Relationship Building

The Things Art Teachers Love to Hate (Ep. 160)

There are always things art teachers love to hate, like bad fonts, mechanical pencils, PD days (especially PD days). But Abby Schukei is here to talk to Tim about why maybe these aren’t so bad. They discuss her article that published yesterday about how to focus on the silver lining with those things you don’t necessarily love, and why positivity is so important as a teacher.  Full episode transcript below.

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Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers.

This show is produced by the Art of Education University and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

Now, we’ve had some really long episodes lately, over the past couple of months, and some kind of heavy episodes. So, I was thinking it’s time for us to jump into something a little more light. Maybe just do a really quick episode for one week.

Lucky enough, Abby Schukei, just published an article yesterday that is really worth talking about. It’s called ‘Things Art Teachers Hate that Really Aren’t So Bad‘. I loved it, to be honest. I thought it was a really, really fun read.

It’s simple and it’s fun, but it’s got a much bigger message. If there are things that we all love to complain about and we love to hate, especially as art teachers, but honestly, are they that big of a deal? There are always those people who aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy, you know what I mean?

Honestly, I don’t have time for them. But, I think most teachers spend a little bit of time complaining and a little bit is good, but it’s really easy to let that get the best of you. It really can snowball.

But, this article that Abby wrote and her advice is to maybe not focus on the worst qualities of what’s going on, but instead try to appreciate what we have. I really love that advice and that’s gonna be the basis of our discussion today.

So, we’re gonna chat with Abby, which is cool for all the reasons I just mentioned. It’s been quite awhile since she’s been on the show. I think probably December was the last time, right before break, when we talked about how you can use the holidays to advocate for your program.

But, it’s time to start a conversation with her again. I’m in her room. Looks like she’s just about ready to talk to me, so we will get her mic’d up and we can get to it.

All right. I am in Abby Schukei’s classroom ’cause she loves inviting me in to talk about all sorts of great things.

Abby, how are you?

Abby: I’m good. How are you? Thanks for coming back. We’re sitting in the dungeon of my art room right now. It’s really scary. This is where we always sit, but thanks for not being afraid to come back.

Tim: You know, it stresses me out a little bit, to be honest. It’s tough to walk through without stepping on stuff, but we make it through. We’re here all right.

Abby: Well, interesting enough today we were talking about phobias for my eighth grade art class. So, maybe you have a phobia or a fear of this messy dungeon storage room. So, I apologize, but we’re just gonna have to deal with it.

Tim: Yeah. We’ll just power through. I’ll be fine.

But, I wanted to talk and I don’t know, I kind of wanted to argue about things, but I realized you’re right with most of the things in your article that came out yesterday.

It was called “Things Art Teachers Love to Hate, but Aren’t So Bad“. So, before we get into the conversation, can I ask you, just what was the impetus for this article? What inspired you to write it?

Abby: First off, I would just like to say I am always right. Kidding, kidding.

But, this was a really fun article to write just because I feel anytime, I mean it’s 2019 and if you’ve ever been on the Internet in the past two or three years, people just love to complain about things. They love to complain about things that don’t matter, that aren’t important.

So, I kind of took the things that I always saw art teachers complaining about and wanted to spin the positive light on things like, “Hey, they’re actually not that bad.” Or if anything, maybe for those teachers that do truly really hate these things that we’re talking, or I talked about in the article, maybe they can not … maybe if they read the article, they’re not gonna have such a negative outlook on things.

It was really just a way to kind of look towards the positivity and stop all the complaining.

Tim: That’s good. I don’t think you’re gonna stop the complaining, but it is a valiant effort.

Now, actually I wanna talk about the positivity later, but I do want to get into the article here.

Let’s talk about Comic Sans. Okay. Before I read your article, I really hated the Comic Sans font. Now, after reading it, I still hate it, but maybe a little bit less. Actually, I feel kinda guilty ’cause you made the point about it being great for people with dyslexia. It’s a really effective font.

Now, when I complain about it, I just feel like I’m hating on people who have dyslexia, feel very guilty about that. So, good work accomplishing, that guilt trip for me.

But, there was also a great article that you link to, that kind of explained the origin of the font, and I guess kind of taught me, maybe why it’s not so bad. But, in the article, you never answered the question on how you feel about it. So I’m gonna ask you, the question is, where do you fall on the Comic Sans font? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Are you in between?

Abby: I have a love hate relationship-

Tim: Okay.

Abby:  …with Comic Sans. I’m a big font type face nerd.

Tim: Right.

Abby: One day, we were at a staff development meeting and one of my coworkers sees me downloading fonts and he’s like, “What are you doing?” I was like, “I just, I just need this. This is like what’s gonna make me happy?”

