Professional Practice

Cassie’s Final Episode (Ep. 098)

There are so many things that classroom teachers don’t understand about what we do in the art room. In her final episode, Cassie discusses the unique things we do as art teachers and how we can help everyone else understand our challenges. To close the show, she shares some special thank yous with everyone who played a part in making this show a success and passes the torch to Nic Hahn as she takes over as the host of Everyday Art Room.  Full episode transcript below.

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Cassie: One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is when a classroom teacher walks into my room while my kids are working away, painting, sculpting claying, what have you, and the teacher stops, takes a look around, and says, “This looks like so much fun.” Yeah, it’s fun. It’s a whole lot of fun. Prepping that clay the night before, boy, that was fun. Teaching these kids not to make the clay into a ball and then throw it across the room, that was a blast. Oh, and how about all the time I spent tried to remind them and convince them not to take their skewer stick, stab it into the clay and make a lollipop? I mean, you don’t even know how much fun that was. Or I even love it when this happens, when I’m frantically filling paint trays sweating because the kids are coming into my room in like, oh, you know, 30 seconds and somebody walks into my room and says, “Oh, it looks like you’re busy, but I really need for … ” Yeah, you know what I really need? I really need for you to take about three steps back, find the door, and show yourself out.

There are just some things that classroom teachers just don’t get about us art teachers. I’m not meaning to sound ugly or mean, even though my tone is not the nicest, but there’s just some things that I don’t think they understand, and I want to share them with you. Just consider this a little bit of a venting session and hopefully a session, a chat, where it’ll help us work through those 10 things that they just don’t get. I’m Cassie Stephens, and this right here is Everyday Art Room. You’re welcome to stay so long as you’re an art teacher.

When I started thinking about this podcast and just thinking of all of the things that classroom teachers just don’t get, the ’90s song Never … It’s actually called My Lovin’, but it’s a ’90 song by the band En Vogue or the group, the musical group En Vogue, and the chorus just kept going through my mind because the chorus is never going to get it. (singing) You know what I’m talking about? Anyway, they’re talking about something else entirely that you’re never going to get, which we will not be covering on this here podcast. But thinking about those classroom teachers, I was just like, “There are some things they just are never going to get in. And look, to be fair, there are some things that I ain’t never going to get when it comes to being a classroom teacher. And you know what? I purposefully don’t want to get those things. That’s why I decided to pursue … That came out so southern. Pursue art education instead of gen ed. Hello, paperwork. Gross. No thank you.

So today, let’s talk about those things they’re never going to get. And instead of just being a venting sesh, maybe think of some ways to help them understand. Bless their heart is what we would say down here in the south, and, just for our sanity, a way for us to kind of work through it, understanding, I guess, their pitiful and uneducated point of view.

All right. The first thing those classroom teachers are never going to understand about what we art teachers have to go through, prep. They never seem … Nobody, I don’t think, understands just how much prep goes into art teachering. And if you let it, it can really overwhelm you. At my former school, my schedule was set up where I had … My planning time was an hour. I think it was first thing in the morning, which was glorious. I loved it. But, I taught then back to back classes all day, and then I even had an afterschool art program that I ran for about an hour and 15 minutes. So, my day pretty much started at nine and didn’t end until five. That was so much prep. Thankfully, back then, I had hour-long classes because now this year all of my classes are 30 minutes, which means that my prep is multiplied because I have … I’m going to say some days I’m going to have up to eight to nine classes a day. I don’t think anybody can understand just how much work goes into preparing for all of those different classes.

So for our sanity’s sake, what I always suggest to, especially new teachers who are just thinking, “Holy cats! There’s no way I’m going to get everything prepared,” one thing that I started doing not soon enough in my art teachering career was trying to group my lessons based on the media and based on the content.

For example, I do this a lot at the beginning of the year. The beginning of the year, if we are all doing a welcome back or getting-to-know-you type of art project, we’re usually all doing the same project, yes, across all grade levels. One project that I did last year that was a really big hit on my blog was the getting-to-know-you sculptures. That meant I had to prepare glue, paper collage supplies for everybody, but then that was it. In between classes, I wasn’t running around like a mad woman switching out supplies, refilling paint trays or moving the paint trays out of the way to make for clay. That was the mistake I made the first handful of years of my teaching career. I was following the curriculum to a T, and the curriculum was all flipping over the map. I mean, it had me doing weaving with first graders, and then clay with second graders, and then collage with kindergartners. It was nuts.

Even if your curriculum says that, you don’t … Well, you’re taking this from Mama Cass. You don’t have to follow it to a T. Do things that are going to work best for you in your setting for your students. Saving your sanity is what’s going to do that. That’s just something that classroom teachers are never going to get.

