The May Mailbag: Best Watercolors, ELL Supports, and End of Year Cleanup (Ep. 414)

With the month of May upon us, it is time for another mailbag episode! Amanda and Tim begin with a chat about NAEA in Minneapolis and their own visits back to the classroom as volunteers. They then dive into a bit of advice on watercolors, strategies for ELL students, ideas on student behaviors, and strategies for upcoming job interviews. See the links below for all the resources mentioned in today’s discussion!

If you have a question for a future mailbag episode, email podcasts@theartofeducation.edu or leave a voice recording at 515-209-2595.

Full episode transcript below.

Resources and Links



Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for our teachers. The show is produced by the Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

It is the first week of May, which means we are back with another Mailbag episode, and we missed the April Mailbag, sorry about that, because of the Ask the Experts miniseries, which I think is fair to say that the miniseries was a hit. We really are proud of that. People have loved the episodes, but it’s now been two months since our last Mailbag, so I’m very glad that Amanda’s back with me.

But if I can just say a quick word about that Ask the Experts series, which is right there in the Art Ed Radio feed, and you should probably listen to it if you have not already. But during these Mailbag episodes that we’re doing, we realized that people have a lot of questions, they have a lot of things that they need answered, and we wanted to provide that miniseries as a resource for working with all different media, whether you’re a new teacher looking for different ways to instruct with a particular medium, or a veteran teacher teaching something for the first time, or maybe just somebody who’s brushing up on ideas and skills.

So each week with those episodes, we chose a different medium and went into a deep dive on what it’s like to teach that particular medium with some experts in the field, with some teachers who are doing things really, really well. So I hope you enjoyed those episodes. I hope they were helpful for you. And if you haven’t listened to them yet, I would encourage you to go back and give them a try.

But for now, we do want to answer some listener questions in the Mailbag right here with Amanda. So Amanda Heyn, welcome. I’m super excited you’re here. I have two questions for you. Number one, how are you, and number two, since we’ve been gone for a bit, is it fair to call this a long-awaited Mailbag episode?

Amanda: Ooh, I hope it’s long-awaited. Okay, number one, I’m great. I’m excited to be here recording the Mailbag. I do feel like Ask the Experts was sort of six weeks of focused Mailbag questions.

Tim: True, true.

Amanda: I mean, you didn’t have the Mailbag sound, which we can … That’s fine. But yes, I’m very, very happy to be here and I’ve been waiting a long time, so I’m excited to open up the Mailbag.

Tim: Good, good. Me too. You keep trying to cue up the sound, but it’s not time.

Amanda: It’s not time yet. No, I know. I was trying to think, could I rephrase that, but I can’t.

Tim: Okay. Can I ask about that weird purple bag of chips that I’m seeing? What is that?

Amanda: Okay, yes. Do you want an ASMR? Okay, I’m trying to eat more protein in my life, just as an aging human on planet Earth, and these chips are supposed to have 19 grams of protein in one bag, which I feel like is impressive. But I was looking at the ingredients and I really don’t know how you make chips out of these ingredients.

Okay. Real quick, just to let everybody know, that crinkly sound that you heard was from a bag of Quest Tortilla Style Protein Chips, the Loaded Taco flavor.

Yeah. Well, I feel like tortilla style made me scared, in the idea of tortilla chips, but I think they’re good.

Tim: Okay, okay.

Amanda: I was pleasantly surprised. I am not a smoothie person. I’m not ever going to drink a smoothie, the texture grosses me out. So if I can eat protein Doritos, that does work for my lifestyle. I’m happy about it.

Tim: Tell me about these ingredients though.

Amanda: Okay. There’s a protein blend with milk, protein isolate, whey protein isolate, vegetable oil, calcium caseinate.

Tim: Okay, maybe I didn’t want all of these details.

Amanda: There’s a lot more ingredients. It’s made of dairy. I don’t understand, but I’m not complaining, I am into it. The taco flavor is the only flavor I’ve tried and it is good.

Tim: Okay. I’m glad to hear that. I feel like maybe we should look into a sponsorship opportunity, but-

Amanda: Oh yeah, 100%.

Tim: … we can leave that for now.

Amanda: They’re expensive also.

Tim: Okay, okay, good to know. All right, I feel like we should do a little bit of story time. So anything great from the last couple months that you want to tell about?

Amanda: It’s been a busy couple months. Well, we had NAEA. I don’t know if we want to go back that far, that’s almost a month ago.

Tim: That’s fine, let’s talk about … NAEA was a good time. We learned a lot, we talked to a lot of people. What do you want to share about that?

Amanda: Oh, it was just really fun. We did something new with the booth this year, so we did Pictionary and that was very fun.

Tim: That was fun.

Amanda: We gave away some exclusive prizes. We also treated a group of art teachers to a very swanky party on the 50th floor of a building I can’t remember the name of, but sort of the crowning jewel of Minneapolis, like floor to ceiling windows. So that felt good. I did a lot of dancing, you did a lot of crafts at the NAEA party.

