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8 Words of Wisdom From a Traveling Art Teacher

Traveling between schools can be quite an adventure for any art teacher. Many art teachers are assigned to multiple schools and have settled into a groove. Others may be new to it and wondering how to make all of it work and keep their wits about them. It’s okay to have lots of questions and even feel nervous when stepping into the role of a traveling art teacher. To take the pressure off, we have compiled some helpful tips to confidently prepare you and ensure a successful start to your traveling gig.

Here are eight words of wisdom from a traveling art teacher.

pencils and toy car

After spending most of my career in one art room and building, I decided it was time to change. Two years ago, I transferred from the comfort of my secondary art room back to the elementary level, where I first began my career. With excitement running through my body, I accepted a position teaching kindergarten through sixth grade, cycling through three different buildings in my school district. With my near-veteran teaching experience, knowing I had some major adjustments ahead of me brought a naive sense of “I’ve got this!” Envisioning my future as a traveling elementary art teacher and living it firsthand was entirely different. Luckily, I learned several valuable lessons to help you streamline the responsibilities you will face when you travel between schools.

1. Assemble emergency kits for each school.

You may be thinking, “Emergency kits? The nurse provides that!” That’s not what I’m suggesting here. This emergency kit includes the essentials you need to survive the day. As such, everyone’s must-have items are different. Having them on hand in your art room gives you quick access when needed.

Here are some items you may consider including in your emergency kit:

emergency kit

2. Learn names quickly.

Learning your students’ names is always a given, but it can become a challenge when you are learning hundreds of names of artists and colleagues. This was one of the most difficult tasks I had when going from a school where I saw 160 students throughout the year to one where I saw 650+ students in one week. We know how important knowing names is to your students when cultivating rapport and strong classroom management.

If you are looking for resources about learning names, check these three out:

  1. Using Everyone’s Favorite Word (Ep. 159)
  2. Building Positive Relationships PRO Pack
  3. The Perfect Game to Learn Your Students’ Names

3. Leverage the power of one.

If teaching art during a pandemic taught us anything, it was to streamline content with technology. With access to digital learning platforms, you can easily create and present your lessons by simply logging in to one platform. While converting traditional lessons and materials into digital versions takes time up front, it can save you precious minutes when preparing for multiple locations.

4. Find your BTF (Best-Teacher-Friend).

When traveling from school to school, you may feel out of place or disconnected from your colleagues. While in school, you spend most of your time in your art room covering duties, prepping materials, and hanging art in the halls. Building relationships with your colleagues is just as important as the ones you nurture with your students. It might be tricky to find time to have real conversations with other teachers during your day, so try connecting with one teacher to whom you can relate and check up on when you feel out of the loop. Save their cell number in your contacts to send them a quick text when you need to touch base about something coming up at school.

5. It’s okay to say “no.”

Have you ever had the word “no” on the tip of your tongue, but it just wouldn’t pass through your lips? Art teachers are constantly asked to make posters, decorate the hallways, hand over supplies, or help with special events. When this happens at multiple schools, it can drain your time and energy faster than normal. If you find yourself always saying “yes” to others and pushing your responsibilities aside, you may wind up exhausted. Set boundaries around your time. It will give you a reason to say, No, but thank you for asking,” and it can empower you to recognize when you should take a step back from your busy schedule and put your needs first.

collage

6. Always have cash on hand.

As the school year begins, you may donate to sunshine clubs or flower funds. As a traveling art teacher, that means multiple donations. Other things can pop up during the year, requiring you to dip into your wallet too. Fundraisers, supporting a family in need, retirement gifts, and chipping in for principal appreciation are some reasons you may want to have cash on hand.

7. Pack your room keys first.

How often have you gotten somewhere only to discover you are missing something important? I remember realizing I had forgotten to pack my school laptop and building keys after a day of doubling up art classes in the gym. I discovered this as I stood in front of my three schools the next day… 30 miles from the school where my things were. Traveling between multiple schools may force you to rethink many routines, including how you pack to go home.

Let’s look at some proactive systems you can have in place:

  • Keep a sticky note with your “must take home” list on your school bag.
  • Change the color of the paper every once in a while so it continues to catch your attention.
  • Mindfully pack your backpack daily, saying each item aloud as they go into your bag.
  • Create a checklist and check or cross off each item you pack or take care of before leaving school.

sculptures

8. Stash snacks.

Sometimes, an art teacher’s schedule feels like running a marathon. You may have back-to-back classes with little time in between (or none at all) to refuel your body when it needs it. Consider having some healthy snacks stashed in your school bag or desk so you can nibble and tame those embarrassing belly growls between meals. Granola bars, fruit, nuts, or pretzels can be options when you need something quick and easy for snacking.

It is always good to plan ahead when mapping out how to travel between schools. Consider the number of schools, your to-do lists, and the tips above. This will help you work smarter and manage your time and energy so you can find success. When you show up prepared, you too can find your groove as a traveling art teacher.

What tips do you have for an art teacher just starting out between multiple schools?

How do you manage your time and energy at more than one school?

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.

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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