Being an art teacher can be a daunting job: creating lesson plans, grading projects, prepping supplies, cleaning up messes, encouraging students, going to meetings, renewing your license, taking classes—and the list goes on and on and on. Some may wonder what keeps teachers motivated day in and day out (besides caffeine.)
Despite the many frustrations of being an art teacher, there have been a lot of exciting new developments this past year! For one, more art teachers are using social media and technology in their curriculums. It’s fresh and fun things like this that keep art teachers moving forward despite the challenges.
Let’s count down the top 10 responses to the question, “What keeps art teachers going during the school year?” to remind ourselves that what we do is worth it!
10. Passion for the Subject
We chose art for a reason. For many of us, it changed our lives. The subject of art drew us in like a magnet and has never let go. More than likely, you had a positive experience in this field and hope your students have the same feeling in your class. Who knows? Maybe you will be the art teacher who inspires them to become an art teacher themselves!
Sometimes, getting through the day means having people to lean on. This may be a specials team (art, music, and physical education) that jives well together, is always on the same page, and supports each other. Maybe it is a friend you can bounce ideas off of or talk to when things get hard. Having good teammates matters. Sometimes, teaching can feel like you are on an island by yourself. If you feel that way, confide in someone. They may feel the same as you, and you can get through the day together.
Never underestimate the power of the little things. Nothing can help turn the day around more than a hot cup of good coffee or your favorite snacks! You may have them hidden in your desk for random moments, have a snack and beverage routine, or run to the lounge when someone says, “Free donuts!” However you handle snacks, they give you the boost you need. Do not be shy about grabbing that chocolate bar or heading to the vending machine if you need a pick-me-up!
7. Keeping Things Fresh
Each day will bring you something different. It may be the content, the way you teach something, your schedule, or the day-to-day tasks. But keeping things fresh makes it seem new and exciting every day, even if you have been doing this job for 20 years!
6. Student Reciprocation
Caroline Lawson, an art teacher in Ohio, shared, “Sweet notes on my desk. This profession is unlike any other.”
In our profession, we don’t always get a “thank you.” But deep down, you have to believe you make an impact on your students daily. One of the best parts is getting a note, picture, or small token of appreciation from our student artists. It makes us feel good just knowing they care. It lets us know we are on the right track. Save your favorite notes and drawings like Caroline. By the time you retire, you can look back on some of the lives you had a hand in shaping.
5. Positive Mindset
Lowering your stress level is key to surviving any school year. However, this is easier said than done. Embody a growth mindset by embracing mistakes, prioritizing what’s in your control, and carving out time and space for hobbies, such as making art.
How many times in your career have you heard, “You are so lucky to have summers off!” Vacations and breaks are a great way to recharge your batteries and help you get back on track. Self-care is important, so do not neglect yourself during these days off. It’s also a good reminder to consider the different types of rest. While days of lounging and catching up on shows are nice, reinvigorate your mind and creative practice with a course, side hustle, or conference.
3. Aha Moments
Are you singing Take On Me by A-ha yet? Let the theme music guide you. Watching students light up when they learn something hard or seeing the wheels finally turn in a young artist’s brain were top moments for motivating you this school year. It is a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that a child’s knowledge grew because of our efforts. Not to mention, it’s heartwarming to dream of where that future connection may take them next!
Melissa Horn Perkins describes the aha moments as “the look.” Sometimes, no amount of assessment can say more than that facial expression and exclamation when things finally click!
2. Pays the Bills
Some people took a more practical response to this question. Teaching pays our bills, helps us retire, and provides us with insurance. In the 21st century, these are essential needs. Let us not forget that we chose art teaching as the bread and butter of our lives. Paired our passion for the visual arts, we are lucky to get paid to do what we love. This is a win-win!
The most common reason that kept us going this school year was our students. Yes, without them, none of what we do is possible! They are our everything, and like the earth to our sun, we revolve around them. Tatsuwaki-art-educator summed it up well when he said, “We can’t teach students perfectly, but we can enjoy seeing students grow up through learning and experiencing something new. That’s enough reason for us to keep going.”
There’s a lot in the education system that can bog us down if we let it. Teaching often doesn’t go as planned, and we can’t predict the unpredictable. Despite the challenges, art teachers persevere and hold on to the things that keep us going! We can count on our dedication to the visual arts, the aha moments of our young artists, and our bond with our colleagues to bring a smile to our faces when we need it most. And having our favorite stash of snacks on hand and countdowns to days off doesn’t hurt either! Whatever your “why” is that kept you pressing forward this past year, remember that all the hard work you put in is worth it!
What else kept you going this year?
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.