So, yes, I totally hate it. I teach a digital art class and I hate it when students have a really cool design and then they just slap Comic Sans on it because they think it’s fun and kind of a cool font, which if you look back to what the origin is, at that time, there were no fonts like that that existed. So, that was the true meaning of it. But, it got overused and wasn’t …

It’s still difficult to read notes that are all written in Comic Sans, but because I do, after doing some research on it and how typographers have actually developed specific fonts for people with dyslexia, but they might not have access to them, to download them and things like that.

Research has actually shown that Comic Sans is good for that. Just the way that the letters are spaced, it looks … it looks like real handwritten letters and that they, there’s also some studies that look at how it could be age appropriate.

So, if you are typing out a document for a group of third grade students and it’s all in Times New Roman, that could be a little standoffish, whereas Comic Sans maybe looks a little bit more friendly.

But, from a design point, yes, I think there are better options, but we can’t totally hate it.

Tim: Fair enough. Fair enough. Okay.

Now, the next thing I wanted to ask you about was mechanical pencils, because I had never thought about this. I always have the conversation with my kids about mechanical pencils. “Hey look. They’re really good for adding detail and really fine lines. Hey look. They’re really bad for shading and spreading out any sort of graphite.”

Then, we just kind of move on with our lives. It takes literally two minutes say here’s what they’re good for, here’s what their bad for. But, are there really that many teachers that just have so much hate in their heart for mechanical pencils?

Abby: I think there are. Tim, aren’t you one of them?

Tim: No. They have weaknesses and so they’re not good for drawing. There are certain times where I’m like, “No, this is the worst possible option.” But, you can talk about that with your kids and just kind of move on.

Abby: Yeah. There are definitely some disadvantages and advantages to them. I’m gonna be completely honest. When I was in college, I used mechanical pencils all the time. My drawing professors were like, “What are you doing?” And I was like, “You know what? It’s just easier.” Don’t have to sharpen my pencil.

I love, I always draw super, super dark. So, I loved the 0.7 0.9 lead, 0.9 was the best ’cause it didn’t break. I had some really great Disney princess ones when I was in college that were 0.9 and it was awesome.

But, when it comes down to it, we should be thankful that our students are bringing a pencil to class no matter what.

Tim: Yes. Yeah.

Abby: If we’re true, truly doing something, a drawing project where we need special drawing pencils, different types, I’m gonna provide those to them. But, there are some things like what does it matter if we’re just using mechanical pencils?

Yeah, maybe blending and shading isn’t gonna be ideal, but kids don’t have to sharpen their pencils. They can ask me for lead. I’m not gonna have it. They have erasers on them, but it’s not the end of the world.

Tim: Yeah. Same. I think, like you said, if you have certain things that you want to teach them, that mechanical pencils can’t accomplish, just give them other pencils that will do that. It’s just like any other material. And I, yeah.

So, anyway, I have a tough time understanding the hate for that one, but just wanted to get your perspective there.

Now, from, on the other end of the spectrum, away from those really fine and nice lines, pastels. You have the hack of soaking chalk pastels in sugar water. So, I want to ask, first off, if you can explain what you’re doing there and what people can do and tell me, where did you find that?

Abby: So, there’s two options that you can do with it. You can, the day before you want to use your chalk pastels, you can soak ’em in color with some sugar water overnight. They’re gonna be fine. They’re not going to dissolve up or anything. Then, once you take ’em out, you’ll notice that they’re a little bit darker in color.

Another option, if you don’t have time to soak ’em, is you can just have a container of sugar water and dip into it. So, then it’s wet as you’re using it. So, that could be an option as well.

But, the reason why I discovered this is when I was teaching elementary art, on a cart, and going to classroom to classroom, it was obviously a mess.

Tim: Yeah.

Abby: But, there were so many chalk pastels for us to use. That was an abundant supply.

So, I was trying to figure out ways we can use it without creating a chalk storm everywhere. I discovered this, I don’t know, I just did a lot of weird research online and it worked out really well.

Hands still get messy, but the mess is not quite as dusty. It wipes up easy, just with like a Clorox wipe or something. But, the results of it is, especially if you’re doing it on a black piece of paper, or you know, a darker piece of construction paper, the colors are way more vibrant. They blend together, almost like an oil pastel look, compared to just regular chalk.

They last a lot longer and it was just something easy to do. I know some people don’t like to use chalk pastels because of the feel of them or the sound that they make. This could be a good solution if you don’t like those things about the chalk pastels, just because they’re a really cool material when you do use them with your students.

Tim: Yeah, I agree. There’s a lot of really cool things that you can do that are really vibrant.

