If there’s one thing we’ve learned from 2020, it’s to expect the unexpected. Most of us never envisioned early school shutdowns or teaching our students online for longer than desired. Frankly, 2020 has been exhausting for teachers. We’ve lived in a constant cycle of “what ifs” and inconvenient changes of the unknown. We’ve been asked to teach online, in-person, while swimming, jumping, juggling, and walking through a ring of fire all at the same time. Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I think we can all agree that what we’ve been asked to do is not what we signed up for.
Art educators have been through collective trauma. With so little in our control some of us are left wondering if we’ll ever find joy in teaching again. While we still get to teach art to our students, this year isn’t the same. We long for the normalcy we once knew. You might even find yourself asking, “Will teaching art ever feel ‘normal’ again?”
I don’t know the answer to this, but I am willing to reminisce about some of our favorite art room pastimes. Not being in the art room in our “normal” ways has us reflecting on a few of those mundane art room tasks and chores we’d never thought we’d miss.
1. Our Physical Art Rooms
While some of us get to be in our classrooms, many art teachers have been uprooted this year. Teaching art on a cart or from home doesn’t have the same feeling as being in the art room. Art teachers work to create a homey and inviting environment for students. Even if you are teaching remotely from your classroom, it just isn’t the same without students. We long to see our busy students creatively at work in our classrooms again. After all, they are the best part of the art room!
2. Unclogging Glue Bottles
Unclogging glue bottles always seems like such a chore. Chances are, you probably have a special unclogging tool (maybe even a fancy paper clip) you use to poke through the dried glue. No matter what hack or trick you’ve tried, nothing really seems to last. Now that some of us have been away from the classroom with students, those glue bottles are sitting untouched and clog-free; how we dream of students using them again!
3. Sinks Full of Dirty Brushes
Picture this, you’re getting ready to leave your classroom for the day, your bags are in tow, and you are ready to go home. You take a quick glance over at your sink to realize there is still a sink full of dirty brushes. Even though your students are supposed to clean them out, they forgot, and now you’re left to do it because we’re not about to ruin any more brushes! Sound familiar? Many of us long for this scene again. If our sinks are filled with dirty brushes, that must mean some amazing, magical artmaking is happening!
4. Emptying the Drying Rack
No matter how you label or tell your students how to load the drying rack, it always seems to be a little wonky. One of your routines might be emptying the drying rack, something some of us haven’t gotten to do in a while. When we get to do it, there’s something magical about seeing every student’s artwork and noticing some of the details you may have missed before.
5. Cutting Paper
Has anyone ever counted how many pieces of paper they cut a year? It has to be thousands! Using the paper cutter can seem like a mundane task. And, there’s nothing worse than grabbing a too thick stack of paper only to cut it unevenly. Most of us would do this tedious task in a minute if it meant students were back in our classrooms!
6. Being on Our Feet All Day
Did you ever think you’d find yourself wishing you weren’t sitting down? Art teachers are no stranger to being on their feet all day. We often long for even a few minutes to sit down at a table with a student. Now, we find ourselves getting tired of sitting. Our necks and eyes hurt as we sit behind our computer screens. Someday soon, we hope to trade our blue light blockers for another comfy pair of shoes.
This wistful list of bygone art room memories could certainly go on. Many of us are looking forward to the day where we can teach again. 2020 will be a school year we never forget. In several years, we’ll probably find ourselves commiserating as we remember it. If there’s one thing it can teach us, it might be to not take those rather tedious and mundane tasks for granted, as there’s a bit of magic in each one.
What else would you add to this list?
What’s one thing you never thought you’d miss, but you do?
What have you learned from 2020?
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.