Tim: I had the opportunity to dance and passed on that in order to drink beer and make puppets.

Amanda: Right. But the rest of our team was very into dancing. There was a Prince theme party, so a purple party. We did do a photo booth. Maybe I’ll try to find that, post it on Instagram. I don’t know where it is. It was a fun time.

Tim: Good. Do you still have the puppet that I made you, is the real question?

Amanda: Yeah, I do. I don’t know where it is, but no, I didn’t throw it away.

Tim: Okay, okay, thank you. That makes me feel good that you kept that.

Amanda: I’ll keep it forever.

Tim: Yeah, I love that. No, we had a really good time at NAEA. I always appreciate just meeting teachers, hearing about what they’re doing in their classrooms, seeing really cool presentations. I love talking to podcast listeners. And then doing fun stuff like playing Pictionary at the booth is always a really good time, so that’s always fun. Okay, can I tell you about the art show that I just judged?

Amanda: Yes.

Tim: That was a good time. It’s at the high school where I used to teach and it involves the four high schools that are in my city. And I was asked to judge, so I went to do that. And my daughter was very worried that I was going to be biased because it’s at my old school, work from my old school. But then I was like, a rival school across town, the two teachers there are one teacher that I’ve known for 22 years now, and another teacher who is my former student. So shout-out, Trevor, you’re probably listening to this. I know you listen to the podcast.

And then I really love the teachers at the other two schools that were there too. So I was like, “No, we’re not going to be biased. Don’t need to worry about that.”

Amanda: Okay. Can I stop you for one second?

Tim: Yes.

Amanda: What is the rival school? Because you were at East, is the rival school West?

Tim: Oh, it sure is. Yes.

Amanda: Like are East and West the rivals are the other two North and South?

Tim: No, it’s East and West. And then there are two other schools that are within the city limits but not part of the same school district.

Amanda: Oh, okay, okay.

Tim: It’s a very weird situation. There’s a private school, there’s a lot going on. But yeah, East and West are the main rivals.

Amanda: Could you just tell me the mascots and I will stop asking questions?

Tim: No, that’s good. There’s a lot of Native American history in our town, and so it is the Chieftains and the Thunderbirds. Okay, so now I’ve completely lost my train of thought as to where we were going, but.

Amanda: You were judging, you were not going to be biased.

Tim: No, I did a good job of not looking at tags, so I don’t know who the teacher was or what school they were from and just judge the artwork as it was, and there was some really good stuff there.

So I enjoyed being able to look through that. I enjoyed being able to give awards. And then I went to the show, the reception on Sunday, and just seeing the joy on kids’ faces when they win awards is a wonderful thing. So really, my heart felt full afterwards.

Amanda: Good.

Tim: It was a very cool thing to do.

Amanda: Okay, so at AOEU once a year we are given the opportunity to get out into the community and give back, which is really fun. And I went back to school and I taught and volunteered for a day.

Tim: What age level was this?

Amanda: Yeah. First grade I taught. Oh boy, it was wild, it was wild. I think we’ll get into it when we answer some of the questions here in a little bit, but I also just wanted to give this teacher the gift of time. And so he said, “Give me all of your most annoying tasks that you hate and I will happily do them.”

And it was just a win-win because these are the tasks that bring me great joy. Like when you have a pile of clay tools and they’re all mixed together and they’re all dusty, and then you wash them and you sort them. I was in heaven. And she was just like, “What are you talking about?” And I was like, “No, this is actually fun for me.” I don’t get to do this anymore. So I hung art, I folded and stapled yearbook inserts, I washed the clay tools, just did a bunch of grunt work that was actually so enjoyable.

Tim: That’s so nice to have another art teacher come in to do that because parent volunteers, awesome most of the time, but you have to explain so many things. And it’s so nice to be like, “Hey, can you take down that bulletin board? Hey, can you clean those clay tools?” And you just know what needs to be done. That has to be so nice.

Amanda: Exactly. Yes.

Tim: Good on you. I like it.

Amanda: It was very fun. And then I taught a class, so they had a visiting artist, Tracy Subisak, shout-out. If you don’t know the book Sorry … Sorry, Snail, excuse, you should go check it out. If you are looking for an author to come to your school, her presentation to the kids was incredible and her book is so funny. Anyway, I also taught a class so that the art teacher could go to an extra session that she was doing with kids with some drawing and stuff.

Tim: Wow, that’s awesome.

Amanda: It was super fun.

Tim: Can I interest you in giving me that information so I can put it in the show notes?

Amanda: Sure, yes. Sure thing.

Tim: Thank you, thank you. All right, on that note though, we should probably jump into our questions. So it is now time for you officially to request something.

Amanda: Okay, yes. Can we please open up the Mailbag?

Tim: Our first question actually came from our customer support team here at AOEU. There was an admin that wrote in and said, “My elementary teachers expressed concerns about the behaviors of their students. We believe it’s a combination with the lack of socialization during COVID quarantine and a lack of parenting in today’s society. We have kindergarten students cussing out their teachers and students feel they can do whatever they want in class. They have no boundaries.”

