Professional Practice

Unglamorous Truths: A Celebration of All Art Teachers Do During the School Year

messy apron

The art room is a magical place with unmatched energy. As art teachers, we are the creators of spaces where students grow in self-expression and discover their voices. We are the fun teachers students can’t wait to see during the day! Fellow teachers praise you for the beautiful displays of artwork that fill the hallways. However, art teachers work hard behind the scenes to bring these experiences to our students. 

We’ve seen your dedication to visual arts and your students this year! We recognize all of the unglamorous parts of your job that you excel at each day.


You do more with less.

Oftentimes, art departments have limited budgets for much-needed resources. In addition to large class sizes, it can be a struggle to provide enough supplies while maintaining a high level of quality. Luckily, art teachers are resilient and innovative in collecting resources for our studios. We are always garnering donations from the community, writing grants, and thrifting at yard sales. Art teachers are masters of doing more with less! Embracing limitations boosts our creativity making us even better art teachers.

For more ideas, watch Zero Budget Art Room on YouTube with Renae Greene!

You put in hours to make the job look effortless.

While there are many silly jokes that we spend all day “coloring,” we know we put in tons of hours behind the scenes to connect the dots and make everything run smoothly. We are multi-faceted in various artistic techniques, mediums, and subjects. Our morning students are learning the science behind pinhole photography, and after lunch, our classes are incorporating poetry into their AP portfolios. The spectrum of what we teach daily is unmatched. In addition, we embrace other aspects of creative expression through design thinking and arts integration.

You masterfully balance chaos and order in the classroom.

Managing a busy art room is no easy feat. From juggling multiple stations of gel plate printing to finding storage for hundreds of wet artworksevery day brings a challenge. Art teachers strive to find efficient systems for organizing tons of art supplies and projects. We understand the importance of establishing routines to ensure creative chaos doesn’t turn into a complete mess. While outsiders may see harmony and creativity flowing in our classroom, we know it takes a lot of trial and error and finesse!

Watch Run the Art Room with Keisha Casiano for tips and tricks to add to your classroom management toolkit.

You make it work well regardless of your classroom situation.

Many art teachers have their own dedicated art room, however, some have to get creative with their spaces and situations. Some art teachers share classrooms, teach art from a cart, or are in a general classroom without a sink or storage. Other art teachers split their time between multiple schools as traveling art teachers. No matter your room situation, you cultivate an environment wherever you teach that fosters risk-taking, problem-solving, and creativity. What a great opportunity to hone your collaboration and communication skills with a variety of colleagues! 

Your outfits bear proud battle scars of the school year.

Paint and clay somehow find their place on every garment of our clothing except our aprons. On a positive note, the layers of paint and mark-making on our outfits serve as medals of honor for the hundreds of students who graduate from our art programs. When it comes to our ensembles, we say, “The messier, the better!”

messy apron

You’re a multitasking extraordinaire!

Juggling multiple preps, grades, and skill levels within one class is a common struggle. At the high school level, without stacking classes, we risk losing many of our advanced students. Luckily, you are masters of flipped classrooms, peer teaching, and the Studio Habits of Mind. Plus, you learned from the pros that it doesn’t hurt to ask for help when you need it. 

Your supply closets are like an art store full of treasures.

Your supply closet or cabinet may be neat and tidy like a candy shop or stocked to the brim with hoarded goodies like a thrift store. Either way, our storage spaces are like art stores full of treasures that our colleagues love to try to visit. You now kindly and confidently decline art supply requests by reminding teachers that these are for your curricular needs. Every time you set a boundary and say no to a colleague, you are saying yes to your art program!

paint brushes

Your end-of-year epic art show is a masterpiece in itself. 

Art shows are a perfect way to advocate for our art programs. However, the glitz, glimmer, and shine of a beautiful art show results from months of prep and setup. As undercover gallery curators, we collect and store student work, and then, mount, mat, and hang the art pieces. We also plan and build the event, advertise to the masses, and host the final exhibition. We picked up tips, tricks, and hacks along the way to make this night one to remember without compromising our calendar and sanity. It’s our epic creation of the year that’s all worth it when we see the excitement on our students’ and their families’ faces!

You’re a professional at every creative task the school can throw at you.

Being the most creative teacher on campus often makes you the go-to person to complete all artistic tasks. Poster making, pep rally banners, monthly bulletin boards, and sets for the theatre performance may be some of the asks you get throughout the year. You embrace being the unsung hero of the school that can’t do it all! You are also a professional at politely declining tasks that do not fill your bucket or meet your curricular goals so you can preserve your creative energy for the things that truly matter.

You are uniquely qualified for this job!

Many art teachers do not enjoy the professional development their district or school offers. While there are many factors that go into selecting PD, know that it takes a very special teacher to be an art teacher. It’s quite challenging to find an appropriate PD for you because you are a unicorn with a unique skill set. We celebrate you because your passion for learning has led you to The Art of Education University, where we have rigorous and relevant professional development for every stage of your career; created for art teachers, by art teachers. If you’re looking for ways to fuel your unique art teacher qualifications, register for the next NOW Conference or discover how to get PRO Learning.

photography display

Our colleagues, students, and families see the vibrant energy and creativity flowing through our classrooms and school walls. However, there are many unglamorous parts of being an art teacher that most people don’t see. Luckily, art teachers are built to be different! Just like an artist, you are the epitome of resilience and innovation. You are an invaluable asset because you create strong programs, beautiful artwork, and mature students. Pat yourself on the back—you deserve recognition for all that you do!

Explore the fascinating and challenging world of art teachers with these additional resources:

What unglamorous truth would you add to the list?

Share what keeps your art teacher energy going!

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.


Kristina Brown

Kristina Brown, a high school art educator, is a current AOEU Writer. She is passionate about inquiry-based learning, student-centered art education, and creating a welcoming and engaging environment for students.

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