What Do New Teachers Need to Know About Professionalism? (Episode 5)

In the fifth of episode of the ongoing series of podcasts for new teachers, Janet Taylor joins Tim to discuss what new teachers need to know about what it takes to be a professional art teacher. Listen as they cover everything from how to dress to what to do during staff meetings, as well as collaboration, communication, and whether it’s worth it to dive into the world of social media. Full Episode Transcript Below.

Resources and Links


Tim: Hello, and thank you for joining us on the What Do New Teachers Need to Know podcast from the Art of Education University. My name is Tim Bogatz, and together with Janet Taylor, we have put together a series of 8 episodes directed at new teachers that share some of our best pieces of advice on a variety of topics.

Some of the discussions you will hear over the course of these episodes originally appeared on the Art Ed Radio podcast, and some are new to this podcast. Sometimes we will be answering listener questions, sometimes we will be giving advice, and sometimes we simply be having a discussion that shares some of our favorite strategies and advice. No matter the case, we hope that listening will be helpful for you.

Janet Taylor is back today for another episode with advice for new teachers. Today, we are going to focus on professionalism and everything that it takes to be a professional art teacher. Now, if you haven’t heard any of these new teacher episodes before, we have a handful on other topics on curriculum, classroom management, just all the things that new teachers are most concerned about, all the things that they need to know. Now, AOEU has also published a first year teacher guide on the magazine side of things, as well as a few episodes of the first year teacher series on YouTube. So those are more resources for you to check out.

And as I said, last time we did one of these podcasts, I’m really excited that new teachers and beginning teachers are listening to podcasts. They’re thinking about how they can develop as professionals. They’re considering how they can get better and what they do. And hopefully, this discussion that we have today can help.

So at the end of the podcast episode last week, I asked for questions about professionalism and what it means to be a professional. And again, teachers came through with some really good ones. So Janet and I will do our best to answer those today.

And as always, if you know any first-year or any new art teachers or even pre-service teachers who are thinking about a lot of these topics that we cover, please send them our way. AOEU has pro packs, flex resources, podcasts, articles, YouTube series that I just mentioned, and so much more that can really help. But Janet is here, she is ready to talk about professionalism as we open up the mailbag. So let’s go ahead and get to it. Janet Taylor, welcome back to the show. How are you?

Janet: Hi, Tim. I’m doing well. How are you?

Tim: I am very, very much looking forward to this conversation. It’s been a while since we’ve done a new teacher episode, but we are back with, I think, a really good topic on professionalism. The mailbox was overflowing with questions, so sorry to everyone if we didn’t get to yours. But I think we have some really good ones. This is something that’s on a lot of people’s minds.

So let’s kind of set the stage for this whole episode. Over the past couple of years, you’ve been supervising a bunch of student teachers and you’re now back in the classroom and also doing a bunch of… I can’t keep track of everything that you’re doing, but I wanted to ask you just what have you been seeing in your time supervising? And now that you’re back in the classroom, what are you seeing from new teachers?

Janet: So are you asking more generally or are you thinking more along the lines of the professionalism?

Tim: Can we do both?

Janet: Sure, we can do both. You know I love to talk. Okay. So let’s see. So this has been an interesting year for me. Like you said, I’m back in the classroom and I’m also still observing student teachers in the classroom. So that’s been really interesting to kind of share with them the same things that are going on with me that they’re experiencing too. So they will talk about, “Oh, this happened today.” And I’ll be like, “Yeah, that happened to me too.” And being able to share in that camaraderie is kind of fun, I think.

I don’t know, it’s kind of interesting. But I would say that, funny enough, I mean the same stuff that we’re seeing from student teachers now are the same things that we were seeing last year and the same things we saw 10 years ago. I mean, some of the same… the reason why we talk about the new teacher podcast episodes are because this is stuff that keeps reoccurring, right? It’s like every year.

Tim: Yeah. It’s stuff that everybody has gone through. Yeah.

Janet: Yes. Yes. It doesn’t really change that much. I mean, truly. How we address it or what the direction of maybe managing some of the situations are a little bit different because we know better, we do better, right? We’re learning ways to deal with our work life balance. I think that’s been a real thing that I’ve addressed with student teachers. Just to go back, student teaching is hard. You’re spending a semester. You’re not getting paid. You’re not working, and you’re fully fledged into this. You barely know what you’re doing. On top of it, my students have other homework that they have to do for me, which it’s a lot.

Tim: And I remember trying to work a job while I was doing it in the evenings after student teaching and just this constant state of exhaustion the entire time.

Janet: Yes. And it’s like you know that there’s the light at the end of the tunnel, but at the same time, that tunnel feels really long. And then you’re probably going, “Is this what I signed up for?” Next year, I’m going to be doing this completely by myself. Ugh.” That’s why we’ve got you, right? We got your back.

Tim: Exactly.

Janet: So yeah.

Tim: Let’s talk professionalism, though. What are you seeing? What are people thinking? What do people need to know?

