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The NAEA convention is an annual event that draws thousands of art teachers together for learning, reflection, and celebration. Tim and Andrew decided that this year’s convention, in Chicago, would be the perfect time and place to record a special bonus episode of Art Ed Radio. Listen as the guys recap their convention experience (3:00), Andrew tells what it’s like to be a presenter (4:45), and they both talk to convention attendees from all over the country about what they love about being an art teacher (12:00). These teachers’ stories illustrate why, as Tim says, we have the best job in the world. Full episode transcript below.
Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz. Welcome to a bonus episode of Art Ed Radio. We’re recording this show from The Art of Ed booth at the NAEA National Convention in Chicago. It’s entitled Finding Your Happiness As An Art Teacher. Andrew is right here with me. Andrew, how are you?
Andrew: Man, I’m doing good, mate. I feel like my cup is overflowing with joy and happiness, which I think I needed that after the last couple of podcasts we did together, which was all grumpy and karma-geny and everything.
Tim: Right. This is perfect to get you out of that funk.
Andrew: Yeah. It cleanses the palate. I’m ready to go back to work after spring break so it’ll be great.
Tim: Yeah, I know. I feel like the National Conference always comes at such a great time of the year. We’ve gotten through the dull drums of January and February but yeah, you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. You just take this chance to refresh and recharge and it’s awesome for me. I love coming to these.
Andrew: Yeah, for sure.
Tim: I guess I’ll direct the first question to you for we’re talking about finding your happiness. Okay. What about you? What makes you happy as an art teacher?
Andrew: Oh, man, I actually wasn’t expecting you to spring that one on me. I thought we just call on our audience-
Tim: Talk to everybody else today? Yeah.
Andrew: Talk to everybody else. I got to say, okay. Right off the top of my head, I had a moment not too long ago in the art room. Sometimes, as an art teacher, you have those moments where you’re like, “Man, I wish someone was videotaping that or audio recording that because that kid just got to a place, an epiphany or a level of understanding, like he gets it.” The cartoon as you see the light bulb over a kid’s head?
Andrew: I had a moment like that with this kid in my graphic design class. She’s like, “Jack, you’ve learned everything. You’ve mastered everything I’ve shown you.” I told her. I was like, “I’m so proud of you.” It’s funny but it was also incredibly true. I love those moments. As a teacher, you have all the time here and there sprinkled throughout the year. To keep those, lock them away in a little happiness folder, deep inside your heart, Tim, that’s what you got to do as a teacher.
Tim: That was good. I like that.
Tim: As we started discussing the idea of doing this episode, doing a live show from the convention, we started talking about all the reasons that it would be a good idea. We kept coming back to that happiness factor because there’s this environment here. There’s this energy that is built on positivity, on inspiration and I think it serves really well. We decided to talk to as many people as we could that came by the booth about what makes them happy as an art teacher. We’ll get to those in just a little bit but I want to talk to you more overall about just being at this conference and what it’s worked for. What do you love about being at a national conference?
Andrew: That’s a good question. This is the second one I’ve been to. I went to New Orleans last year for my first time and then this one. I had this thought. While in Chicago, I was walking around and I was like, “I don’t think there’s a bad art teacher here.” You think about it. There are probably around 6,000 … There’s about 6,000 people here.
Andrew: These are all the good people. I don’t want to skew this negativity here because we’re talking positive but we’ve all worked with some teachers who put in their time and do what they got to do and check out. These are all the teachers that go above and beyond the extra mile that are interested and engaging and pushing themselves and recharging their batteries. Like you said, the energy is palpable. It really does recharge you. I’ve gone to a ton of my state conventions but the national ones, it’s like that but until the 10th degree. I always walk away with new ideas and new energy and just really, really excited.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. It’s the same for me. I just love that feeling. I’ve never thought about it just being the “good teachers” there but really, it’s the people who are dedicated to what we do because we’re spending our own time. We’re spending our own money to get there and to just do what we do better. It is. It’s really an inspiring place. You always come out with so many new ideas and good ideas. Speaking of passing along those ideas, I heard some great things about your presentation that you gave this morning. Tell me what’s up with that.
Andrew: Everyone that came and talk to me afterwards said it was awesome but all the people probably didn’t like it.
Tim: They’re not going to come talk to you.
Andrew: Yeah. No. It was really good. I’ll probably butcher the title because it’s long and highfalutin but it was let them lead simple tech tips to talk less and drive student creativity. It was like what can you do as a teacher in tech adoption and tech solutions that gets you less prominent and makes your students do more of the work? Actually, this conference talk is spinning into a podcast interview that will be airing in a couple of weeks here.
