjects, and already I know how true these are!

  • Ron Chironna Teaching Artist

    Oh, we’ve all developed the ability to see what each student tells us their piece of art is even though it looks nothing like what the student says it is!

  • Claudia Louise

    I’ve developed the ability to see and know what everyone is doing or not doing even when I am not looking!

  • This is such a great article! Every single one of those traits apply to me! I have also developed the ability to draw with both hands, draw upside down and make anything in the trash can from anywhere in the room…. mainly because I am to lazy to get up!

  • H Steege

    I laughed out loud reading this list – every last one rang so true! I’m also the keeper of useful tools (needle nose pliers to get broken keys out of locks, leather punches for ill fitting belts, screwdrivers, hammers, tweezers…), the fixer of broken jewelry and purses, sign maker, seamstress (unraveling sweater? lost drawstring? split seam? they know who can fix it!), awards banquet tchotchke maker (15 hand lettered footballs by Friday? No problem), and because I work in an alternative ed program, dispenser of snacks for when breakfast or lunch weren’t quite enough, holder of “supplies” that high school girls often find themselves reluctant to ask the nurse for, provider of spare clothes, and office supply hoarder. After nearly 20 years, there’s not a lot I either don’t have or can’t rig up a substitute for. We’re a rare breed, we art folks!

  • Brooke

    This is my 3rd year in art, but 17th in elementary ed. So, I’ve always fixed shoes, jewelry, purses, sewn clothes, done first aid, pulled loose teeth, and had “the teacher bladder”. But my new art-acquired skills include the smell test, the cleaning business, making costumes, painting stage sets, and…wait for it…rehydrating ANYTHING!

  • bevkro

    Well, the “fix-it” thing. I have the “it’s broken–can you fix it,” under control, and I know by sight exactly what color (hue) of paint that an artist, student or not, used in an artwork–even the hues that were mixed. I have become an expert at color mixing and matching. Plus, I have this cabinet–there is so much stuff in it–like a Mary Poppins travel bag! Oh, and I can name, and kind of quickly, almost any work of art–see, I am humble about it, I did say almost.

  • Unamoss

    My students think I’m a ninja and that I can see through walls. Actually I’m waitinnfor Dtawins Theory of Evolution to make it to my room so I can sprout 2 extra pairs of hands and a set of eyes behind my head.

  • BClaire

    Mr. Claire can you: sew my button back on? glue the sole of my boot back together? give me a spare guitar string? glue the unicorn back on my pencil? glue my glasses back together? (no – no one can) fix the missing screw in my glasses? duct tape my shoe? find me a wine cork? (side related fifth grader question: don’t you have like a bottle of wine in the teachers’ lounge?)

  • Charlotte

    I’ve learned how to unclog the wall pencil sharpener with an unfolded paper clip. It’s tedious, but I’m tenacious with this problem. Also I’ve learned when sharpening a LOT of colored pencils, interspersing a graphite pencil every now and then cleans the blades off. I’m sure I have tons of other weird skills (including the original list!), but can’t think of them now. This is my 19th year of teaching. The last 5 1/2 yrs on a cart. So a lot of my skills that I had in my classroom are on hold. One more year of public school, then I want to set up a studio in my home and teach Art the way it’s supposed to be taught. Plenty of time and room to think and do what needs to be done.

  • Heidi Roberts

    My college art ed professor always said that a great art teacher can write their plan on the side of their coffee cup while doing morning hall duty. (Late Charlie Steele)

  • TRICIA EVERS

    Not only am I a pro at de-clogging a glue bottle, I’ve developed vocabulary for each step. 1. Uncap the glue bottle with scissors. 2. Find the glue “booger” and pick it out. 3. Recap the bottle and make sure the “blow- hole” is operational.

  • Erica Bordonaro

    I loved this article! I thought of one other super power, my ability to decipher any kindergartner’s names when passing back their artwork. Don’t you just love how they spell and form letters!