Janet: Yeah. Well, when we talk about professionalism, I think there’s a lot of different ways to look at that, right? So just on a side note here at AOEU, we talk about professionalism in the idea of your professional practice, like being reflective, contributing to your school culture, that kind of thing. Right? We’re also including things like professional learning, arts advocacy. Those are big pieces of being an art teacher, a professional art teacher. Right?

Tim: Right.

Janet: And then of course Danielson Framework for Teaching, which I think a lot of schools have adopted that model. They look at professional responsibilities. And again, that’s the same thing reflecting on your teaching, but it also talks about maintaining accurate records, which we talked about in the organization, I think. Right?

Tim: Right, right.

Janet: We talked about that in that episode. Or communicating with families. That’s a big one. How do you do that? And as well as professional development in the community within your school community or outside of your school, that kind of stuff. And then also, this piece is really interesting about that framework is it talks about integrity and ethical conduct. I find that really interesting and service to students and that kind of idea. What does that actually look like to professionally work with kids? Right?

But I think what you and I are really interested probably on talking about now is more on the idea of what does it look like to be a professional art teacher back in the classroom “post pandemic”? What does it look like getting back to the new normal again? What does that actually look like in the responsibilities area? Is that-

Tim: Yeah, just as a… to you, what does it mean to participate in the school culture or work within a department or work within a school? What are the things that people should be concentrating on that are going to help make them successful professionally?

Janet: Yeah. And I think that’s kind of different than it used to be. It looks different in general. And then also if you had never experienced what it’s like to be in a school community as a new teacher, it’s a new experience altogether. We all think we know what it’s like to be in a school because we are all in schools forever. But actually working in the school community and what that all means, there’s a lot more. And I think that really is very overwhelming, especially for art teachers, new art teachers, because there’s so many more things like field trips that we take them on, or art show displays around school or elsewhere, competitions. And then partnerships that we talk about with other school events. I always think about Lindsay Moss talking about her drive through with the community.

Tim: Yes. The Drive Through Art Show.

Janet: And no, it doesn’t need to be crazy like that. She’s amazing. Right? But-

Tim: Yeah, she’s an overachiever. That’s fine.

Janet: Yes. Yes. But that’s part of it that I think we oftentimes don’t even think about when we’re student teachers or new teachers. Right?

Tim: Mm-hmm.

Janet: Yeah, yeah.

Tim: Well, and I would just add too, on top of all of that, all of those big things, all of those outside the school day things, it’s just so difficult to do so much on a day-to-day basis. Just all of the logistics with supplies and with grading and with getting out these materials and making sure these are put away and cutting paper and making sure the floor is mopped and the brushes are washed. It just goes on and on and on. And so there’s just a lot to prepare for and a lot that needs to be done if you are in the art room.

Janet: Yeah. And working with other people to do that. I mean, that’s a huge piece is how do you collaborate with your other art teachers or other people in your building to make those things happen. Right? Yeah, for sure.

Tim: Exactly. Yeah, there’s so much. And I’ll just say teachers who are just starting, find a way for your kids to help organize supplies and wash brushes and clean the floor. That’s not something you have to be doing by yourself, so.

Janet: 100%.

Tim: Just a quick word of advice. All right. Let’s open up the mailbag, though. This first question, this was actually asked in various forms by a lot of different people from a lot of different places, they’re worried about how we dress. So basic gist of most of these questions goes something like this. When I started teaching, I was really nervous about dressing and how to look professional while still being able to do my work in the art room. It’s tough as an art teacher. And so how should a new teacher dress for school days for in services, and how do they find out where the lines are on acceptable dress for their particular school? Can I take this one first? Is that all right?

Janet: Go for it. Yes, please.

Tim: So I would just say when I first started teaching, I was dressing very professionally. I had nice pants, shirt, tie, full nine yard. Super professional. When I was teaching elementary, there were just not a lot of male teachers around. And so I wanted to set a good example or be a good example for those kids. And then when I moved to the high school, the art department that I took over had just not the best reputation. And so I wanted things to look a little more professional, be a little more professional, like, “Hey, this is a serious subject. We’re going to do some big things here.” And so it was important to me to dress really nicely. And for me, the colored sharpies were important. I bought the 36 pack and that way I could match my tie to the Sharpie that was in my shirt pocket every single day.

Janet: Oh my gosh.

Tim: And so I looked professional, but I was also very artistic at the same time.

Janet: With the colored sharpie? That made you artistic. I like that.

Tim: Yeah. Colored sharpie that matched the tie. It’s just part of the whole ensemble. And I did that for quite a few years and that was great. And my clothes all had paint on them and that’s fine. It was just part of the deal. My pants are going to have clay and my shirt was going to have paint and there’s not much you can do about it, just you need to accept that. But then as I got a little further into my teaching career I started to get burned out. And I know this sounds pathetic, but there were days where it seemed really, really difficult to button up a shirt and put on a tie. That was really hard for me at one point. And so I just started dressing down. I just kept wearing my art club hoodie every single day to school. And that was fine too. And it kind of made me realize that it’s not that important what you want to wear.

