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We’ve all experienced a challenging few months. Not many among us can say they haven’t endured higher levels of stress, worry, and grief this year than ever before. As we near the end of 2020, it’s important to be there for those who need our support most, ourselves included.
While we have experienced unique frustrations as teachers, it’s important to empathize. Others have lost their jobs, their businesses, and their loved ones as a result of COVID-19. Each of us is worn down and vulnerable. We may not be able to fix the pain others are experiencing, but we can do our best to uplift and support one another.
Our number one priority is to put our students first. We’ve faced the challenge of creating a new kind of art experience for them this year. Now, we are sending them home and logging off screens for winter break. Some of our students really enjoyed school’s routine and interactions, whether it was in-person or remote. Be sure to offer students care and support in your classes leading up to break.
Take time to ask them about their plans, what their favorite song is right now, or if they have any family traditions they’d like to share, etc. Your students’ last interactions with you and their classmates don’t have to be all curriculum-based. You’ve developed a classroom community, be sure to show them you care as you wrap up the semester.
We’ve seen our school colleagues rise to the occasion of teaching this year. We’ve collaborated and brainstormed with them on how to meet the needs of our students best. You may have overheard or seen firsthand the stress your colleagues have endured. While our content areas and job titles may differ, we can support one another in ways both big and small.
Send your colleague a gift card for coffee. Ask them how they’re doing and what they’re struggling with as the semester comes to an end. You may have a solution for them! If not, listening can be just as beneficial. Few people outside of education can empathize and relate to the unique challenges we’ve faced this year. As an art teacher, you may have a slightly different perspective from your colleagues but share some common experiences. We all need to be comfortable enough to share the highs and lows of teaching.
Artists have also been hit hard this year due to COVID-19. Many working artists rely on festivals, exhibitions, and public showings to sell their work. With so many events canceling this year, artists have missed opportunities to generate income. Several artists have resorted to selling work online, creating merchandise, and promoting it through social media.
Look to your favorite artists, your local artists and artisans, and your friends who create art. Consider supporting them by purchasing some of their work. If their artwork is out of your budget at the moment, share their website or photos of their work and recommend them to your friends. Whether you have a small social network or a large following, word-of-mouth can be the best kind of advertising. Support artists in any way you can.
As we know, being an art teacher can be an isolating profession. Often we are the only art teacher in our building. Some of us may be the only art education professional in the district. Instead, we seek ideas and feedback from a larger art education community through state and national organizations, online forums, and professional magazines, like AOEU.
We can support one another by sharing our success with others online. Many of us already know the benefits of sharing student artwork, lesson ideas, and teaching strategies. At the same time, others choose to browse and collect ideas to try in our classrooms passively. Each of us has great ideas we can share. In this time of remote learning, we could use all the help we can get. We’re all stumbling around trying to create the best experience possible for students. There’s no playbook or precedent on making remote or hybrid learning successful in the art room.
Each of us has had at least one project or strategy go well this year. If we all shared one success story, we could help each other build up a tool kit of great projects and ideas.
This year has required a lot from teachers. You may have put in extra hours or been distracted by work concerns over the past few months. As the semester comes to an end, give your friends and family the gift of your time and attention.
We’ve been through a lot of changes in our personal and professional lives. Try your best to step away from emails and lesson plans, and check on those around you. Investing in your family and personal relationships will benefit everyone. They may be struggling in ways you haven’t noticed while you’ve been dealing with your own challenges.
Sincerely ask your loved ones how they’re doing. Ask in what ways you can help them. Suggest a COVID-safe activity or time to talk. Sometimes we need a vent session. Other times we want some escapism. Both can make a big impact on how we feel the next day. Turn off your teacher brain while away from school this winter break, and turn up your friend/partner/parent brain to support and uplift one another.
We’re all doing our best this year to keep our heads above water. We’ve done a pretty good job navigating teaching in 2020. However, as the year comes to a close, it’s time to turn our attention outward and think of ways to support others.
We are very fortunate to have jobs that we love. We’re lucky to have jobs, period, compared to the many who have lost their job as a result of COVID-19. We should take our good fortune, luck, and blessings and try to support others in need. There are so many who could use the support right now, both near and far.
Whether you’re able to show your support financially or with your time and/or talents, we all are capable of making someone’s day a little brighter. Here’s to a more empathetic and supportive 2021.
How are you supporting others in your community?
What’s one simple thing someone has done for you that made a world of difference?
What are your favorite small businesses that need our support this year?
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.