Which I feel compelled to point out, that is not a question, but we hear you. Yes, this is an issue. So Amanda, thoughts on any or all of that?

Amanda: Yeah, I have a lot of thoughts. My kiddo, my personal child, my younger one, is part of this group. And I was talking to some other parents and we were just like, “Yeah, they’re weird.” They have missed some key things in their preschool or non-preschool or virtual preschool experience, and there are just these weird deficits going on. And then they got into school and there was this big push to get them over the hump. And I just think it’s taking more than one year, I think it’s just taking more than one year of them being at school.

And so what I’ve noticed from being in the classroom is they act a lot more kindergartners than first-graders and therefore would lead me to believe that kindergartners are acting a lot more preschoolers than kindergartners. But like I said, I recently taught that first-grade class and I had to use every trick in my book to get through that 45 minutes, and I was exhausted at the end of it. And actually, I went to my own kid’s school for this particular day. And my own child, I’m in the front of the room teaching, and he gets out of his seat to come tell me something. And I was like, My man, what are you doing? Turn around, sit down.” He was like, “No, but I …” And I was like, “It is not the time …” I’m at the front of the room circulating … I’m reading a book.

And that was the other thing. I was like, I know they can’t sit and listen to a book, so I was walking around the room, changing my position every two pages to get them to have some sense of novelty and pay attention to me. I felt like that new emoji they released, the melting face, within the last year.

Tim: Oh, yes. That’s right.

Amanda: I just felt like that emoji personified. So I cannot imagine being in a school all day, every day and dealing with those types of … And no one cussed me out, they were just supremely annoying. So that’s a whole nother level when you layer on that disrespect.

Amanda: I have a couple of suggestions. If I’m going real talk, just hang on until the end of the year and try again next year.

Tim: No, no, that’s actually something I was going to say. There’s a month left, you can do it, you can do it.

Amanda: Yeah. It might be kind of fatalistic, but we’re almost done. And so reserve whatever energy you have left to get through things however you can. Remember not to take anything personally, this is not your fault, and just hang on.

But the other thing I would say, if you do have a little bit left in the tank and you want to try some things, I would say increase the amount of tricks in your back pocket, so to speak. Like I said, I was really, really having to do a lot of different things to get them to pay attention.

For example, one call and response thing to get attention that I like to use with really little kids is, “If you can hear my voice say, ‘Shh.’ If you can hear my voice say ‘Shh, shh.'” Keep getting quieter and quieter. So that worked twice really well, and then the third time it didn’t work at all. And I was like, it’s already done. Usually this would be three classes worth. So then I was like, “If you can hear my voice say, ‘Red.’ If you can hear my voice say, ‘Orange.'” And then they kind of caught on and I could see their eyes light up and, “Is she going to do the whole rainbow?” And that just came to me in the moment and it ended up working for the other three times I had to get their attention within 45 minutes.

But I would say don’t be afraid to change it up. Be creative, take a technique that you’ve used and see if you can put a new spin on it to keep them engaged. They also just need a lot of novelty unfortunately, which is exhausting for you. And then also, I mean, I know I just said hang on to the end of the year, but don’t be afraid to have a class, maybe now while you have another six weeks left or whatever, to go back through routines and procedures. Like do you have a video that you recorded at the beginning of the year that you can re-show or can you re-practice something? If four out of the last five projects are going to be drawing-based, maybe just go through those routines and procedures again.

But again, I don’t know that that’s going to be a whole lot of help at this point in the year. Do you have ideas?

Tim: No, I wish I did have ideas. I feel like everybody is at the end of their rope with things and just throwing their hands up and just getting frustrated. And I would say at this point in the year, you’re probably not going to solve a lot of the issues.

But there are a couple of things that I want to talk about. One of them just goes back to a podcast I did a long time ago with Chris Cusack. Amanda, I’m sure you remember her. She did a lot of behavior and classroom management stuff with us for the NOW Conference, and I did a podcast with her. And she talked about just the idea that behavior and misbehavior is a type of communication.

And I obviously cannot speak to this as well as she can, but from what I understand and what I remember, she talks about how kids are not trying to give us, as teachers, they’re not trying to give us a hard time, they are having a hard time. And so their misbehavior is meeting some kind of a need. And our job as a teacher is to maybe be curious about what that need is and see if we can help them meet that in a different way.

And so I guess, preaching patience is what we’re trying to do here, because when we assume that they’re just being defiant or they’re just wanting to cause problems, then we’re missing an opportunity to meet those needs, for lack of a better term, and they’re missing the chance to modify their own behavior. And so I guess the actual process of this is to not just expect them to stop a behavior but give them another option, something that’s going to be effective, something that can be a replacement and still meet that need.