I would suggest when you’re first starting, you want to dress nicely, you want to set a good example, you want people to take you seriously. And so I would recommend dressing up, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not super important. So I would just say, talk to your administrator, see what expectations are, be willing to follow those expectations, and then if you eventually decide that you want to dress down or you have to not look so good when you’re doing ceramic units, then that’s fine too. You can figure that out later on. But at the beginning, just communicate with your admin and just do what they’re asking you to do.

Janet: Yeah, kind of on the same lines. So let’s see. I would say, first of all, that I hate that what you wear is important. I’ll be honest, right? It really bothers me that “professional” is a suit and a tie. You know what I mean? And I don’t know if that’s like you and I are a little bit older school with that, but my student teachers often will go to school and wearing jeans and a sweatshirt because that’s what they’re cooperating teacher’s wearing, let’s say. and I’m not saying they’re all doing that. I’m just saying… And I’m like, “You guys cannot do that because you’re representing our university too.” And so I always say the best policy is to not wear jeans at all. At least when you’re a new teacher, not for quite some time. And the same lines, dressing up a little bit more. I don’t know what do you want to say. What’s that? Business casual, I guess? A little bit higher than business casual? I don’t know.

Tim: I don’t know. But yes.

Janet: But basically, okay, so the school that I taught at… I taught first at a school that was pretty affluent and it was like, I don’t think I wore jeans, I wore trousers and a nice shirt or something like that. And then, I went to Chicago public schools. And I’ll tell you, it’s so different, the vibes that you get at each school. So at that school, everybody called each other Mr. And Mrs. So-and-So in the hallway. I didn’t even know people’s first names.

Tim: Oh, okay.

Janet: Yeah, it was very formal. Very formal. Yeah.

Tim: That’s weird to me.

Janet: Yes, and everybody was in suit and ties. Everybody was in just very proper dress. So it was really important. And then I went back out to the suburbs and it was like, people don’t even look at you or say hi. And they’re like in jeans and sweatshirts. So it’s really interesting from school to school, the dynamic that you’re in. But I always say don’t wear jeans. And I know what really stinks too is like you said, when you get paint all over you and you’re spending money on nicer clothes. And then, I always would get developer on me and it would ruin my clothes. And so it was just kind of killer that way, I guess. But I don’t know. It stinks but I would say that’s the best policy is just start off that way. I do think, like you said though, when it starts to get tough or whatever, the good thing is to try to invest in maybe your school’s attire.

If you have a shirt from your school, it feels like you can wear that with anything. You know what I mean? And it’s a little bit more dressed down. But oh, I will tell you also that I just recently at my new school was wearing really nice… That’s the other thing that I say about the new dress now. I was wearing really nice jeans. They’re fancy jeans with a very nice top and a sport coat type of jacket for open house. And I kind of got looked down upon like, “You shouldn’t be wearing that.” And I was like, “Really?” I went to my department chair, I’m like, “Should I… Am I okay?” And he’s like, “Your shoes are really nice, so you’re good.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh, I thought I was looking pretty snappy.” You know what I mean? And I’m not someone to push the limits on that. But anyway, I would always say err on the side of asking admin if you need it. Yeah.

Tim: Okay. Two things to wrap up this question. We’re on the path for another really long time, so.

Janet: Oh, my gosh. Okay.

Tim: I don’t mind.

Janet: Sorry.

Tim: No, it’s how we always do it. Number one, find yourself a good apron that’ll protect your clothes. and you’re the art teacher, so people don’t mind if you wear an apron. And number two, if you’re listening to Janet and I say, “Don’t wear jeans,” and you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh my god, they’re so old and so out of touch,” guess what? Your administrators are even older and even more out of touch. And so just communicate with them about what their expectations are.

Janet: Thanks for that, Tim. I appreciate that too.

Tim: Not calling you old.

Janet: Not calling me as old as administrators. So I feel better about that. We’re good. Okay.

Tim: All Right. Okay, next question from the mail. This is from Ellie in Sacramento, California. She says, “I have a lot of tattoos. One full sleeve and one partial. My principal is chill about it and she says it’s fine that the kids see them, but I’m worried about the parents. Would you try and cover them up or otherwise try to hide the tattoos just so you don’t have to deal with parents’ complaints?” Janet, thoughts on that one?

Janet: Oh my gosh, this is like the dress thing too. Because it’s like, gosh, tattoos are so cool. I’ve always wanted a full sleeve. I just cannot commit on the artwork. I’m too picky. But I’ve always wanted sleeves. So I don’t know. I guess I’m kind of like, if the admin is okay with it, then they have the finger on the pulse and they’ll back you up. They know what the parents are going to say or do. And you’re in Sacramento, first of all. I mean, isn’t that kind of cool? Okay, so you’ve got kids who are seeing your tattoos and know that they’re there. Well then, so do the parents, right? I mean, whatever the parents… I don’t know.

I would say if you were at a more conservative school setting where maybe that is an issue, I would say do what makes you most comfortable. So let’s say you’re doing parent teacher conferences and you’re going to be so focused on your tattoos, then wear long sleeves. So what? Show them, don’t show them, but do what makes you most comfortable in those situations if you don’t want to tackle it in that moment. That’s kind of what I would say.