Something else, displays. I did not know that when I signed on to be an art teacher I was also going to be the school-wide decorator. Holy cow. How many bulletin boards does one school have to have? I’m responsible for switching them out all the time. You all know a don’t. I will leave a Valentine’s Day display up until the art show in May. Thank you very much. I always start out so strong, but there’s just little time. And to be honest, changing out bulletin boards and putting on displays, that is not something that gets me up in the morning. I don’t love doing it. Being responsible for all of those in the school, I don’t think anybody understands how much work goes into that.

Classroom teachers are so funny. They’ll see me working in the hallways after school or during my plan time and if I had a quarter for every time one of them stopped and said, “You should have the kids help you with that,” yeah, I would, but that’s like trying to wrangle a zoo of monkeys to try to help you, I don’t know, make a display. It’s bananas. Not only that, but 30-minute art classes. I don’t want to use their creative and their instructional time to help me hang something. There is value in it, yes, I agree, but I would much rather have the value be in my room and creating, and then after art class going and checking out the display and talking about the work that way. I love it when they suggest these things, though. It’s presh. It’s presh.

Something else they ain’t never going to get, the constant cleaning. Every day after school, I’m wiping down tables on a good day. I shouldn’t say every day after school. Why don’t we go for a maybe once or twice a week. I’m wiping down tables because they’re disgusting. I mean, this is even after most of my classes will wipe down tables. But to be honest, most days I look at the clock, we’re already late. It’s time to scoot these kids out the door because I can hear my next class out in the hallway.

So in an ideal world, would my kids be cleaning? Of course. Does it happen? I would say about 25% of the time. The cleaning is never-ending. The washing of paint brushes, the refilling of glue bottles, all of that does not stop. It doesn’t even stop now. In the summer, it’s on my to-do list this week to go into school and to clean. I keep asking our bookkeeper if I can have some of my budget be used toward getting some sort of maid service to come in and tidy up after me. It’s yet to happen yet. I’m going to try Donors Choose.

All right. Next thing they’re never going to understand is all the organization that goes into two things, this one’s twofold, all of the organization that goes into organizing kid artwork. Holy cow. I get so many questions about how do you organize all of your students’ artwork? I don’t. I’m not the person to ask. I mean, I have a big bin or a big folder. It’s got the teacher’s name on it, and I try my hardest after taking things off the drying rack to schlep it into whatever bin, folder, what have you that I’ve got. Do we lose artwork? All the time? Do I lose entire grade level’s clay projects? How does that even happen? I don’t know. It happens a lot. Secretly, I think those classroom teachers are tiptoeing into my room and moving my stuff around. I wouldn’t put it past them. They sneaky like that.

The other thing that you’re always constantly organizing, supplies. Now, I think that supplies, at the beginning of the school year, if you kind of get those organized and established in a place where you’re always going to keep them, where the kids know where always to find color pencils, always where to get markers, that you can kind of stay on top of. Kids are funny because they love to organize. If you get those kids who are super high energy, you know the ones who you’re constantly reminding, “Hey, lovely. Take a seat. Hey, Susie, why are you up over here … ” Those kids got a lot of energy. You put those kids in charge of helping you maintain organization, not only are you going to positively redirect them, but you’re going to have a really organized space. But, that’s just another thing classroom teachers don’t understand that we have got to always stay on top of.

And kind of tying in with that, I don’t think they get that we teach everybody in the whole school. Sometimes when I’m doing bus duty afterschool, I’ll be saying goodbye to the kids. I’m saying goodbye to all the kids, and I’m calling them by their name or whatever goofy nickname I’ve given them. I’ll never forget, I had a classroom teacher standing next to me near the end of this school year and she was like, “Oh my gosh. You know everybody. How do you know all of these kids?” I turned around and I said, “Well, because I teach them all.” It was like a light bulb up above her head. “Oh, you don’t just have my class of 20, 25, you have 300-plus children.” Or in your case, you all, I know some of you guys have between 800 and up kids. Yeah, we see every body.

So when we can’t follow through with one little … This is the thing that kind of blows my mind. When a teacher comes to pick up her kids at the end of class, and the really great teachers will say, “How were they today?” And if I tell them, “Oh we struggled with using scissors properly by so-and-so,” or, “This little friend right here, we had more energy than was necessary in art class today,” and what’s interesting is most of them will say, “Got it,” and they’ll talk to the child. They’ll handle it. Some of them will be like, “But why are you telling me this?” Well, the reason I’m telling you this is because I have the rest of the 800 kids to keep up with and you only got these 25. So if you could help a sister out, that’d be fabulous. Just something they don’t quite understand. But, letting them know that, letting classroom teachers know that, I feel like cluing them in a little bit, it’s … I think that then they come around and they understand. Got it. I totally see kind of sorta where you’re coming from.