And so in action, I want to say the example that she gave was if a kid is really having trouble with a glue stick and they’re making a complete mess, our job as a teacher is not to get angry at the mess and not to escalate that situation, our job is to de-escalate. So we take a breath and say, “Oh man, that glue is not working out for you. That’s got to be frustrating. How about we try a glue stick instead? Or how about for me to show you a couple tips, what works better for you.” And just give them an out, give them a chance to de-escalate as much as you can.

And obviously things like that don’t speak to every issue, they’re not going to solve every issue. But I think just the idea of being patient, trying to figure out what the kid is trying to communicate to you, and then giving them some options to get out of there is probably a good path to, I don’t know, not necessarily fixing the situation, but hopefully making it not quite as bad.

Amanda: Yeah. I would say one other thing that just came up while you were talking, is also sometimes you’re going to have nine of those kids and you won’t have time or energy to do that. So also think about what do you need to do for the end of the year to help yourself? Do you have to paint anymore? Maybe you don’t.

Tim: That’s a good point, yeah.

Amanda: Maybe a project could become oil pastels. On the flip side, maybe you do have a class, and sometimes this would happen to me where one of my more intense teacher prep or teacher prep mediums would actually engage the kids and make their behavior better. So like clay, weaving, paper-mâché, these are all maybe seemingly crazy suggestions, but that is also something that sometimes works, is providing something that’s so novel that it really grabs their attention.

But I can also see the flip side working, you just have to know your students. “You know what? I really don’t need to deal with tempera anymore this year, and so we’re going to be drawing a lot or we’re going to get outside and do sidewalk chalk,” or whatever it is. Think about switching up the medium as a way to maybe just regain a little bit of your sanity.

Tim: No, good suggestions. Very good.

Okay, next question. This is from Tyrese in Illinois, and Tyrese says, “My watercolors are just a mess by this point in the year and I don’t know how to keep them cleaner. I’m wondering if you have any advice on how to keep them cleaner? I also want to order something different for next year, do you have any advice there? I have Prang right now, not a ton of budget, but enough I can get a class set of whatever.” So Amanda, how do we keep watercolors clean and advice for what to order or what to do with watercolor? What is your organization or what does it look like?

Amanda: Okay, yeah. I have ideas. First of all, if they’re so messy that they’re causing you mental distress, which I get it because I would always come to this point in the year, I would do a big reset and actually wash them out, run them under the faucet. And I know that seems crazy because it’s going to look like so much color is coming out and you’re wasting it. I promise it’s not as much as you think.

So turn the water on, medium warm. You don’t need to blast them with hot water, that is going to make them melt. But turn on the faucet, literally run them under the water until they all look clear, take a paper towel, wipe out that pallet side, and then let them dry overnight. And quite honestly, every single time I would do watercolor, I would leave them open on my counter because otherwise they get so gummy.

That brings me to point number two, is you might need to reset expectations with your kids about how to pick up the right amount of color out of a watercolor pan. If we were using watercolors a lot and they were gummy, even if they dried out overnight, a lot of my younger kiddos would stick their brush into the watercolor pan instead of just tickling it. I taught elementary, so these are the words I’m using. But if you’re teaching secondary, obviously do something that works for you. Another thing you can do is limit the color palette. So just either keeping all the warm colors together is a nice way to help things from getting super muddy, or all the cools, or even just pop out all but a few colors that you need. So those are three different tips for maybe keeping things cleaner.

The other thing I would say is, I like Prang. I don’t know, those were actually my favorites, so I unfortunately do not have a different recommendation. I really like the color range. I guess I would say if you only have the eight colors, look at the 16-color palette because there’s some really nice red oranges, turquoise. There’s a very beautiful magenta in that one. So that might be a way to use your budget differently and maybe get some more exciting colors. But I like the Prang.

Oh, I guess the other thing I would say is you could pick up a couple palettes of specialty. I wouldn’t do a whole class set of these, but OOLY makes some really interesting watercolors.

They have pearlescent and they have neons, which I both have used. The neons are a little bit more … I would say they’re closer to a texture of a tempera cake, but they do work like a watercolor and I think they’re built as watercolors, but both of those are very fun additions.

Tim: Yeah, those are good. I will second the idea for Prang, I think those have good sets. And I will also second the idea for tempera cakes. If you’re looking for something different, tempera cakes last forever. I know I never used them when I taught elementary and then I later realized the error of my ways.

Amanda: That’s a mistake.

Tim: That was a failure on my part. But no, they’re really, really excellent. So if you’re looking for something different. Also, you can pull that old trick of taking your old markers and soaking them in water and then using that water to paint with. That’s a fun one if you have some dried-out markers that are just sitting around.

One other thing I would suggest that I’ve seen teachers do is maybe kindergarten needs their own class set that they can ruin, and with kindergarten and first grade, that they can destroy, and then your older elementary students can go ahead and paint nicely with the ones that they have.

Amanda: Interesting, yeah.

Tim: So maybe the leftover ones stay for your youngest kids and then that budget money goes toward a set for some older grades. I think that’s a decent one then. Amanda, I’ll just echo what you said about teaching painting routines, teaching painting procedures, and make sure that kids are using their materials properly. I think that’s good.