Tim: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right. Again, I would echo the point to just talk to your admin, get guidance from them. That’s their job. And like you said, they have a pulse on what the school community is and isn’t up for. So I think that’s fine. I think it does bring up a bigger issue about what parents think, what parents do, what they worry about, what they’re going to act on. And I would just say you can’t spend too much time worrying about that because it’s going to be an added stressor that you probably don’t need. It’s going to likely distract you from what you’re trying to do.

And so I would say just try not to worry about all of that because it is going to distract from your teaching. It’s going to be difficult for you. So yeah, don’t spend too much time fretting about what parents might say or might worry about. Like you said, Janet, if it is going to be a distraction at conferences, cover them up. But at the same time, your kids see them, your kids know. And if it hasn’t been an issue yet, I doubt it’s going to be, so. But just look for guidance from other teachers or from your administrator.

Janet: That’s a really good question though, just in general for new teachers starting out thinking, “Oh my gosh, I have this permanent artwork that is very visible.” And if you’re stepping into a new school, that can be very intimidating. I get that.

Tim: Yeah, for sure. For sure. Okay, next question. This is from Jarvis in Detroit, Michigan. And Jarvis says, “My biggest worry is communication with parents. I want to make sure I’m professional with my phone calls, emails, and all the ways I’m communicating with them. I’m kind of scared to send a lot of emails because there’s a written record of everything I say, but obviously that’s easiest and most people’s best way to get in touch with them. Should I worry about this? And how do I make sure I stay professional in all of my communications?”

All right. Again, don’t spend all your time worrying. Just send the emails. Teachers I think in general should send more emails. And I’m sorry everybody who’s going to throw things at me for that as far as we don’t have time to do this. I think communication is key. And don’t worry, like I said, about things that you can’t control. Don’t worry about people picking apart what you wrote. Just share what you need to share. It’s always good. Parents always appreciate hearing when their kids did well. A quick email, quick phone calls. Always good about that. That’s something that really takes a lot of time.

But just an email newsletter is a great idea where every once in a while, maybe every month, every couple weeks, you just talk about what’s happening in your classroom and you send it out to everybody so parents know what’s happening in your classroom. They will appreciate that. And if you can’t commit to biweekly, then just do it occasionally and just kind of let them know what what’s happening. And then if there are some bigger issues that you maybe don’t want to deal with via email, just use email to set up a phone call or set up an in-person meeting and then you can talk over the phone or talk even face to face about anything that’s kind of a bigger issue.

So I would say go ahead and send the emails, don’t worry too much about it because it is the best form of communication and 99% of the time parents are going to be excited to hear about what’s happening in their classroom or hear about what their kid is doing. So Jenna, what are your thoughts on email professionalism, what we should and shouldn’t worry about there?

Janet: Yeah, I mean I think everything that you said is solid. As a parent myself, I love to hear from teachers. I think that if you’re worried about what it is that you’re going to say that’s going to be maybe misconstrued or maybe you have some sense of material in there, maybe think twice about sending that email. You can ask someone else to look it over for you ahead of time before you hit the send button and make sure that maybe your wording is what you want it to be. Or if again, if the content is something that you’re nervous about, then probably pick up the phone. I think that’s a good standard to, hey, to parents, I really need to have a conversation. Can we meet during this time? Whatever. I’d like to discuss this. I always think that’s really important, especially when dealing with touchy topics. Something like kids misbehaving or kids failing a class because they haven’t turned in work or whatever it is. Sometimes those can be very trying on parents who maybe see that across the board. Right? So I also-

Tim: Yeah. Can I interrupt you too.

Janet: Yeah.

Tim: Sorry. Sorry, just one thing I thought of. Anything that has some urgency to it needs to be a phone call. You talk about behaviors, things you don’t want to continue. Let’s say you send an email and that parent doesn’t check the email for three days or seven days or 10 days, which happens.

Janet: Or it’s in their spam folder or yeah.

Tim: Yeah. Exactly. That’s definitely a possibility. So if there is anything that needs attention right away, make it a phone call. Anyway, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I had what I thought was kind of an important point.

Janet: No worries. What was I going to say? Oh, so about the behaviors or whatever. I think that sometimes, I mean we all have been prey to this where we might send an email or send a text real quick or something like that to even our partners or friends or whatever that’s misconstrued. What’d you mean by that? And things escalate very quickly when they’re misconstrued or misunderstood. And so I think it’s really important that if you have subjects that might already be of concern to the parent, heated topic, whatever, to have that conversation in person or on the phone because 100% of the time I’m able to… Okay, my success rate has been high to defuse or deescalate a conversation with a parent when I can sit there and listen to what they have to say, I can hear their tone of voice.