Tim: Okay. Cool.
Andrew: About some simple tech solutions. I try to always make my conference talks whether it’s at the national level or state level be really practical and things that people can use right away and not a lot of hocus pocus theory because that’s not who I am. I’m a middle school teacher who’s needy, bended and really just try to make it really practical.
Tim: Yeah. I think that’s good because you deal on the danger and people who have been to the conference know about this. You can run into those really dry presentations that have very little to do with what actually happens in the classroom. I think it always is a balance between theory and practice but I know everybody appreciates just having takeaways that can go back to their classrooms.
Andrew: Speaking of appreciation, it was Friday night. I was putting some last finishing touches on my presentation as I’m apt to do. I’m an 11th hour guy. I was telling my wife, “Oh, my God. I don’t know that anyone’s going to come on a Saturday morning.”
Andrew: “I’m going to talk for 30 minutes and then have this really awkward 20-minute Q&A.” I had maybe 60 to 70 people and it was a really big room so it seems spread out but there are a lot of people there. I’ve never ended a conference talk and thanked the audience but they were so far and so engaged.
Tim: Nice. Nice.
Andrew: Yeah. I got done with 2 minutes left. They were asking me questions along the hallway and I was just like, “Thank you, guys for being a really fun audience on a Saturday morning.” Even though I was on the show presenting, I still felt like I got a lot out of it by the great questions that they were asking me.
Tim: Yeah. That’s really cool. I assume the big audience just comes from you being so famous from this podcast, right?
Andrew: The funny thing is, they all showed up and they looked at me and they’re like, “Oh, you’re not Tim.” I lost so many people. “Oh, I thought it was the other guy.” That’s funny.
Tim: The thing that happened to me over and over is people would be so excited to see me and the first thing that they had to say had to do with you.
Tim: “Hey, Tim. How’s it going?” I saw Andrew today. “Hey, Tim. Do you know when Andrew’s presenting?” We need to be attached at the hip apparently.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s true. I didn’t tell you. I paid all those people to just grab me in the face.
Tim: Nice. Nice. I appreciate that.
Andrew: Yeah. No problem.
Tim: Okay. Just talking a little more about the conference. What are some good things that you’ve seen here? Some big takeaways that are going back to your classroom?
Andrew: We’ve all been to conferences before whether it’s a district one or a state one where you may be set in on not a great talk. I’ve been 4 for 4 so far.
Tim: All right. Nice.
Andrew: I’m proud of myself. I picked nothing but good ones. I saw a talk on the Art and Design and Implications of Video Games that really blew my mind. I really, really dug that one but I almost got to say, I kept bumping into friends in my PLM on people that I see once a year from the Grundlers in Texas, people from Illinois, even people from Iowa that I don’t get to see very often. I felt like I spent more time just talking and hashing out ideas out in the hallway and connecting with people than I almost did in the sessions. Sometimes, that’s okay. You need that time to get with like-minded people and bounce ideas off and just network a little bit.
Tim: Yeah. I think that’s really cool. For those of us that are active on Twitter or Facebook or wherever, just making those connections in real life is such a cool thing. Tonight, I’m going out to dinner with Cassie Stephens and Laura Lohman, Don Masse and Nick Hahn just like it’s going to be a whole huge group of us while these people that I talk to all the time online. Just being able to see them in person, like you said, bounce ideas off of them, share things that we’re doing is a really, really great experience. For me, that’s one of the biggest reasons I go to a conference is just be able to see all those people in person.
Andrew: I know sometimes you feel a little bit creepy when you meet someone in person and you’re like, “I feel like I know you.” I met Tim Needles for the first time and I was kind of like, “Hey.”
Tim: That’s awesome. Yeah.
Andrew: I creep on you and the awkwardness passes over the next 5 seconds and then it’s all good. Yeah. It’s just really nice to talk to those people.
Tim: Yeah. The other thing for me, too, just outside of the people is just being in such a great city. I love the city of Chicago so much. That environment of the city just adds to everything that we’ve been talking about to make it an even better experience.
Andrew: For sure.
Tim: Yeah. It’s been good. Anyway, we decided today at the booth to talk to as many people as we could about what makes them happy. Do you want to explain to everybody how we set things up, how we found people and what we’re asking them about?
Andrew: Sure. It started off with me making a mistake. There’s a little piece of hardware on my mic that I forgot. I know this will come out a little bit after Saturday but we made a MacGyver cardboard tripod to hold the mic on but it did its job. Yeah. We just set up the podcast mic and some of the hardware that goes with it. As people wandered over to the booth and talked to us and talked to all the other AOE people, we just said, “Hey. Do you want to share the love? Share the joy and tell us what makes you happy about being an art teacher?” Probably 16, 17 people that bopped over and I know every once in a while we had people who got a little shy.