And then one other thought I had was just with secondary … Liquid watercolor, I really love liquid watercolor. I think it could work for elementary, especially if you’re the one passing it out, but it’s really nice. It also lasts for a long time and you can get so many different colors, you can get such vibrant colors, and I think your kids will really enjoy working with that. Again, I don’t know exactly what the budget is, but that might be something to look at as well, so I think there are a lot of options out there.

Our next question is from Rianna, or Rianna, in Ohio. “We are getting closer to the end of the year. I think everyone has the same problem where schedules are all messed up, testing and field trips and other events. And I see some classes some days, but not others, and everything is way off. You know how it is. LOL. My question is what are your favorite one-day lessons or favorite things to do if you have an extra day with some kids but not others?”

Amanda: Is it time for me to talk about the perfect one-day lesson for the 45th time on this podcast?

Tim: I feel like people are always writing in with questions for quick lessons or one-day lessons. So yes, please, Amanda, go ahead.

Amanda: Okay. You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times. I still stand by it, it’s so good. There is a video I made if you want to see what I looked like 100 years ago, it’s called The Perfect One-Day Lesson, I think, and it’s oil pastel tie-dye, and it literally can work with any grade level. I have done it with kindergartners, they do great. I enjoy doing it, it’s great.

But essentially you lay down a thick layer of oil pastels in a concentric circle, so great to use up all of those chunks of oil pastels that are disgusting. And then you take an eraser that has a lot of holes poked in it or has been cut up by your kids, and you just drag the eraser through the oil pastel and it looks like tie-dye. It’s magical. You can make this paper size really small. It’s the perfect one-day lesson. So we can link to that, that would be my suggestion.

Tim: Yes.

Amanda: But if you don’t want to do that, maybe you’ve already done that, I would also just choose something replicable so you’re not planning a bunch of different one-day lessons. So have two options in your back pocket, maybe one for lower grade levels and one for upper grade levels. And then just have those materials prepped and ready to go so you don’t even have to think about it and you can just pull those out at a moment’s notice and you have something ready to go.

Tim: Yeah. And if I can jump in here real quick, we put together a huge list on the AOEU website, I think it’s called Substitute Tips and One-Day Art Lessons or something similar.

Amanda: Yeah, there’s a whole page.

Tim: And yeah, there are all sorts of plans for just one-day things. There are plans for subs. There are, I don’t know, probably 15 or 20 different lessons. So if you’re looking for those ones that you want to prepare, you want to get ready like you were talking about, that is a great resource to check out.

You can just search for that on the website. We’ll link to it. If you’re on our Instagram, I think I saw a reel that Abby put together recently about it, so a lot of ways to access that. But anyway, I interrupted you. I’m sorry.

Amanda: No, that’s okay.

Tim: What else were you going to share?

Amanda: I do have a couple other ideas. I am always a huge fan of read a book, do a drawing. Again, what is the easiest thing.

Tim: Well, we learned how that worked last week, huh?

Amanda: Okay, that was read a book, build with blocks, do a drawing, with little-

Tim: Okay, fair.

Amanda: It was a lot of steps. And also, we made it through just fine, it just was at a personal toll to myself.

So two that I love for elementary, I even think the first one could potentially work for middle school because it’s funny, one’s called The Pencil by Allan. Ahlberg It’s about this pencil that comes to life and then a paintbrush comes to life and then things get out of control, and then an eraser gets added to the mix and the eraser is evil and it starts erasing the whole world. Anyway, it’s a great book and you should definitely have it in your classroom. So you could do that and then have the kids do a drawing of what do they wish they could draw that could come to life. And then another one is just simply called Art, it’s by Patrick McDonnel, and it’s about this little boy whose name is Art, and it’s about Art and his art. Primary color is very, very easy and applicable for your K-1, 2s. So those would be a couple of suggestions.

Creativity challenges are always great. We have an article called Why You Should Create a Mystery Bag Art Challenge that I think would be really good for this time of year, because you can take all of those scraps you have or … You know how you have 11 of something left sometimes and you’re like, “Well, how am I going to use this?” So you can just chop up things and have almost a chopped experience, like what can different table groups create with these materials. You could do judging, you could do a lot of fun things with that.

And then I’m a huge fan of putting kids to work at this time of year, which I think we have a question about later so I’m going to save that, but have them help you clean the art room.

Tim: Yeah, I think those are all excellent. I don’t want to throw too much more out there. I will just say my go-to for secondary students is to not really do anything and just say, “We’re going to go outside today. And so we’ll go outside and just bring your sketchbook.” And then I just will make up three or four options of what they can draw on the spot, and that’s what we do.

Amanda: Yeah, that’s fine.

Tim: And that’s okay to have those days sometimes too.

Amanda: 100%.