They oftentimes want to feel… Just like every human being, right? Their kid is important to them. They want to make sure that they’re being heard because they are the expert with their kid. And what they see at home isn’t always the same as what you’re seeing at school and vice versa. And so really, if you can take it from the direction of this is a partnership, I’m looking to you to help me out. That’s the other thing in emails, I don’t… I will say this because I feel like we could talk about it a whole episode just on communication, but it’s like you don’t want to send an email where it’s like I’m tattling on your kid to you. It should be, I’m looking for solutions. We’re trying to do this together. What have you seen at home? How can I help your kid? I’m struggling with this. What do you think of that?

It should always end up with a question at the end to invite them to participate in this conversation. Not like, “Hey, your kid was misbehaving today.” Okay, well what do you want me to do about it? I’m not in class with them. And I’m not saying that that’s necessarily the communication that this person is asking about, but those are… I feel like that’s when the email gets a little bit bogged down. It’s like you don’t want to send a novel. That’s not good. And if you’re concerned about… Usually in your administration or in your school, you have a good idea of which parents you need to be tracking emails on. Usually you have a pretty good idea. And so when in doubt ask a counselor, right? Because they know the kid. I oftentimes will shoot an email over to the counselor and be like, “Hey, before I send this email home, can you give me some insight on the kid?” And then they’ll be like, “Oh yeah. Parents are really receptive,” or “No, parents don’t speak English.” Okay, that’s good to know too. Right?

Tim: Right.

Janet: So yeah, I’m all about the email.

Tim: Yeah, quick trip down to the counselor’s office, pop your head in and ask a good way to collaborate. And like you said, sometimes get some key information there. But when in doubt, communicate is… Yeah, do it more often than not.

Janet: Yes.

Tim: Okay. Next question from the mailbag. Alexis, who says she’s from Northeast Ohio. “A lot of my colleagues have social media accounts for their teaching or their classroom. They like Facebook because that’s where the parents are. But I’m not 80 and I’m not starting an account just for that. Lol.” Shots fired, Alexis. Okay.

Janet: As we opened by talking about how old we are. Okay. Okay.

Tim: “Would you recommend an account on Insta? That’s Instagram, for those of you who are 80, or Snapchat or TikTok? I feel like it’s good for establishing myself as a professional, but there are obviously downsides with oversharing, people misinterpreting stuff, or not liking what you’re posting. Not sure what I should do here or even if I should do it.”

Okay. So first of all, I can’t get over it. I’m not 80. I’m dying at that. But I think that’s good for people to hear, maybe? I feel like a lot of teachers who are well into their career do a lot on Facebook as far as art teacher groups and sharing with parents. And it’s good for them to hear that the 23-year-olds, who are just coming into teaching, have no desire whatsoever to be on Facebook. So there’s another world outside of that.

Janet: I will say though, on top of it, it’s also who is your demographic that you’re trying to share that to? Maybe if you are sharing to the parents and you really want them, maybe that the Facebook is the way to go. I don’t know. I’m not saying it is, but-

Tim: No, I think it’s important to realize your audience, but I would say, honestly, don’t do it. Especially not at the beginning, I think. You have enough things to worry about that you don’t need to also be worried about posting content and sharing everything that’s happening. I don’t think that needs to be a priority right away. If you really want to do it, go for it. But if you have any doubts, I would say just wait.

And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with a long runway on the social. You don’t have to be posting all the time. You can create an Instagram account just for your teaching and use it to learn, to observe, to ask questions, to be part of conversations. You don’t have to share. But if you decide that you do want to share, you want to show off what’s happening in your classroom, just follow best practices. Just focus on the art. Especially keep the kids’ faces out of all of it and just make sure you’re focused on what’s happening with your teaching or what’s happening with the projects. But yeah, keep it professional as much as you can. But I would say if you don’t have to do it, I would not make it a priority.

Janet: So I have some feelings on social media, but before that, I want to go back to your comment about keeping the kids’ faces out of it. So this is really interesting, especially nowadays, very important to be aware of your district’s policies. I would say, I’ve never been at a school where this hasn’t been the case, but there are students whose parents don’t want them for many reasons, many different reasons, to be seen on social media. It could be a severe safety situation for the kid.

So recently at this new school, I was like, “So what’s your policy on this?” And they were like, “Well, you can go in and look and see which kids opted…” I’m like, nobody’s got time for that. I’m not going to do that. So I’m just going to not put faces ever, ever. I just put hands and them working on stuff or they’re finished work or whatever. And if a face is in it, I have to block it out by putting a shape over or something and blur it, whatever. But that’s so important. You can get fired for that, 100%. I have witnessed that happen. So I hate to be that person. But every school is different.

Tim: You have to think about, it’s something that you have to worry about.

Janet: It’s so important right now. Also, what else is very important right now is knowing that whatever you’re putting out there can be seen by anybody. It can be saved by anybody and shared by anybody. And so I think that’s really important. And again, not to be Debbie Dooms Day over here, but it’s really important right now, especially I would say. So that being said, that’s what I always talk to my student teachers about. But I will say, this is my mixed feelings on social media. Okay, you ready for my diatribe on this?

Tim: Yes, go.