Tim: Yeah. People are really scared of talking in the microphone.
Andrew: I almost wonder if they thought maybe it was going out live like speaking to the airwaves live. I was like, “No. We can edit it. If you say something goofy or stutter, we can chop that out.”
Tim: Yeah. It worked out okay and unfortunately, we weren’t able to get all of the clips in here. We do want to share with everybody some of our favorite clips here. Like you said, spread the positivity and talk a little bit about what makes us happy. Out of all the interviews we did, I think maybe the most enjoyable for me was talking about all the pre service teachers who were just so excited about everything that’s coming in the future for them.
Angie: My name is Angie. I’m a pre service art ed student. I think what I’m really looking forward to right now is just being able to work with the students. I really love kids. I’m not sure what level I’m going to teach at but I’m just really interested in being in the classroom with the students and teaching them things and allowing them to be creative.
Tyler: My name is Tyler Stanton. I am a pre service art education student from Edinboro, Pennsylvania. I’m most excited to start teaching art because I also have a background in wood furniture design and I want to make connections with the wood shop or tech ed classes that are at my school.
Laurie: Hey. My name is Laurie. I’m from a small town in Weveel, Pennsylvania. I go to school at Edinboro University. I will be a future art teacher. I’m very excited for my students to see all their creativity come out. I’m just overwhelmed with excitement. Yes.
Daryl: I’m Daryl. I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but I go to school up in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. I am going to school to be an art teacher. I’m most excited about just everything. I can’t pick just one thing to be just specifically excited about. I’m just excited to get in there and start teaching because I know this is what I want to do.
Tim: I love what Tyler said in there about making connections with woods classes and shop classes because we talk all the time about connections we make with other subjects. Integrating things but tech classes or shop classes are rarely part of that conversation.
Andrew: I know we both taught elementary. Sometimes, the kids, they’re so excited. They can’t even contain it and with middle school or high school kids, they’re a little bit more cool and aloof. They don’t want to get excited for school but I do miss that with the little second grade, third grade kids.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. They come into the room or you come into the room and just the pure joy on their faces, fantastic. I don’t see that nearly as much now with the high schoolers. Let’s listen to a couple of thoughts on that, too.
Suzanne: Hi. My name is Suzanne. I teach in Deerfield, Illinois. I just love seeing all the kids everyday, K through 5. While I just love seeing how much they love arts and how excited they are, and I love everyday when the first graders are walking out of the room and they’re saying, “I love art. I love art. No. I love art. No. I love art.” Anyway, it’s just the cutest thing. To each one to let you know how much they truly love art.
Shannon: Hi. I’m Shannon from Canada. I teach at the Rosedale Day School in Toronto. What makes me happy as an art teacher is just to see the kids loving making art. One thing I really love is when the kids come to me when I’m picking them up from their class. They’re like, “Can we have a drawer day?” What a drawer day means is that I have a store full of random stuff and I just collect it and they love it. I give them colored masking tape and lots of other cool materials that I found from the dollar bin or at random stores. They put it together and they make the most beautiful sculptures. It’s theirs and they really feel proud of them. They’re showing their individual creativity.
Tim: I absolutely love that drawer idea. We’re actually talking about this when we are recorded because all of my drawers are so specifically organized and labeled. It’s crazy to think there’s just this drawer of random craft that kids love so much.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s a really great idea. This is a tab person extraordinaire to just be like, “Here’s the stuff. Have at it,” and now, it’s just really, really cool.
Tim: Yeah. It really does generate the excitement for the kids. The coolest thing about that though is excitement about making art is definitely not just limited to the kids. There’s a lot of excitement that we have ourselves just in what we are able to do every day. Let’s listen to Viddy talk a little bit about that.
Viddy: My name is Viddy. I teach in California. I teach Kinder and first grade art. What makes me happy as an art teacher is I love going to the classrooms because I pitch in and seeing all the kids get really excited about having art. I think that art is so important. Art is really important in their lives. It’s really exciting to see that they’re really excited.
Tim: Another really common thread that we heard from a lot of people was that idea of passion. They’re passionate. Sharing the passion with their kids, seeing the passion. Those light bulb moments, I think that was a pretty common thread we’ve heard from a lot of people.