Tim: If you’re looking for more specific lessons, I have at least one podcast on one-day lessons, maybe two podcasts on some of my favorite one-day lessons. So rather than rehash that here, I will just link to those. And then recently Kristina Brown wrote a good article, I think it’s called 12 One-Day Lessons for the Secondary Art Room or something along those lines. That’s a really good place to start too, she’s got some good creative ideas there. So we’ll make sure you can access all of those things, and listen, read, look, and see what works for you.

Next question is from Lindsay in Pennsylvania. Lindsay says, “I’m a pre-service teacher who is student teaching right now. Everything is going good, and thank you so much for the new teacher podcast, by the way.” You are welcome, Lindsay. We had a lot of fun doing all of those episodes.

Amanda: Yeah, thanks for the shout-out.

Tim: “My question is about job interviews because I have two coming up at the end of May. I suffer from pretty severe anxiety, do you have any ideas on how I can stay calm before and during interviews? And also I guess just any other advice about interviewing? Thank you.”

Amanda, I feel like we have also answered this question before, but again, job searching anxiety, right up your alley so I’ll-

Amanda: It’s really the perfect question for me as someone who both loves to interview and has crippling anxiety. I would love to answer this question.

For me, what works in this situation is to over-prepare, to be as prepared as I can be so that I know I’ve done everything on my end. So perhaps because this is such a topic that I’m into, I have an article that I wrote a long time ago called The Art Teacher’s Ultimate Guide to Getting Hired, which is just every single thing you want to know. I believe there is a download in that with 25 or so of the most common art teacher interview questions.

Tim: Yes, yes. That’s a great resource.

Amanda: Definitely do that. If you want to hear me talk through the ideas in that article in more detail and have even more resources, there’s also a PRO Pack I made called Getting Hired as an art Teacher. But if we take a look at this, because we have talked about this on the podcast before, but if we look at it through the lens of anxiety, these would be my top tips for lowering your anxiety during this time. And I think everybody has anxiety to a degree when they’re interviewing, I don’t know many people who don’t. So even if you don’t struggle with that clinically, like me and Lindsay, then you might find some of these helpful.

One of them is, like I said, look at some of the most commonly asked questions so that you’re not going to be surprised, and literally write out your answers or practicing them out loud. If possible I would drive to the location ahead of time, go the day before and drive there so you know where to go, you know where the front door is. You can scope out the parking situation, you know how much time it will take. If that’s not possible to do a dry test run, do whatever you can to build yourself extra time in on that day. Print directions out, leave a half hour early so that you’re not worrying about anything except the interview. You’re not worrying about how you’re going to get there or where to go.

I also think it’s important to build in some sort of physical activity, either the morning of or the day before, whatever you can do. So whether that’s for you going to the gym or going on a run or doing yoga or walking, I would advise doing that. And then the other tip that I really love is remember that you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. I think people forget that they get so desperate or like, “Oh, I hope they like me.” No, you have to like them too. You have to work there also. An interview is not like you go in and if you get the job but you hate everything about the school, you should still take the job. Absolutely not. So if you think about it that way, that you’re also trying to figure out if it’s a good fit for you, that might help your mindset going into it.

Tim: Yeah, I would agree with that. You do not need to put too much pressure on yourself. Honestly, right now, there are a lot of jobs out there, so you don’t need to nail this interview, you don’t have to be perfect because more opportunities will come along. And so I think just knowing that can ease your anxiety a little bit. You don’t have to be perfect for the entire time.

And, Amanda, you said just the idea of looking at the commonly asked questions and just preparing your answers, yeah, just find some things that you are confident about. Are you really good with assessment? Did you do a great lesson on drawing? Did you do something really cool during your student teaching? Figure out why you want to highlight those strengths and be able to talk about what you did really, really well. And then just look for places to fit those into the conversation. If they ask you about classroom management, you’re like, “Oh, in my experience this and this have worked really well.”

And then if you have a story rehearsed or some strengths that you want to highlight and exactly how you’re going to answer that. Just coming in with that confidence can go a long way, so I think that’s good. Because like I said, you’re going to feel less overwhelmed, you’re going to feel better about your answers, and then when you have the chance to actually give that rehearsed answer in the interview then you know, “Oh, I’m nailing this. I can actually feel better throughout the rest of the interview.” So I think that’s some excellent advice there.

Okay. Amanda, you were in charge of the Instagram question, so would you like to-

Amanda: I do. I have three good ones.

Tim: Okay, excellent.

Amanda: Do you want to have a four-hour podcast?

Tim: This is going to be a long episode. That’s okay, that’s okay.

Amanda: It’s okay, these are good questions. Okay. The first question we have is from J. Piran who asks, “ENL/ELL student support in the art room, what do you know beyond visuals in Google Translate? Thanks in advance.” So what strategies do we have to address English language learners in our classrooms?

Tim: Okay, so first let me say visuals, wildly important, so please don’t dismiss those. Also, Google Translate has its place. Yeah, but going beyond that, I would say the thing to keep in mind when you’re talking about ELL supports, ELL strategies, most of the time, just best practices are what you’re doing there. They’re not just ELL strategies, like they are best practices for everyone who is in the art room.