Janet: Okay. So I was feeling pretty snarky about people putting… Now you’re going to get hate mail, I think, for this. But I used to get pretty snarky about people putting out their own Instagram account and saying, “Look at what my kids are doing. This is what they’re doing.” And I felt like it was kind of about them and not about their students. Right?

Tim: Yeah.

Janet: And so it felt really inauthentic to me to be like, “Look at all these amazing things my kids are doing.” Okay, so I’m putting it out there. Just bear with me. Here we go. So then in my old district, I had started our Instagram and Twitter accounts. And so I made it for the district or for our department, I mean, and I ran it because nobody else felt like they had time to run it. I get it. So it had my email address on it for school, and it was tied to our account that way, which was nice because then anything we put out, it was like, look at what our students are doing. Our students at our department, they’re amazing. Our kids. It wasn’t about me. You know what I mean? So then I left that district and then they had a real hard time figuring out how to transfer that over from-

Tim: Oh, yeah.

Janet: Yes, from accounts. So in the meantime and my own Instagram account, I have my own artwork and everything, and then I would have my kids and then I would have some of my teaching stuff. Kind of a little combo of things. And I went to this workshop where they were like, “Yeah, you really should… If you want your artwork to be seen by a gallery or things like that to be chosen, you really should keep your Instagram clean to just your artwork.” Okay. So then I was like, “Well shoot, I already have a following on my artwork on that one.” And so then I made a separate one, and this is because I was also working with student teachers. I’m not in the classroom at the moment. This was last year. I made my own separate teaching account. And it’s crazy how elementary art teachers are huge.

And so I could see why you’d want to… You’d feel that pressure to make something like that. There’s like 50,000 people following these elementary art teachers. And I’m like, “I think I’m pretty solid and I’ve got 100 people following me.” And so I’m like, “Well gee, how’d that happen?” But in high school, it’s a different dynamic, I think. You’re not going to get 50,000 people following you. So anyway, that’s my diatribe about it. But I guess I’m just saying you do you, and if you want to do it through your school, do it through your school. If you want to do it for yourself, do it for yourself. If you want to build it over time, do it. But do not compare yourself to other people. I think we’ve talked about that, is the comparison is the thief of joy. Isn’t that how it goes? Yeah.

Tim: Yeah. Comparison is the thief of joy.

Janet: Yes. And when you’re a new teacher, just trying to love your job and do it-

Tim: Trying to survive everything. Yes.

Janet: Exactly. That is one less thing that you really have to do. Okay, sorry that was long.

Tim: No. It’s all important stuff. And for those of you that are angry at Janet for talking about influencers.

Janet: I’ll give you

I’m just joking. I was trying to help you out there, Tim. Okay.

Tim: All right. Next question. This is from CJ in Las Vegas. CJ says, “I just started my first year as a high school teacher and I’m in an art department with four other teachers. They aren’t exactly open to new ideas, if you know what I mean. And they don’t even want to collaborate with me. What do you think are best practices for working on a team and how do you deal with a team that maybe doesn’t want to work with you?” Janet, I have never been on a big team, so I’m going to send this to you.

Janet: Okay. So I think we did tackle a little bit of this in a previous podcast for new teachers, and maybe it was about curriculum or something like that. Not reinventing and trying to work with others and et cetera. So I will tell you from the perspective, especially now with so many changes and new teachers and whatever, this kind of goes both ways for veteran teachers and for new teachers. It’s like, okay, so from the lens of a veteran teacher, you might be one of two left in the department and everybody else is new and you’re stuck having to, I don’t know, what do you want to say, mentor all these new people, you’re already burnt out from the pandemic. Just all these things are happening and you’re like, “I cannot deal with this.” And so sometimes veteran teachers right now might be like, “I am washing my hands of this because I just can’t do it right now.”

And that’s okay. So I try to take it on the perspective and look at the whole picture. But if you’re a new teacher coming in too, and you realize that people are not collaborating with you, I always like to put on my kill them with kindness face and always smile and asking questions. “I am so sorry to bother you, but can you help me with this?” Or, “Hey, I made a Google doc with all these questions I have, can we meet one day and go over it instead of me bothering you? Because as a veteran teacher, it is very annoying. I will tell you. You know this time, I’m sure, but you’re in the middle of prepping your class and it’s the very little time that you get to yourself to take care of things. And then you have a new teacher popping in every five seconds.

And some of it is because they, no offense new teachers, but you don’t know what you don’t know. We’ve said that before. And so you might be last minute, “Oh, I have this idea I’m going to do this,” or, “Oh, I forgot to do this and I need tape, and I don’t know where the tape is,” or whatever. And I’ve definitely done this at my new school. I’m like, “Hey, I can’t find this material.” And so then as a veteran teacher, we’re like, “Ugh. It’s not my responsibility to help you when you haven’t thought through the situation.” It’s like, well, they also don’t know what they don’t know. So anyway, my point is it kind of goes both ways is looking from both sides of the lens.