I was just gonna say, at the Art Ed Now Conference, we always do those live polls and those live questions during the day. Don Masse was presenting on chalk pastels and if you guys need any lessons or any ideas on what to do with chalk pastels, Don’s got a ton of them.

But, I did a poll question that was just, ‘How do you feel about the sound that chalk pastels make?’ Half of the people were like, “Oh, I’ve never thought about it before.” And the other half are just like, “Oh my God, it’s the worst!”

So, this may be a solution.

Abby: I think it … Yeah. I think it makes a difference, too, the shape of the chalk pastels that you get.

Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Abby: Ones that are rounded, that reminds you of a chalkboard, are a little bit terrifying.

Tim: Yeah.

Abby: But, the one, the rectangular square shaped ones, I mean, those ones are a little better.

Tim: Yeah, I think so. I love to break them in half.

Abby: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim: You know, ’cause that reduces a little bit of the vibration and the weird squeaking noises. It makes ’em a little easier to work with.

So, that’s not as cool as the sugar water hack. But, just break ’em in half can be worthwhile.

Okay. Then, I have another bone to pick with this article ’cause I’m not convinced that those pointless, boring PD days, can actually be worthwhile.

So, I do need some positive spin from, you. Can you convince me why terrible days of professional development are not actually that bad?

Abby: Okay.

As art teachers, we can all relate to sitting through all of the meetings that don’t apply to us. They hand you this big packet of, “Oh, these are all your test scores, blah, blah, blah.” And you’re like, “I don’t understand how to read these, but I’m still gonna discuss about it, with a nice smile on my face. You can’t see my smile right now, but it’s here.”

But, I am one of those people, throughout the day, that I don’t sit down. I’m not in front of my computer. I have a really difficult time checking my emails or digital anything that I need to get caught up on. I don’t do it because I’m not sitting down.

So, typically during these PD meetings, that might not matter to me, it is a good opportunity to respond and catch up on those emails that I might have missed, that are warranting a response.

If I need something, update a lesson plan, or anything that I can work on, on my computer, if I’m planning for other classes, it gives a good opportunity for that ’cause typically, we can have our computers with us. They just think we’re really actively taking notes and participating.

But, for me, I just don’t slow down during the day. There’s something, you sit all day and there’s that feeling when your face hurts ’cause you’ve sat all day long and you’re not used to it. Maybe it’s just me.

But, it’s a good opportunity to catch up on those things that maybe aren’t a top priority to you. So, yeah.

Tim: Oh, I like that. I still don’t know if I’m convinced that it’s worthwhile, but I’m glad that you can make it a productive day.

Abby: I’m finding the silver lining in the things that maybe aren’t as applicable to us.

Tim: Oh, I appreciate that. That’s actually what I kind of wanted to ask you about to wrap it up.

Why do you think it’s so important to not dwell in the negativity? I mean, you talked about it a little bit, but if you can just kind of expand on those ideas. Why are you trying to focus on the positives, like in this discussion and then your article, even with those things that you kinda hate?

Abby: Well, I think it’s just a good example, not only to our students, but just how we live each day in our art room. So, if we’re gonna dwell on the things that are not making us happy, then they’re not gonna make us happy.

So, instead of focusing on the negative things about them, what can you do to make it a little less terrible? It’s not that it’s necessarily gonna make you happy, but, what are just some things that we can stop complaining about things, and look at, or have gratitude for the things that we have?

Maybe chalk pastels aren’t our favorite thing to use, but they’re supplied to us in abundance. We should be thankful that we have those art materials to use ’cause I know that there’s plenty of teachers out there that don’t have anything to use.

So, I would just encourage everyone, the next time you really want to complain about something or think of the negative aspect of it, just think about what the alternative could be and just be thankful for the opportunities that you can provide your students and just think about the message you want to bring to your students to carry on the positivity.

Tim: That’s good. I like that.

So, we’ll go ahead and end it there. Abby, thank you so much. We’ll tell everybody to go and make sure you check out the article and thanks for coming on to talk about it.

Abby: Yeah, thanks for chatting with me.

Tim: All right. That will do it for us.

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All right. Thank you, again, to Abby for coming on. Like I said, make sure you go read her article. We will, of course, link to it in the show notes and it’s all over our social media account, wherever you follow us.

So, hope you enjoyed the discussion. I hope you enjoy the article and I hope you can take her advice to just take the things you hate and maybe try and be a little bit more positive with ’em.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening, as always, and thanks to everyone who came to say “Hi” at the NAEA booth last week. It was great to see everybody, great to converse with everybody. Man, we need to do that more often than once a year.

All right. Thank you. We will talk to you 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.