Also, along with our four-hour episode we’re going to have a thousand links. I’m also going to link to an article that Jonathan Juravich wrote about this exact topic, and he covers a lot of great things in there. He is got an interview with an expert in the field that I think is worth checking out. So doing that, and I think just things that I’ve found that work really well is having a word wall. If you can incorporate images or pictures on that word wall, or if you can label your supplies, even the better.

If you can do your word wall in more than one language. If you have a lot of ELL students who are speaking a particular language, and you can get that onto your word wall. So let’s say for drawing tools, you put that in English. If you have a bunch of kids who speak Spanish, put the Spanish version right underneath, smaller text, maybe italics to differentiate it a little bit. And then again, that’s good for everybody to see that in multiple languages. If you have 13 different languages, that’s maybe not going to work quite as well, but it is an option that’s out there.

When you’re teaching, just as far as instructional strategies, just really it’s good to have explicit directions. If you can break things down step by step that’s always helpful. If you have a video of how to do it, that can work. If you don’t have a video, rather than typing out directions, can you visually do the directions if it’s a step by step lesson. Like take a picture of what this should look like at step one, what it should look like at step two, et cetera, et cetera. And kids can follow along with that a little bit more easily.

Always good to get classmates to help. If you can empower other kids who are sitting around them, giving them a buddy to help them guide through everything that you’re doing. That can be incredibly helpful for both kids. I would say just routines and knowing what to expect, if things are calm early and we’re following the same pattern each time they come in the room, that can be a big relief for kids who are learning that language.

And then if there is any super important information you need to get across, let’s say it’s a dangerous material and we need to be very careful with something, that might be the time to break out Google Translate. Make sure that that message is getting across clearly. Anyway, that’s what’s off the top of my head, so Amanda, do you have anything to add with that?

Amanda: Yeah, I would say that’s pretty comprehensive. I would say if you really, really want to dig into best practices for these kiddos, look at the SIOP model. It stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, and this is something I learned about in our strategies for English Language Learners PRO Pack.

This model provides a really clear framework for creating clear obtainable objectives and content when you’re lesson planning and delivering instruction, so it really just provides a framework. And it sounds overwhelming, but a lot of these things you’re already doing, because like Tim said, they’re already best teaching practices, but that may give you that next step that you’re looking for if you want to dig into that framework.

And then just create a welcoming, calm environment that showcases many types of art and artists from around the world, because I think that just making kids feel welcome goes a long way in how much they’re willing to work for you, how hard they’re willing to work for you, and how accessible their brain becomes to learning. If they are really uncomfortable, it’s going to be harder for them to access that part of their brain where they’re ready to learn. So creating that welcoming environment is really important.

Tim: Good, good advice.

Amanda: Okay, next Instagram question. I love these because they came in in a question box, so the phrasing is just so fun to me. This is from Kristy Gaunt House house. “OMG-”

Tim: Wait, wait. Kristy Gaunt House, Kristy that we met in Florida Kristy?

Amanda: Yes.

Tim: What’s up, Kristy?

Amanda: I know, we’re so excited.

Tim: Thanks for giving us a question! She was wonderful.

Amanda: She is wonderful. You should follow her.

Tim: Okay, sorry to derail.

Amanda: She said, “OMG, deaf cleanup jobs for kids. Fifth grade needs to have job day and I need to keep them busy. LOL.” Then she followed up with a DM and said, “Also, how do you prioritize on what to clean at the end of the year? Is color-coding oil pastels worth it or not?” So what do we do for cleanup jobs at the end of the year? I have a lot of ideas, Tim, do you want to give me your ideas though first?

Tim: Okay, I’ll try and be quick since you have a bunch. I would say it’s a little tougher with secondary to get kids to help clean up at the end. They are not eager to do things like some elementary students are, but hopefully the expectation has been set long before now that they are taking care of their studio, they’re taking care of their supplies, and this is just the next step in doing that.

What I like to do is make a list of what needs to be done, and I would organize that by priority. Color-coding the oil pastels would probably be toward the bottom of that list, but-

Amanda: I don’t know. It would be toward the top of my list.

Tim: Fair.

Amanda: I’m just like, “For my mental health all of the markers need to be organized in rainbow order.”

Tim: One thing I would do a lot is as we’re getting toward the end of the year, I would walk around with a handful of my advanced students and just make a list of what needs to be cleaned. Let’s walk around the room and they’ll say, “Oh, those printmaking tools are disorganized,” or, “That ink needs to be cleaned up and put away,” or whatever the case may be. And we just make a list of everything that needs to be done. And then I would go through, prioritize that list from top to bottom, and then when we have time, get kids on that.

And like I said, they probably won’t volunteer, but if you ask them directly, they might be willing to help. You have two friends sitting together who are just talking, like, “Hey, can I interest you in maybe organizing the oil pastels” or whatever the job may be, they may be totally willing to do that. Especially if they don’t have to get up from their seat. You never know what you can get them to do, so it’s worth asking. And honestly, I’m not above bribing them, like candy, snacks. Like, “Hey, go get all of that paint put away.” And I’ve got some Goldfish crackers, whatever the case may be.

