Being an art teacher is a little like being a unicorn—you are colorful, magical, and a bit mysterious. In the school schema, what you do and how you do it isn’t entirely clear. This is never more evident than when you encounter other people’s takes on being an art teacher.
It can be truly baffling to see how students, families, colleagues, and peers perceive you. You most definitely have had an interaction that left you rolling your eyes and lamenting that it’s like they don’t know your life at all. Though it may cause you headaches from time to time, at the end of the day, it’s pretty hilarious.
So forget about all that prep work you have yet to do, go heat up your meal for this leisurely, hour-long lunch break, and settle in for some laughs.
These “It’s Like They Know Us” scenarios can certainly only come from people who have no idea what it’s like to do what you do.
1. On Planning Your Lessons
Writing an art curriculum is a breeze. Pull a few projects from this blog here and from that social media site there. This ancient book of crafts has some fantastic material. And, presto! A comprehensive, rigorous art curriculum that covers all of the essential skills students need to be creative individuals and aligns with the National Core Arts Standards. Piece of cake.
2. On Getting to Know Your Students
Teacher, it says Annabelle, not Isabelle. A-N-N-A-B-E-L-L-E. How could you get me confused with Annabella, Isabella, or Anna Bell? Not to mention Isabel, Anabel, or Izzybelle in grades three, five, and seven. Silly, silly teacher.
3. On Cleaning Up After Creating
It’s not that hard if you make your expectations clear. Just say, “Listen up, elite squad of professional kindergarten deep cleaners! You are going to sweep up every speck of glitter in this art room while I sit here and enjoy my fresh coffee from this clean mug. I’m timing you, so chop, chop!”
4. On Directing Art Critiques
Your middle schoolers have such insightful, thought-provoking contributions to make to your art critiques. No one ever makes fun of anyone’s art, and you can tell everyone took the time to reflect on the questions you posed to prepare them for this activity. You hardly have to lift a finger to get the discussion rolling.
5. On Giving Technique Demonstrations
Thank you for gathering us around this demonstration table, which we will absolutely not touch or push each other into. You have free reign to show us the proper way to use a wood block to keep our hands safe while we are working with linoleum cutters. When you release us to work, we will heed your every instruction and dutifully never forget to follow each safety precaution you warned us about. None of us will end up with a bleeding finger in the nurse’s office ever again.
6. On Receiving Little Treasures
Oh, thank you, sweet child, for this shiny, colorful lump of an unidentifiable substance that I’m sure is not a mix of hardened chewing gum plucked from underneath your classroom desk! Why yes! It is so, so pretty. I will treasure it forever, and it will always have a place of honor in my art room.
7. On Your Art Teacher’s Wardrobe
Your refined artistic aura and superior aesthetic sensibilities must make it so hard to find outfits to wear to work every day. How sad that you have to resort to scouring thrift stores just to end up with other people’s last-season clothes. It really is too bad the rainbow doesn’t fit into your semi-professional dress code.
8. On Preparing for Art Shows
Art shows are such empowering experiences for students. They get to take ownership of presenting their work and develop confidence in their abilities as artists. Mounting, matting, framing, and labeling a thousand pieces of art for the half dozen parents that show up is quite a rewarding endeavor. Why don’t we do this every quarter?
9. On Collaborating With Projects
From: Your Friendly, Unartistic Colleague
Subject: NEED ART SKILLS NOW
We are in need of some backdrops for the Spring Musical. Thought this could be a great opportunity to showcase what our little budding Michaelengelos and Georgia O’Keeffes are capable of! Can you pause the meticulously planned unit you are in the middle of and insert some unstructured, loosely outlined time to work on this? By the way, the deadline is in three weeks. That should be enough time to get these unnecessarily complex props made and these ten hyperrealistic scenes painted. Looking forward to what you come up with!
10. On Attending Professional Development
Ah, time for another meaningful, thought-provoking professional development chock full of relevant tips and tricks tailored to your art teacher lifestyle. Those piles of unsorted artwork, stacks of paper to prep for tomorrow morning, and paint trays to refill will have to wait. What could be more meaningful than this?
Do any of these sound familiar? The moment you signed up to be an art teacher was the moment you signed up to spend the rest of your life having these conversations, out loud or in your head. Now that lunch is over, and you have had your laugh, keep being the magical educator you set out to be. Whether everyone around you gets it or not, you can count on your art teacher community here at AOEU to see you for the glorious unicorn you are!
What parts of your art teacher lifestyle are most misunderstood?
How do you embrace your art teacher stereotypes?
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.