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When Things Are Tough, Your Attitude Is Everything

Art Education and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Your attitude about your day, your students, your staff, and your to-do list completely dictates how you feel about your life day-to-day. The stacks of artwork to display are taunting you. You may or may not be able to have access to your students. Your 3rd graders are coming to art in four minutes, and you don’t even know what you are doing with them. Your car desperately needs an oil change, and the shop is only open during school hours.

Breathe. How does your attitude about all these things, and everything else, affect you?

A previous principal of mine ended every morning announcement with this sign-off. “Make it a great day…or not. The choice is yours.” While this might feel obvious, it is entirely true. How you react to the events of your day will inevitably make you feel a certain way. We can’t deny our human feelings and emotions, but what we can constantly work on is our attitude and reaction to what we can control.

Chalkboard with quote

Let’s start by asking a few deep questions:

  • How do you react to things that are out of your control?
  • How do you want to be remembered? What will your legacy as an educator and a human be?
  • How do you define your day-to-day attitude?
  • Does your attitude affect your relationships? Positively or negatively?

Phew, that can be a little heavy to think about. But let’s take a step back and really think about why we are asking these questions. As art teachers, so much of our day is about giving. Giving time, ideas, lessons, energy, and love for our students. But in that whirlwind of giving, we often slide through our day without truly thinking about our attitude.

Class mantra

When it comes to art, the reality of the situation is that your students will probably not grow up to become professional artists. They will, however, continue to grow and use the skills that we have exposed them to in our art classes. Many of those lifelong skills are about how to manage their emotions, how to solve problems, and how to interact with other people. Just as these skills are important to our students, they are equally important to us being mentally healthy individuals.

Find more ways to develop your positive attitude as a professional art educator with PRO Learning.

So, how can you remind yourself and your students to continue practicing their best attitude? Show them! Surround your classroom with reminders about best attitude practices with a few of these simple ideas.

1. Classroom Mantra

image of classroom
Try reciting an art room mantra with your students at the beginning of art class. This is something that can also be done remotely! It is a great routine to focus your students and yourself to be ready for art. Be sure to scan the room and look at your students when you recite the mantra together. That quick scan can help you get a feel of the attitude of students. You may notice a few individuals you need to check in on during work time.

If you’d like to create your own art room mantra, check out this article about the benefits of using an art room mantra or listen to this Art Ed Radio Podcast Episode about Mantras, Murals, and Motivation. 

Learning remotely with students? It is the perfect time to create a distance classroom mantra!

2. Motivation Board


Looking to motivate your students with the right attitude? Try creating a motivation board that showcases a new inspirational quote each week. When our students come to art class, we start with a consistent routine. First, we recite our art room mantra, then a student reads the motivation board quote to the class, and we discuss what it means. This act of discussing and taking a moment to really think about a new inspirational quote gets us thinking about strengthening our individual character traits.

Want to make one online? Try using Canva. A step-by-step tutorial can be found here.

3. Inspirational Posters


Start collecting and displaying inspirational posters that encourage yourself and students to be the very best version of themselves. These posters are especially fun if they are designed by an artist, such as the beautiful THINK poster designed by illustrator Emily BalsleyCheck out her beautiful Instagram feed here. 

When it comes down to it, your attitude has so much to do with noticing what you can and can’t control. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not easy. It takes constant practice to separate yourself from the things that are out of your control. But, with practice, you can learn to notice how your perception of control affects your attitude.

Not in your classroom? Send posters and quotes directly to your students on your LMS.

Concerning control and choice, consider this quote from Epictetus in “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman.

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…” (Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4-5)


Inspirational letterpress print by @leadfeatherpress.

By intentionally focusing on your attitude, you can live a healthier life. Pay attention to how you react to things inside and outside your control. Keep practicing. Don’t give up on yourself and your students when it comes to being your best. Your attitude really is everything.

How do you boost your attitude on a bad day?
What do you feel is the biggest struggle managing your attitude? The biggest success?
What techniques do you use to teach students about having a great attitude?

Sarah Krajewski is an elementary art educator in Wisconsin. Her teaching philosophy is mirrored in her classroom mantra: "I am positive. I am creative. I am mindful. I am amazing. I am an artist.”

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