Anyway, those are just a few of my secondary tips, but I don’t know. Thoughts for you, Amanda?

Amanda: Yeah, well, in elementary the kids love to help. They’re clamoring to help and you can’t have enough helpers, so it’s actually great if you can be prepared for that. So we have an article that we can link. Is that true? Are we ate out limit?

We’re going to push the limits of how many things we can have in one episode.

All right. So you can also search on our website for 40 End-of-the Year Cleanup Jobs for Your Students, which has a loadable checklist broken down into sections of supplies, tools, general classroom, and miscellaneous. It has things like replace empty watercolor pans, test the markers, take inventory of the glazes, scrub the table caddies, sort through the brushes, wash the clay tools, wipe down stuff. It is grimy, we’ve been here all year.

I think in terms of prioritizing, you should set up things that you can easily have students do, that require minimal instruction from you. “Test the markers. If they come out dry, throw them in this bucket.” That takes two seconds to explain, and so that is a great thing to have students do. Inventory the glazes, probably unless you are teaching ceramics, and in which case maybe a kid could do that. That’s maybe something that you want to save for an art club or a very trusted kiddo.

I think also things that you hate doing or are easier to move through with a big group are good to prioritize. Like I just said, testing all the markers or washing all the clay tools would be great. Older kids can help take down art displays also. And then I also might prioritize things that may not get attention from your custodial staff, like scrubbing the sinks or the walls or the chairs. Give an elementary student a sponge and they will be the happiest child on the face of the Earth. They will happily scrub the chairs for you. So that’s how I would think about things there.

All right, very quickly, let’s wrap up. We have one more question from @helloartteacher who says, “How can we give students more choices in their art creation?” Can we answer that in two minutes?

Tim: That is a big question to end on. Let me think this through real quick. I would say first thing you need to do is identify where you are on the choice spectrum, like how much choice do you offer already, and then just figure out what the next steps are from there.

Let’s say you’re doing just step-by-step, follow-the-teacher type lessons right now. Maybe you break out a little bit by just giving kids the choice of medium that they’re going to use to create this artwork. Or maybe you’re going to give them the choice of size. “Do you want to create a small work, a medium work, a large work?” Something like that can be the baby steps, the first steps. If you’re already giving them some choice, maybe expand it by having them work under a theme, give them a theme and figure out what kind of artwork they want to do related to that. And maybe you can allow for 2D or 3D work or even digital work, just having to do with that particular theme, if you’re already doing things like that.

Next step is maybe to just give them a big idea and some objectives, say, “For this artwork, this is what we’re thinking about. These are the things that I need you to do. What can you put together that meets all of these criteria?” And that takes a little more pre-teaching, a little more planning, if you’re doing that well, I think. But it really can expand opportunities for kids to bring in a little bit more choice, a little bit more voice into what they’re doing.

If you really want to dive in, I would suggest looking at just about anything that Janet Taylor has written. One great place to start is an article called 13 Ways to Expand Your Art Lessons, and just a really good step-by-step with 13, obviously, ideas on how to extend things, how to give kids a little bit more choice, and how to invigorate your lessons a little bit more. And if you are a PRO member, we have two good PRO Packs on choice. One is called Increasing Choice at the Elementary Level, and the other is called Planning for Choice at the High School Level. And that really gives you some great ideas as well as, some great resources on where you can dive in and where you can get started with those.

Amanda: Yeah. I mean, the only thing I would add to that, I think those are very thorough, is stations. Stations are a really, really easy entry point to choice. At any level, quite honestly. You could have stations for high schoolers, where they’re experimenting with different mediums. You could have stations in kindergarten, where they’re doing almost the exact same thing.

So think about that as dipping your toe in as well. And maybe just having different stations of different media or a different prompt at each station, and rotating some of your classes through that to see what ideas that might spark for you.

Tim: Great advice. All right, Amanda, we kept it under an hour at least-

Amanda: I know.

Tim: … so we’re good. But no, thank you for joining me. We had a lot to make up for after not having an April Mailbag.

Amanda: We did.

Tim: So thank you for doing this with me. Thank you for giving such great advice, and giving me so many links that I need to put in the show notes.

Amanda: You are so welcome.

Tim: Thank you to Amanda. That was a very fun conversation, if a little long, but it’s good to have the Mailbag back.

And as this episode is coming out during Teacher Appreciation Week, I just wanted to note how much I appreciate everyone here who’s listening. I will make it quick, but Amanda and I really do appreciate everyone who listens to this show and everyone who is in the classroom teaching art on a daily basis. You are engaging and educating and empowering our students. And to be able to do that takes a very special person. It takes dedication and perseverance and effort, and just a love for our subject matter and for our kids. So just hear that we appreciate you and we are so glad to be a part of this art teacher community that we are building, so thank you for what you do.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University, with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you as always for listening, we’ll talk to you again next week.

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.