Danielle: I’m Danielle Arneson from Wisconsin. I teach at a small district, Howards Grove School District. Right now, I have the best high school class. I teach middle school through high school. My high school class right now is actually really small, 8 students only ranging from freshmen to seniors. I have a mix of Special Ed kids, a valedictorian kid and 2 foreign language students, foreign exchange students in the class. The best thing about it is that they all get along awesome. From the freshman girl that comes in and teaches the valedictorian senior boy to the foreign exchange students teaching each other about different types of words, all the projects could be integrated between everybody. It’s just a great class to teach.
Sarah: Hi. My name is Sarah. I am an art teacher at Jenison High School around Grand Rapids, Michigan. Being an art teacher is really rewarding. It is my first year of teaching and I have learned a lot but especially how passionate I really am about the job and getting used to teaching something that I am passionate about but seeing that passion ignite in my high school students is incredibly rewarding.
Tim: That is such a big part of why we do what we do. I love what Danielle said about different types of kids coming together in the classroom to form that community. Once you have that going, you really can pass along all of your excitement, all of your love for what we do. Sometimes, in the course of your teaching, you can discover a new passion. We talked to Joy Schultz about this. If anybody doesn’t know Joy, you need to check her out. She does some great things. She’s just transitioned in the last year more of a choice base classroom. She’s got some awesome learning platforms that she does with it presented on those that were great. Yesterday, I went to go just check in and say hi real quick before she gave her presentation.
I found out that she did not have a projector in her room, which is ridiculous if you can imagine trying to present without a projector. She actually got one from another room and security stopped her and took it back and put it into an empty room and wouldn’t let her have it. I feel for her but props to her for presenting without a projector and still rocking it.
Andrew: That’s awesome.
Tim: Good on her but let’s listen to what she had to say about what she loves about teaching art.
Joy: Hi. This is Joy Schultz from Little Rock. I teach high school. The best thing about art education is choice based education because students learn to be authentic artists.
Tim: Andrew, you’re in the same boat as she was but did you find there was a discovery of a new passion or something else that you loved when you switched over to more of a choice based format?
Andrew: For sure. It’s been probably about 3 years since I really feel like I made the transition. It’s always changing a little bit but definitely that year was a magical year. I felt like everything was clicking. I think with any new initiative or direction, you take it, then you do that for 3 or 4 years. You’re like, “Okay. What’s the new seasoning I need to sprinkle on to this? Maybe now it’s more design thinking or steam stuff.” I think a quality teacher is looking for ways to ever be evolving and not just resting on their laurels of like, “Yeah. I got my really good 8 projects.” That’s what I really, really like about Joy and so many of these tab people is how reflective they are and how they’re always looking at best practices and evolving.
Tim: Yeah. They always push kids to be a little more creative, which I think we all need to do. That creativity and that kind of personal voice moves not just with what we’re doing there but it moves beyond that as well and then can really give our kids a leg up in some other class as well.
Emma: My name is Emma Long. I am a K through 12 art teacher in Lexington, Illinois. I would say the thing that makes me the most happy about teaching art is just really inspiring young artists to be creative. Not necessarily just in the art classroom but outside of the art classroom as well. I think it really crosses a lot of boundaries between other content areas. They can really apply the problem solving that they learn in my classroom into their other content area. That would probably be my most favorite thing. I actually just recently had a student that answered a question on the park test. It was a literacy question but it was referring to Edward Hopper and it was so great. The English teacher forwarded me the passage.
She was just loving that this particular student was applying the art history knowledge that she had from my classroom and using what she learned in her English class to complete this essay assignment. That was really rewarding.
Tim: Okay. I feel like that’s so true because what we do in our room could translate to so many different subject areas and so many different ways. Have you noticed that with a lot of the steam stuff that you’ve been doing as well?
Andrew: For sure. I think it’s a whole outlook that I adopted maybe a year or 2 ago. I’ve really wrestled with the notion of training future artists. I don’t really care for that paradigm or that way of thinking because if we’re really being critical of it, you might have 100 students at the high school level and you might have 2 or 3 that make a career out of it. Those are pretty poor odds.
Andrew: I’ve approached it more as like, “I’m using art to teach kids about creativity and collaboration and critical thought and visual communication, and all of these things.” It just happens to be that art is the medium that I’m really good at sharing those ideas through if that makes any sense.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: A different way of thinking and I really do think that it then can spark a student’s interest in entrepreneurship or engineering or medical design, anything that anyone gets into, they’d benefit from having a background in creativity.
Tim: Yeah, for sure. We’ll go ahead and wrap it up here. We got one last quote that I think was probably the best one we heard because he talks about the effect that art can have on our students’ lives. Not just inside the classroom, outside the classroom, other classes, but what it can do for someone’s life. Listen to this from the great Tim Needles.