Here’s something else that I feel like as a new teacher, if you’re a newbie, you need to know this classroom. Teachers will never understand that all of those supplies that you have in your room are for you to do your job. Sometimes they walk in. This happens a lot when I’m unpacking my boxes of supplies at the beginning of the school year. They think it’s like an unboxing at Hobby Lobby or something and it just so happens to be a free-for-all day. The supplies in your room are for you and for the art education of your students. They see those supplies as supplies for everybody. And oh my goodness, look how much you have. Why can’t you share? They’re never going to understand. That’s just something else you’re going to have to pat them on the head and explain to them these supplies are for all the kids in the whole school when they’re in my art class.

Sometimes I feel like we are not taken seriously. I have worked in my building for 15 years. There is a second grade teacher in my school who’s actually retiring this year. This woman has never in the 15 years that we’ve known each other … And we teach right across the hall, have many interactions throughout the day. She’s a nice teacher, a great teacher, actually, a nice person. She has never called me by my name. Even in front of the kids, I am always addressed as art lady. “Hey, art lady. Art lady, art lady, can we have some brushes? Hey, art lady, we’re going to be doing this today.” Hey, art lady this, hey art lady that. I’ve corrected her. “It’s Miss Stevens. Hey, you can call me Miss Stevens. My name Miss Stephens.” Yeah, never going to … That’s just a battle I chose no longer to fight.

But, sometimes you’re going to find that you’re not taken seriously. In fact, another teacher was … An art teacher was telling me a story the other day where at a meeting when they were dismissed the principal said, “I need all teachers to grab a folder or whatever on the way out of the room.” So she walked over to pick up the folder and the principal shouted at her, “Those are for the teachers.” Never going to get it, even from admin, and that’s when it hurts. That’s when it’s stings a bit.

Something else I don’t think they’re going to understand is that we have a curriculum. And our curriculum is not doing Pinterest activity. That’s actually not in our curriculum. I love to help a teacher out and to help her teach what she’s trying to teach her kids in her room, but that’s not part of my job. I don’t think they quite understand that we actually have a job with a set curriculum.

All this is sounding a little bit bitey and bitter, and I hate that because I love working with the people that I do. I really believe that all of this mindset is innocent. I don’t think any of it is meant to be mean or hurtful toward me or for what I do with my kids in my art room every day. I actually feel a lot of respect both for the people I work with, and I feel that they respect me as an art teacher. But, let’s be honest. Until you’re actually in somebody’s shoes, they’re never going to get it. And same with me in a classroom. I’m never going to understand the pressure that those teachers feel when it comes to teaching basically to a test. I guess what we all need to keep in mind is just having an open mind, listening with both ears, taking it in, and making sure that our voices are heard so that they do start to get it even just a little bit.

Well, I would like to make an announcement. This is my last podcast on the Everyday Art Room. What? This is it. I have recorded … I think this is the 99th episode. I stopped right before 100. I couldn’t make it to the finish line. I have had an incredible time chatting and sharing with you all. I want to say thank you. Thank you to The Art of Education University for giving me this experience. Thank you to you guys who are listening and have been listening. I hope along the way it’s been a wonderful time, and I love chatting and sharing with you guys. Make sure you keep up with me on whatever social media outlets or my blog that you choose to follow. I would love to stay in touch with all of you. It’s like talking with a really great friend, an art teacher and friend who gets me every single week, and I could not have asked for a better experience.

I am passing the torch to Nic Hahn. I am so excited for you guys as a listener to hear all of the things that she has to share. I know that you’re familiar with Nic. She’s shared many times at The Art of Ed Art Ed Now Conference. She has a wonderful blog with tons of resources. She shares on Teacher Pay Teacher. She also has a great YouTube channel.

Nic is like an open book. Her classroom, whenever she shares something, you feel like you’re going right inside. I love that she’s constantly working on her process as an art teacher. I feel like she’s a person who’s always pushing herself. She’s always growing. She’s always challenging herself. And I really bet, I know it, actually, that in her podcast she’s going to do the same for you. You’re going to be excited. You’re going to be inspired, you’re going to grow, and it’s going to be amazing. I’m really excited to hear what she has to say. And yeah, I’m thrilled. Be sure to stay tuned to Everyday Art Room with your host coming up Nic Hahn. Nic Hahn, by the way, can be found over at Mini Matisse. Thank you so much, guys. You’ve been the best, and I love you more than you know. Hugs.

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.