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We all love our jobs. After all, being an art teacher is the best job ever. Aside from all the rainbows, glitter, moving artworks, and fun art supplies, several things happen on a recurring basis. These things may make us roll our eyes or want to pull our hair out and scream! Instead of letting these things get to us, let’s try looking at them in a new light. So, in honor of Groundhog Day, let’s laugh at ourselves and embrace the daily parts of our jobs that aren’t as glamorous with open arms… that are probably covered with paint or clay.
Did you ever imagine your job as an art teacher would be washing endless paintbrushes and palettes globbed in paint, only to go home at the end of the day to wash endless dishes in your kitchen? I sure didn’t!
Here are five hacks to help streamline some of your paint “dishwashing:”
If I was walking along and felt something smush under my foot, I would pause and see what I stepped on. Just me? Apparently so, because students love to drop oil pastels and then walk on them… and leave them there. Or how about those paint spills that turn your classroom into a map of footprints?
Pro tip: Try using a metal clay rib to pry all the oil pastel off the floor in one fell swoop!
From other teachers to students (who may or not have ever had you as a teacher), come variations of the following two pleas:
And no, my 90# drawing paper is not the same as poster board, so don’t ask.
You can be very nice when you turn down these requests. If given enough time, you can also help others make the posters so they can learn how. After all, we truly do want to encourage and equip everyone to make art and be creative!
Along the same lines, we get tons of requests to help with displays, decorations, and signage for school events. Unfortunately, they usually assume that we aren’t busy and that we have all the time in the world to accommodate requests at the eleventh hour.
Pro Tip: It’s a great practice to establish your availability at the beginning of the school year. Send out an email or make an announcement at the first staff meeting. Share that you are more than happy to assist with decor for events; however, you will need X amount of notice, details on expectations, and the budget before making an informed decision.
Those pesky little orange cones are constantly getting clogged. From needles and unwound paper clips to disassembling and soaking them in hot water, we have become experts at this mundane ritual.
Pro Tip: And while we are on the topic of glue, how about all those missing glue stick caps? Stash some caps when a glue stick is spent so you have extra when some go mysteriously missing later.
Speaking of clogs, how about when those paint bottle pumps get backed up? Students pump and pump, and nothing comes out, and then—SPLAT! All of a sudden, a stream of paint shoots across the room.
And then refer back to #2 for all the students who track paint footprints across your floor.
Pro Tip: Avoid the pumps entirely and give plastic squeeze bottles a try for students to distribute their own paint.
While I love the mantra of “no name, no grade,” it doesn’t solve the problem of all the unnamed artwork that accumulates. Some may not have a name written on them or written clearly enough to decipher. Regardless, this pile seems to get shuffled from spot to spot on your desk or around your room until you finally toss it. Of course, only when your trash has been collected and those unnamed artworks are in the dumpster do you have a parent or student come looking for their artwork.
Check out these two reads to get some fun ideas to combat no name artworks:
Don’t get me wrong—I love a good graffiti unit. We just don’t love graffiti when it’s on our expensive art tables!
This has to be the one art supply I need to give detailed and specific instructions for every single time we use them. Even then, there are plastic rulers snapped in half that need to be tossed and aluminum rulers that need to be bent back into a straight line.
Oh yeah—and we can’t forget the constant question of, “Are we using inches or centimeters?”
Off the floor, under desks, or dropped in the hallway. There are so many pencils on the ground, yet students keep announcing, “I don’t have a pencil. Can I ‘borrow’ one today?”
Pro Tip: To ensure your pencils don’t get “permanently borrowed,” check out this hack.
I’m not good at art. I can’t draw a stick figure. I can’t draw a straight line! I don’t have a creative bone in my body. Art isn’t my “thing.” We have all heard some variation of these statements from students, parents, coworkers, and even family and friends! We also know that these are not true statements.
To equip you in your next conversation, check out these resources on advocating for the arts and creativity:
There are so many interruptions in our day as it is; adding PA announcements and irrelevant PD always seems to push us overboard. From all art teachers everywhere, please make it an email and let us prep our million supplies!
While we do appreciate donations of supplies and materials, we do not want your random stuff from your weekend house purge dumped outside our door or shoved inside our mailbox.
While these tips won’t get rid of all the unwanted donations, they can help:
How many times a week do you get a student asking:
The answer? Yes, of course, we have glue. But will it fix your item? Are you going to wait for the glue gun to heat up? Are you going to sit here and hold it together until the glue sets? Also, do you have a pass to be here or the bathroom? Hm…
Both students and teachers alike love to stop by our rooms to ask for art supplies to “borrow.” “Can I just borrow some clay?”
When it comes to tracking your supplies, check out these tips:
Does anyone else have a recurring visit from the “Clay Ghost?” No matter how many times you wash your tables or supplies after a clay lesson or unit, the clay haze just keeps reappearing.
P.S. How many art teachers out there have clay permanently smashed into their wedding rings?
We love questions! Questions are good and indicative of curiosity and a willingness to learn. But then there are the repetitive questions you hear a million times a day, sometimes from the same student:
Pro Tip: Read this article for three strategies to cut down on redundant student questions.
There is nothing like walking in the door of your home after a long (but fun!) day in the art room, only to discover that you have a giant smear of green paint across your cheek. How long have you gone with [insert art supply here] on your face/shirt/hair without anyone telling you?
At the end of the day, no matter what ridiculousness we face, we still love our jobs! After virtual teaching, it can feel good to be back in the classroom doing these mundane tasks again. We choose to relive these recurring experiences over and over because we are passionate about art and care about our students.
What would you add to this list?
What makes it worth it to be an art teacher?
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.