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What Art Teachers Have Learned from Teaching in 2020

If you could choose one word to describe 2020, what would it be? From chaotic to stressful, there are several ways to characterize teaching in the 2020-2021 school year. Many teachers have had trying years, but you may have found a few things that aren’t so bad. As educators, our hope is for our leadership to see some of this positivity and enact future change.

Even though many of us are happily waving goodbye to 2020, most of us have learned a few things along the way. Whether our experiences are positive or negative, educators have been forced to grow.

It’s been hard and will continue to be, but let’s reflect on 7 of the not-so-bad things about this school year.

1. Virtual Meetings Aren’t the Worst

No one likes being interrupted mid-task to have to go to a staff meeting. Virtual staff meetings have allowed us more flexibility. Are you guilty of joining the staff meeting (while, of course, still participating) and proceeding to work on other things? It’s okay; we’ve all done it! The switch to virtual meetings has actually saved us time. We can attend from anywhere, and in turn, they are usually a lot shorter.

You may have experienced some of the same feelings with parent-teacher conferences this year. Having the virtual experience allowed you to meet with more families or use your time more efficiently planning for your classroom. Would you vote to continue online meetings or conferences in the future?

2. Abundance of Cleaning Supplies

The woman brushing the stain from the paint. Clean up, wash. A mess. A gloved hand wipes the stain from the paints.The woman does the cleaning. Clean, house, housekeeper, cleanup and housework.

The art room is no stranger to cleaning supplies. From wipes to rags and sprays, these were all essential items in the art room well before this year. However, more often than not, art teachers were the ones supplying these items as there never seemed to be enough. Well, this year has certainly changed that! Constantly having clean rags and abundant cleaning supplies is a gift. Art teachers were doing a high level of cleaning before the pandemic, so the increased access to cleaning materials might even feel like a luxury.

3. Simple is Okay

Even among art teachers, it’s easy to play the comparison game. We see what other art educators are doing and might get envious of what they are able to do. This school year, every teacher’s situation has been different. From the access of supplies to the style of learning models, all of these factors influence how we teach. One thing educators have been reminded of is that simplicity is key. It’s okay to dial it back. Sure, there might be some disappointment on our end, knowing what we could have been doing. While the allure of extravagantly planned art lessons might seem appealing, know that keeping it simple is just fine.

4. Smaller Classes Are a Gift

Because of the world’s current state, most schools have tried to reduce class sizes for in-person learning. This is a foreign concept to art teachers who usually already have their classrooms beyond capacity. We’re always willing to take students because we want to give them an amazing art room experience.

Empty Art Classroom In Elementary School With Chairs Stacked On Tables

Experiencing smaller class sizes this year has been eye-opening for many. The reduction of students in your classes at any given time has probably allowed you to connect with more of your students. When classrooms are filled with thirty to forty students, it isn’t easy to check in with every student in each class session. Smaller class sizes allow you to do so, to foster a strong classroom community.

5. Personal Art Supply Kits Are Great

This year teachers have been forced to reevaluate their classroom procedures and how we handled supplies. Unfortunately, for many, that meant no sharing of art supplies, which led many teachers to create individual art supply kits for their students. While doing so is certainly costly, you may have noticed some benefits of handling materials in this way.

art kit with various supplies

This method of sharing is more conducive to the secondary setting, where teachers see students daily. But, you’ve probably noticed that art supplies are lasting longer; you might even be surprised how many leftover supplies you will have for students to use next school year. Because students have their own materials, you might also notice an increased level of ownership and better care.

6. Modified Schedules Mean Time to Plan

Many school day schedules have gone through some modifications. Whether it’s shorter school days or a day of at-home learning each week to ensure extra cleaning time, you might find yourself with just a little bit of extra time to plan. In the educational setting, time is precious, and there never seems to be enough of it. The last thing we want to do is spend all day teaching, then all night planning. Some small schedule changes might allow for more planning time, which is a true gift teachers would like to keep!

7. Technology Can Be Your Friend

Whether you are for or against technology in the art room, you’ve probably used it far more than anticipated this school year. Maybe you always wanted to incorporate technology but couldn’t find the motivation. Or, you might have always loved technology and just didn’t have ample access for students. No matter the reason, you’ve probably learned a few new platforms you will be able to continue to use with students. Whether it’s collaborating in Padlet or Jamboard or checking for understanding in EdPuzzle, some of these tools will continue to benefit learning in the art room. Better yet, technology has allowed students who otherwise wouldn’t engage in expressing and sharing their thoughts to do so. So, wherever you land on the technology spectrum, there might be a few practices worth continuing.

While the 2020-2021 school year will be one we never forget, maybe there will be a few things we can take away from this year. It’s certainly had its ups and downs and just plain terrible moments, but there’s no doubt we’ve learned a lot. No matter how badly this year has gone or will continue to go, maybe we can look back and pick out a few positive changes worth keeping.

What’s one thing you’ve learned from teaching in 2020?
What’s one change you’d like to stick around?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors from across the nation and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University or any of its academic offerings.

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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