Professional Practice

10 Too True Must-Haves for Every Art Teacher’s Desk

bob ross items

There is a long-standing debate about the merits of having a messy desk. Whether you prefer a neat and tidy workspace or one with a bit more clutter, here are ten things that set our desks apart from the rest.

mug and sculpture

1. One cold mug of tea or coffee.

Of course, you haven’t had any of it because you are doing twelve different things at once. You may have even forgotten you made it, but it’s still there!

2. At least three mugs full of things that are not beverages.

We can’t help that someone long ago decided that mugs were the exemplar teacher gift. However, art teachers are never one to waste anything, these mugs get repurposed into whatever we need at the moment! Plus, who needs conventional desk organizers anyway?

3. A sculpture that borders cute and creepy.

Whether this is a sculpture left behind by a student or one of the teacher’s own creations, there is always something on an art teacher’s desk that walks the line between cute and creepy. Chances are, this sculpture has its own name and is a vital part of the classroom culture. It is beloved by art students and feared by colleagues.

4. At least three half-finished project demos.

Unlike core subject teachers who teach one or two different things, we cover three, four, sometimes seven different levels or preps in a day. There is not enough time in the world to completely finish every project demo before you present them. Plus, there is a definite benefit to working alongside your students!

5. At least one tribute to Bob Ross.

While you may have purchased this, it is more likely a gift from a student. And you probably have three of them already. Whether you love or hate Bob Ross, his calm voice and infectious demeanor have become synonymous with the art room.

bob ross items

6. A mailbox full of letters from students, both current and former.

Even the most joyful teacher has a tough day once in a while. To combat them, store notes from students in an easy-to-reach place. This way, they are always close by. Whether you need to read one to get a quick motivation boost, or you need to read ten to get you through your whole day, you’ll know where to find them.

mailbox of letters

7. A collection of action figures and toys.

These may have been sourced from a local Buy Nothing group but are more likely from your personal collection. You never know when you will need to beef up your still-life setups! Art teachers know that toys and action figures are the perfect way to raise student engagement with what some may consider a more mundane exercise.

action figures on shelf

If you are looking to expand your still-life lessons, check out the Basic Still Life Collection in FLEX Curriculum.

8. Artwork from friends and family.

Art teachers know life exists outside the classroom for both students and teachers. A simple way to bring your personal life into your workspace without sharing family photos is by bringing art into the room. Whether it’s a beautiful print from a talented friend or your four-year-old’s doodle, it will bring you joy and entice questions from students.

9. A visual that shows everyone is welcome.

The art room should be a safe place for all students. Art teachers understand the power of visuals in conveying this message. This visual might be an LGBTQIA+ pride flag in a mug, a We The Future poster from Amplifier Art, or something else. Art teachers make sure all students and staff know the art room is a safe and celebratory place for all.

posters and flags on a wall

Are you looking for some printables for your room? The National Education Association has some free ones here.

10. No teacher in sight.

Art teachers are constantly on the move. We fly from table to table, hearing students’ stories and helping execute masterpieces. This means that, no matter how carefully curated, we are rarely at our own desks if there are students in the room!

Art teacher desks are as unique as art teachers themselves. It’s important to celebrate our differences as well as what brings us together. Take a couple of minutes to look at your designated workspace and consider what it tells your students about you.

What is one thing on your desk that makes it your space?

How do you store letters or tokens of appreciation from students?

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.


Jennie Drummond

Jennie Drummond, a high school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She loves facilitating an environment where students collaborate, help one another succeed, and celebrate diversity, individuality, and community.

More from Jennie