Professional Learning

How to Find Success With Balancing an AOEU Degree and Life

AOEU graduate sign

Going back to school for a master’s degree is a big step when it comes to professional growth. As an art teacher, you may be drawn to professional development that challenges you academically and feeds your creative spirit. Balancing a graduate program, teaching full-time, and family life can be demanding, but you can find success. Choosing a program that works with your lifestyle is important. If you have considered applying to AOEU’s Master’s program and wonder how to make it all work, I’m here to tell you it’s possible.

AOEU alumni shirt

The Art of Education University recently celebrated a milestone: Over 1,000 art teachers enrolled in the Master’s Program! Are you ready to be part of the next milestone?

As a university “designed for art teachers, by art teachers,” AOEU has become a fast-growing online university, appealing to art educators worldwide. Our master’s program was created to support art teachers at any point in their careers while maintaining a manageable work-life balance. Whether you are a first-year art teacher or a seasoned pro, choosing AOEU can provide flexibility for you to reach your professional goals and still enjoy the simple pleasures of life. If you have considered AOEU’s master’s degree and are wondering how it can all come together, I’m here to share how I did it and inspire your journey ahead.

When AOE achieved accreditation and university status to become AOEU, I prepared my application ASAP. My journey with AOEU began in 2014, and I found myself hungry for growth in a way I had never felt before as an art teacher. It made sense to raise the bar for myself. As a parent of young ones and a full-time art teacher with a busy lifestyle, there were key features AOEU offered that solidified my decision to pursue the Master’s degree and achieve my goals.

Take a look at the top two key features that led me to AOEU’s Master of Arts in Art Education:

  1. Support
    Since my first course with AOEU years ago, I have been drawn to the supportive community of art teachers. I knew going into every course to expect a group of educators, advisors, and faculty who wanted to grow professionally and contribute to the learning of others. I always felt challenged, supported, and virtually surrounded by other art teachers who lifted me up to reach my potential.
  2. Flexibility
    The flexibility AOEU provided me allowed a healthy work-life balance. The degree timeline gave me options to select courses when I had time in my schedule. I was able to make progress on my coursework when it suited me and still meet deadlines. Beyond the core courses, I could select classes most relevant to my professional needs and apply my learning immediately.

Investing in a graduate degree program is a big decision to make. If you want to explore the program more, head over to AOEU’s Master’s Degree page, speak with an admissions counselor, or ask an AOEU graduate or student ambassador, like me, for guidance. Once you apply and are accepted, smile and roll up your sleeves because you are going to rock this next chapter of your life.

AOEU graduate sign

Here are eight ways to find balance in your life as an AOEU student:

1. Believe in yourself.

When you set out to achieve any goal, the first thing you must do is believe in yourself. Taking on a Master’s degree will be challenging and demanding. Setting your mind to reach goals and celebrate your achievements will help you maintain focus and make it to the finish line.

2. Schedule your school time.

Days before your classes begin, you will receive access to the course content, learn about your instructor, and have a chance to look through upcoming assignments. Consider your schedules: daily, weekly, and monthly. Think about when you have quiet, focused time to read text, watch instructional videos, and respond to assignments. Can you wake up an hour early each day? Would a dedicated weekend day work best? Can you sneak in some peer responses over your lunch break? Could you stay up late and work after your family goes to bed? Scheduling blocks of time on your calendar will ensure you have time set aside for schoolwork and success.

3. Choose courses to help you grow personally and professionally.

One of my favorite experiences in some of the AOEU graduate courses was how I evolved personally and professionally. As I learned more about creative strategies in Art Therapy for Art Teachers, I found a therapeutic outlet in one of the ongoing projects. Not only was I able to process and grow on a personal level, but I also gained powerful strategies and tools to foster social-emotional well-being in my art room.

AOEU pendant and diploma

4. Chunk your assignments.

Chunking learning and assignments will help you manage your time and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Luckily, the structure of AOEU graduate courses provides a manageable timeline to engage in learning and respond to assignments. Chunking breaks information in your assignments into manageable bits. Larger assignments, such as writing papers, creating artwork, or making action plans, can be broken down instead of taking on the entire assignment at once. This will also give you time to engage with the content, process your ideas, and take action.

5. Make a to-do list and follow it.

Art teachers are naturally visual learners. Making a to-do list with assignments, deadlines, and other tasks can help you stay organized and on top of everything between school, schoolwork, and home. You can even create your own to satisfy your artistic side and design it to fit your style.

6. Learn from anywhere.

Choosing AOEU’s master’s program gives you the freedom to learn anywhere, any time. With this in mind, there’s no travel time to and from campus. You can do your schoolwork on your schedule, making it easier for you to spend time prioritizing your needs.

7. Create studio work alongside others.

If you decide to take a studio course, plan time to create alongside your students or family. It feels good to create as art teachers. If you have an opportunity to experiment with new hand-building techniques or try out a material you have never explored, consider sitting with your students as they make their own art during class or art club. Modeling your artist-self gives your students a sneak peek into your passions, and they will love seeing the art too! Another option is setting aside a Saturday afternoon with your family just to make art. Creating with others allows you to feed your creativity while completing your assignments at the same time.

8. Ask for help.

Part of feeling balanced between the art room and your own schoolwork includes giving yourself permission to ask for help when you need it. Anticipating a busy week ahead or considering changes in your normal schedule can allow you to make adjustments for success. Think about your support system and how tapping into it can help you tackle big assignments or meet deadlines.

Can you leave the dishes unwashed in the sink for one more night? Would your babysitter or daycare be able to keep your children an extra hour a couple of days a week? Could your partner do the grocery shopping so can you write peer responses? Sometimes, you have to give yourself permission to ask for help or delegate normal responsibilities to others. Other times, you may need to give yourself grace and let some of the smaller things go to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

AOEU graduation cap and tassel

AOEU created a Master’s degree with the life of an art teacher in mind. Knowing your desire to engage in the most relevant learning to your profession at an affordable price and flexible pace, AOEU sets art teachers up for success from the start of the program. It may be time to reach out to an Admissions  Counselor to learn more about AOEU’s offerings and how working with like-minded art educators can help you become the best art teacher you can be!

Have you ever considered applying to AOEU’s graduate program?

What questions do you still have about balancing schoolwork and life as an AOEU student?

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.


Jessica Madenford

Jess Madenford, an art educator and department leader, is a former AOEU Writer. She believes in the magic of personal and professional development and coaches others to rise to their potential.

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