But my biggest tips are to ask questions, have a smile on your face, be ready to support and offer help. And if you’re offering help, don’t just like, “Okay, thanks and walk away.” That means you have to stick around and be like, “What can I help you with? What needs my help?” I do feel like sometimes you have to gain people’s trust and respect because you’re this new person coming in and they don’t know you. But I will say that if you are working with people who are not willing to collaborate, not interested in sharing materials with you, then I’m sorry. At some point you have to just keep on going and do your thing. So let’s say you walk into a school and they’re like, “No, you can, I’m not going to give you my curriculum,” and you’re teaching the same class, well then make your curriculum, I guess. And if you need support and you’re not getting it from the teachers, then you should go to your department chair. I think that’s a great place to start too.

And I also, when I step into new schools, I like to talk to the department chair and kind of be like, “Okay, can you give me a little bit of the skinny of the department? Where are the strengths? How do people work together? Who should I ask for things?” And usually, I get some information about the people, like, “So-and-So is really strap…” Strapped? That’s not the right word. Stretched, then. And so maybe don’t go to them right now or whatever. And it’s like, that’s really helpful information. So it’s kind of just being an observer and being responsive to that. Does that make sense? I don’t know.

Tim: No, it definitely does. And I think it’s important to realize, like you said, you can’t force it. If they are not interested in working with you, give it some time. It may not happen right away, but hopefully it’ll happen eventually. But even if it doesn’t, just do what you can do. Advocate for yourself, advocate for your kids, show off your work. Like you said, continue to offer to help and just be open, be amenable to whatever you can do to be part of the team and do what you can to make it work. But you might just need to accept that it’s not going to happen at least right away.

Janet: Yeah, and I guess that there are those points too. If it feels like, okay, I’ve spent a year and nobody’s working with me and this is a toxic environment, then maybe you need to get out and find a different space. I don’t know.

Tim: Definitely a possibility. And I would just add one other thing. I guess there’s a lot of support that maybe doesn’t come from the people that you work directly with, like this podcast here. Or there’s so many online resources, there’s so many art teachers online, there’s so many sources of support and help and learning out there that it doesn’t necessarily have to come from the people that you see every day.

Janet: Yeah.

Tim: All right. Final question from the mailbag. This is from Steph in New Jersey. Steph says, “This may sound ridiculous, but I’m honestly not sure how I’m supposed to act at staff meetings.” I like this question. “For context, I was hired during the pandemic, taught my first year remote, and even last school year, we rarely met as a staff. So what do I do when I’m in a big group of my colleagues? Do I have to pay attention all the time? Is it okay if I doodle while people are talking? Should I ask questions or speak up when they ask for comments? I really don’t know how any of this works.” It’s like eight questions in one. So Janet, take whichever of those you would like.

Janet: Yeah, long are the days where… Long gone are the days when you could turn off your screen during PD meetings and be like, “Yeah, I’m here.”

Tim: I’m listening, I promise.

Janet: No, no. They see everything you’re doing. Okay. So I always bring a sketchbook or pad of paper with me to take notes. Always. And I do like to try. Now, I’m not good at this. We talked about this during organization. I’m not the most organized when it comes to paperwork and stuff, but I do suggest having one notebook or something that you want to keep all of the stuff that’s department, school related, notes because you’re going to need those to refer back to at some point. I promise you that there will be something that comes up and you’re like, “Ooh, they said that in a meeting, and I do not remember what that was.” So I usually have a sketchbook or something that is dedicated to that. Teachers are the worst with professional development.

Tim: So true.

Janet: Let’s be real. And sometimes it’s warranted because the stuff doesn’t relate to us or we’re kind of the last ditch effort over there. But so if the PD isn’t relevant to you or it’s really challenging to engage with, I say the doodling is really great. Go ahead and doodle, draw whatever. Because actually, and I always tell my students this, they love this, and I feel like I need this to back it up, but there’s scientific evidence. Now I say that and I should look it up. But there’s scientific evidence that shows that when you doodle, it makes you more present and able to engage with what you’re listening to.

I think it helps you ground you, but also takes some of the sensory options out, if that makes sense. So your ears have to focus a little bit harder on the listening part. So I would always be like, “No, I’m doodling, but I’m listening.” And oftentimes, I do have more thoughtful questions to ask then because I’m more attentive to it. I also like to jot little reflections down or thoughts that I might have for later. And I say that, always ask those questions. If they’re like, “Hey, does anybody have comments?” Oh, okay. If it’s like, what, at three o’clock is when the end of the day is, and it’s 2:59 and they’re like, “Who’s got questions?” you might want to hold onto your question.

Tim: Oh, do not be that person. Oh, that is the worst. The meeting is so obviously over. And then one person just raise their hand. I have a super specific question that only applies to me but I’m keeping the entire staff here for another three or four minutes. Don’t be that person, please.

Janet: Yes, or just in general. That’s a good rule of thumb. Anytime if you have a very specific question that’s about you and your needs, that needs to be met. Get that person’s email and go ask them later.

Tim: Okay. So yeah, I would just say, yeah, also doodle away. Go for it. And honestly, your principal’s standing up in the front of the room talking to everybody. They don’t know whether you’re doodling or taking notes. It just looks like you’re attentive. So yeah, have a notebook and pen that’s just specific for PD meetings. Like you said, leave it in your desk drawer in the same place all the time. Take it when you need to take it.