Tim N. : I’m Tim. I teach in New York. What makes me happy as an art teacher is getting to see all the creative expressions students bring and really I think art can save lives. I’ve seen so many students that have come to my classroom when they are not doing well in school and they’re just not happy there and art turns their life around. They connect and they find a way to express themselves and it just makes a big impact. Seeing that always really makes me happy.
Andrew: Man, that quote is so great. It’s funny because I just had a conversation the other day that is just so similar to this. Tim, at the beginning of the conversation, you asked what was our favorite thing about the conference? What do we get out of? I got to say, everyone’s well, I snuck across the way yesterday to go check out the Comic-Con. That was so awesome. Now I didn’t pay the money to get in but there was so much good cosplay going on-
Tim: Yeah. You can see so many different characters, so many different people just dressed up as … Honestly, half the time, I didn’t know what.
Andrew: Right. Everyone as well. I had to say, “I’m sorry. You’re awesome but I do not know what realm or dimension you come from. Enlighten me. Revoke my nerd card now. I did not know who you were. I’m sorry.” The funny thing is, I’m walking across the hallway. I see these 2 guys. They’re just awesome looking. Actually, I follow them on Facebook because they’re such cool guys. I’m like, “I’ve got to give a shout out and props to the wardrobe armory.” That sounds so cool. I’m like, “Oh, you guys.” It feels a little weird but I stopped and was like, “I got to take a picture of you guys.” I was with a friend of mine from Iowa and she’s like, “Hey, Andrew. You should like just get in there with them.” I reluctantly got in between them. I’m posing and I feel awkward because they’re so cool looking. I said out loud to my friend, “I don’t want to picture this. I’m just a dumb art teacher.”
The guy next to me who has this super awesome home-made foam helmet, that is smoking by the way with dry ice, ripped on his helmet and he says, “Hey, man.” I was like, “Oh, did I say something wrong?” He was very adamant. “Hey, man. Art is the best thing ever and if it wasn’t for my high school art teacher, I would have been nothing. He pushed me and he saved my life.” It was almost Tim Needles’ exact quote.
Andrew: I walked away just floating in the hallway because I was like, “Here I came to this conference and I bumped into this guy that I think is from Halo but I’m not sure who really re-affirmed what it is that we do and why it’s so critically important in the lives of our students.” It was just a magical moment. Who knew it would be this awesome Cosplay guy that did it for me?
Tim: Yeah. That is fantastic. I think that’s probably the perfect anecdote for us to go out on because I know that you and your lovely wife have a train to catch.
Andrew: That’s right, man.
Tim: Why don’t you get on out of here and I will wrap up this show.
Andrew: All right. Thanks, Tim. Thanks for wrapping this up for me.
Tim: It’s been fun, man.
Andrew: See you.
Tim: If this conversation is something that has piqued your interest, I would encourage you to look into the Art of Ed’s course called Creativity in Crisis. The class is an awesome experience. Not only does it help you develop creative capacity in your students but in yourself as well. Doing the personal creativity exercises in the class is a big part of the draw. That spark of creativity might just be the spark you need to reignite your passion and rediscover what you love about teaching. Creativity in Crisis like every AOE class starts on the first of the month. You can find out more information and the signup on theartofed.com under the courses tab. Being in Chicago and being in the presence of another 5 or 6,000 art teachers is a fairly memorable experience. The influence, the inspiration, the energy, it’s all there and it all makes you want to be a better art teacher.
I still think one of the biggest highlights for me, honestly was getting the chance to talk to all the different art teachers for this episode. Hearing about what makes us happy as art teachers and what makes us passionate about our job was more inspiring than anything. If you didn’t make it to Chicago or you haven’t been to a national convention in a while, try to find a way to make it soon. It’s an incredible environment. Maybe you can make it to New York next year or maybe it’s further down the road for you. If that kind of a trip isn’t in the cards though, that doesn’t mean that you’re missing your chance at happiness or missing your chance at inspiration. Every teacher we talk to loves what happens in their room on an every day basis. Our happiness comes from what we teach and who we teach every single day.
It makes me happy and it should make you happy to know that we’re part of a vibrant community of passionate educators. When it comes down to it, we need to remember that we have the best job in the world.
Art Ed Radio is developed, produced and supported by The Art of Education with audio engineering by Michael Crocker. Please subscribe on iTunes where we’ve been showing up on the new and noteworthy page by the way. We appreciate your support and your rating the show will help new listeners find us. You can explore everything else related to the show if you visit artedradio.com where we’ll have the write of this episode with some spectacular pictures of Andrew and me recording in the AOE booth and maybe even one of Andrew with his 2 new friends from the Comic convention. New episodes are released every Tuesday so make sure you subscribe and look for us next week.