Professional Practice

4 Tips and 12 Ideas to Help Traveling Art Teachers Who Teach at Multiple Schools

teacher on laptop

Two heads may be better than one, but are two schools? Imagine stepping into multiple school environments on a daily or weekly basis. This is exactly what you get as a traveling art teacher. The challenges of this job situation are real—but so is the opportunity for impact.

The traveling art teacher gig requires adaptability, creativity, and a willingness to embrace diversity as you deal with different school cultures, staff, students, and environments. The practical tips below will help traveling art teachers navigate the intricacies of different classrooms and turn the challenge of splitting time between multiple schools into an enriching and fulfilling artistic adventure. Whether you’re juggling varying schedules, engaging with distinct student populations, or immersing yourself in diverse school environments, uncover strategies to make your journey as a traveling art teacher smooth and creatively vibrant.

visuals wall

Here are four tips to help you overcome the challenges of being a traveling art teacher.

1. Immerse yourself, ask questions, and make adjustments.

Every school is unique so it’s good to be curious and ask a lot of questions! This will allow you to bring your art teacher flair in a way that will best mesh with the school. Model effective questioning practices as you seek to learn the ins and outs. Let the staff and students at each school be your guides by asking them three questions a day until you get your bearings. Tasha Guswiler and Cayla Cushing assert that “flexibility is key” as you explore the nuances that shape the artistic experiences of your students. Adjust as you learn to tailor your instruction and strategies to the needs of each school. Put yourself in a first-year teacher mindset, like Brittney Witt in the video below, to stay curious about your schools.

2. Pick one school event, meeting, or collaborative activity to participate in per quarter.

As a traveling art teacher, it can take longer to form connections. Make time in your schedule to attend (or coach) extracurricular activities, sit in on a staff meeting, or collaborate on an interdisciplinary project. Each of these will provide opportunities to build meaningful relationships. Nellie Mitchell joined the social committee at one of her buildings to help plan events. She said it was worth the effort because she connected with staff more regularly. Create a sense of unity and shared purpose by contributing to the broader school community.

Build relationships inside and outside of your art room with these resources:

FLEX on laptop

3. Go digital to simplify your curriculum and lesson planning.

Keeping it simple will help your sanity as you rush between schools and schedules. Embracing a digital approach to curriculum and lesson planning streamlines the process. Brooke Schatz’s digital filing system is her “best friend” for a reason! Online platforms like FLEX Curriculum help art teachers seamlessly access, manage, and share resources between different schools. The lesson plans, resources, and videos that FLEX offers make it easy to adapt instruction to the needs and preferences of your schools. Going digital also ensures consistency in lesson delivery across distinct student populations. Follow along as Marina Alfera shares her tips for digital lesson planning.

4. Clone your systems and plan for emergencies to stay organized.

Running multiple art rooms and programs efficiently requires a systematic approach. Duplicate routines, procedures, and visuals across all locations to establish consistency and predictability. Rely on the tried and true strategies you’ve developed to keep yourself organized. Plan for the sticky situations that will inevitably arise by stashing a backup kit in your car, like Tania Lichtenstein’s, filled with art basics or your personal teacher necessities. Find ways to organize yourself so you can streamline your workflow. 

Find systems that work for you regardless of where you’re teaching with these two ideas:

  1. Watch the Artfully Organized YouTube mini-series.
  2. Check out the Managing the Classroom Pack from PRO Learning.

cone collaborative artwork

Try one of these 12 ideas to foster collaboration between your schools and harness your superpowers as a traveling art teacher.

Fostering collaboration maximizes your impact and creates a cohesive artistic community across multiple school environments. “Work smarter and not harder” to harness the many extra hands and resources you have from more than one school. Integrate your creative vision in your teaching spaces by encouraging your students to connect with peers from different schools through joint initiatives like the ones below.

  1. Collaborative Projects
    Promote teamwork and a larger sense of community by initiating collaborative art projects that involve students from both schools.
  2. Artist Trading Card Swap
    Create artist trading cards for students from one school to swap with students from the other.
  3. Student Art Exchange
    Facilitate exchanges of student artwork between schools to create connection and appreciation for your students’ diverse talents.
  4. Common Lesson Themes
    Coordinate art lessons around common themes or units across both schools and bring in pictures of work-in-progress to inspire.
  5. Swap Self-Made Art Supplies
    Try your hand at making art supplies and share them between schools to rate how they work.
  6. Common Resource Hub
    Encourage your schools to collectively invest in FLEX Curriculum to digitize and centralize art resources.
  7. Joint Art Field Trip
    Plan art field trips to museums, galleries, local businesses, or cultural events and involve students from both schools.
  8. Cross-School Art Competition
    Organize a friendly competition between the two schools to boost morale and school spirit while encouraging creativity.
  9. Giant Art Show
    Turn your annual art show into a joint event that is double the size and affair, featuring student work from both schools.
  10. Cross-School Art Events
    Plan art fairs, themed art days, and other art-focused events that involve students and staff from both schools to advocate for your program.
  11. Resident Artist Program
    Bring in artists from the community to visit your schools and share takeaways.
  12. Community Art Initiatives
    Learn how to engage in community art initiatives with the Partnering With Your Local Art Community Pack from PRO Learning.

teacher on laptop

Embracing the challenges that come with teaching at multiple schools is an art form in itself. Hone your practice and curiosity by asking questions. Engage in school events to familiarize yourself with the school cultures and find your place. Stay organized and efficient as you move between art rooms with digital tools and tried and true systems. Unleash your traveling art teacher superpowers by fostering collaboration between schools. This will transform your role into a unifying force that weaves distinct classrooms into one vibrant tapestry of shared artistic expression!

What strategies help you embrace your role as a traveling art teacher?

How do you promote collaboration in your school environments?

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.


Mariana VanDerMolen

Mariana VanDerMolen, an elementary art educator, is a current AOEU Writer. She enjoys teaching for creativity, with a focus on ELL and therapy in a process-based art room.

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