As far as with your colleagues, I think Steph asked, “What do I do when I’m in a big group of my colleagues?” I would say just be cordial, be friendly, but you don’t have to engage any more than you want to. And as an introvert, it’s really hard for me to go into a big group of people and be all excited. That’s hard work. But it’s easy to say good morning or easy to just say, “Hey, how’s everybody doing?” as you sit down. And that can be it. And so you look friendly enough, but don’t need to engage really thoroughly with everybody.

So it’s up to you. I mean, just be yourself when you’re in a group of colleagues. Stay professional, but easy enough to say hi and be friendly and that is good for you. And then I would just say, like you said, a lot of irrelevant PD is going to be coming your way in your teaching career, but part of being a professional is sometimes doing things that you don’t want to do. And engaging in professional development might just be one of those things. But I would say, yeah, like you said, just act professional. Do what you’re supposed to be doing, which is paying attention, taking notes, asking questions, and participating in the discussion. And it doesn’t need to go much beyond that. So-

Janet: I want to add too, if you don’t mind me interrupting and adding, but it drives me nuts when we’re in a small group meeting, maybe there’s five or 10 people, even. And other people are on their email, doing their lesson planning, on their phone. It’s really irritating actually, as somebody who would like to be doing that too. It’s like, come on man, we’re all in here doing this. Can you just put it away for a little bit? I think it’s really rude.

Tim: It is. It’s disrespectful when you’re in a small group like that. But yeah, I would say a good rule of thumb is just think about what would I want my students to be doing in this situation? And then, oh, I would want them to be paying attention, taking notes and answering questions I have. Do that and you’ll be fine. So I think that’s a simple rule of thumb for staff there. Okay. That is all of our questions. Thank you for all of them. Thank you to everybody who wrote in. They were a lot of fun. Janet, before we go, any final thoughts that you want to share?

Janet: Oh my gosh, you know I always have final thoughts. Okay. All right. So I want to share this. This is my vulnerability for the day. Okay? So I’m new to my school and I know some of these teachers. I’ve known them because we all kind of run in the same circle. You know how it goes. It’s a slightly incestuous group of art teachers in the area. Everybody knows everybody. You got to be careful not to burn bridges. I mean, that’s good advice in general. You never know where you’re going to be or who’s going to know somebody. But anyway, so I’m at this new district and I will tell you, I have had quite the go of the first maybe month, and I’m on the podcast a lot. I present a lot. I feel pretty confident in what I have to offer. And it’s almost imposter syndrome when you start at a new school. And so I think even veteran teachers who are pretty solid, it’s really uncomfortable to start again.

I was really missing my old school and the fact of I had my classroom and I had my students and I had my curriculum that I set up and everything felt really comfortable. And when I tried to have a little mantra of I can do hard things and how we grow is by going outside our comfort zone and pushing outside that, and that’s how we learn and grow. So when you’re starting a new career as a new teacher or even a veteran teacher at a new school, it’s incredibly vulnerable. Putting yourself out there, trying to figure out and navigate everything that you’re navigating, whether that’s what you’re supposed to dress on a daily basis or do I need to cover my tattoos or how should I communicate with the parents? Because they’re different. They’re different everywhere. Everybody’s different. And so it really does… Every day I would come in and I’d be like, “Okay,” and I love teaching here.

I love my colleagues and the students. I’m finally kind of in the groove again. But it was just like every day going, “Okay, it’s a new day, and what do I need to work on today to make sure that I’m feeling solid at my school?” And you know what? A big part of it is getting to know my students and my student population and how my building runs. And not everything runs the same. I mean, there’s things at my old district that ran like a fine oiled machinery, and I come here and it’s just different. I’m like, “Why are you guys doing it that way?” And just trying to do the simple ins and outs of things that you’re used to somewhere else is just a wrench in your day when you’re already trying to do so much.

So I just wanted to put that out there that it doesn’t really change when you’re at a new school, whether you have 20 years behind you or two years behind you. I think it’s just really learning about the team, learning the culture, and giving yourself grace to say, “It’s okay that I don’t know today because I will know more for tomorrow.”

Tim: Yeah. Absolutely. And as long as you are willing to listen and as long as you are willing to learn, then with a little bit of patience, all of that is going to come. It’s all going to come to you. And so yeah, I said just kind of be willing to be humbled a little bit and just be willing to learn and that will take you a long way, so. All right, well, Janet, thank you so much for this entire conversation. I always love talking to you and hopefully everybody will enjoy this new installment of our new teacher podcasts.

Janet: Thanks so much, Tim.

Tim: Thank you to Janet! I hope you found some good takeaways from our conversation. We have some links for you in the show notes about professionalism, some opportunities for you to explore, and some connections to other resources. I hope you can take advantage . Our next episode, episode 6, will be all about what New Teachers need to know about Evaluations. I hope you can join us again for that episode–thank you for listening!


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.