Art teacher problems. If you teach it, you know what I mean. Teaching Art is tough. Every day I feel like I’m herding kittens. Or trying to coax toothpaste back into the tube. Sandwiched between the ringing of the bells, there are things that contribute to our frustration which can be avoided. If you ever needed a window into what your art teacher is thinking, keep reading. I’m about to say some things that many art teachers want to say, but won’t for fear of reprisal. If you teach art, you know exactly what I mean and this list is for you!
15 Ways to Drive Your Art Teacher Crazy
1) Consistently showing up way too early. I’ve had teachers walk their class to my door 5 minutes early and leave their students outside, unattended while I wrap up my class. In my school, and in many others, there’s at least two minutes in between classes. Sometimes that’s my only opportunity to use the restroom because no one else in my wing can watch my class. My legs are crossed and I’m doing a funky dance. I really have to go! And now I can’t.
2) Consistently showing up way too late after the class ends. This happens more frequently than showing up early and is the biggest culprit in me losing my mind. Let me be clear: it’s understandable that teachers get stuck in meetings with admins or need to run to the restroom last minute. We know who had a last minute issue and who has an internal policy of purposefully showing up super late. I’m referring to teachers who show up 5 minutes late every week without fail. And now it’s my lunchtime. And I’m hangry!
3) Making promises for us that we can’t or won’t keep. Imagine if when you picked up your class, your art teacher promised your very well-behaved students a pizza party in your classroom later that day. That would go over like a lead balloon, wouldn’t it? It’s the same thing when classroom teachers drop off students, making promises for things that we can’t or won’t keep. And when we say, “no,” the student says, “But my teacher said you’d let me!” Rock? Meet hard place.
4) Asking us to come up with art projects for your class. And expecting us to help with classroom decorations, signs, posters, and tracers falls under the same category. This is only made worse by asking in between the changing of periods, which sadly happens way to often. We have as much to do as you. If you see us running around like a chicken, it’s because we’re hustling to set up for the next class! Asking if you can pick our brain at a later time in the day is the best way to respect our time.
5) Using our scheduled time with your students to punish them for bad behavior. Oh, this is a big one. I’m crawling to the top of the soapbox when I say that this is wrong on so many levels. If you have an issue with a student during your class time, it should be handled during your time or at recess (if that’s within your school’s guidelines). Pulling them from Art teaches them that our class is a form of punishment. Not to mention the fact that we now have to find time in our day to make up the work they’re missing. Because there is really learning happening in our classroom, too.
6) Withholding students so they can finish a test, homework, or classwork. Just like the comment above, pulling students from class so they can finish work is not only wrong, in many states it’s not legal. Students are entitled to receive an education in the Arts. In many schools throughout the country, art teachers are obligated by local and state guidelines to give a grade. Sometimes these mandates are accompanied by a certain number of hours or classes per week we have to deliver instruction. If students aren’t in class, it makes meeting these mandates difficult. That, and our class is not an optional study hall. We’re now stuck figuring out how to use our time to make up the work the student is missing in our class.
7) Taking art supples from our room without asking. You know who you are. You’re the one who tiptoed through my dark classroom while I sat at my desk eating my lunch. I waited quietly, anticipating the moment you would turn around and see me there while you clutched that packet of paper you were about to make off with. I broke the silence with a simple, “hi” while you hit the ceiling. True story. That really happened! And it wasn’t cool. Can you imagine your art teacher sneaking through your classroom, raiding your desk for #2 pencils? Probably not. Taking things without asking is not a way to form a solid relationship with any colleague, let alone your building art teacher.
8) Sending students to the art room with food. The art room is a place that houses all kinds of chemicals, from sprays to paints to glazes, and more. On many days, it can feel like a construction zone. It is not the cleanest room in the building. And as such, it’s not a place to send kids with food. If they’ve not finished breakfast or lunch, the lunchroom or your classroom is a much safer spot.
9) Interrupting our lesson so we can jerryrig a kid’s shoelace, repair a broken vase, hot glue a broken Science Fair project, lend out art supplies, etc. in the middle of our lesson. Yes, all of those things happen every day, all day long in the art room. I kid you not. The number of interruptions for an art teacher can be overwhelming, between the intercom and colleagues and other students stopping in. It often feels like we work in an airport. Or the zoo. And the monkeys are running amok. You might not see it happening, but it is.
You might not think that your reason for interrupting our lesson will be cause for angst because after all, it’s just a broken vase, right? It only need some glue, right? It’ll only take a minute, right? Not so much. As we’re fixing your cherished vase, our class of kinders is bouncing off the walls. And, oh wait. Here comes Mrs. So-&-So’s students asking for paint again. And then the intercom announcing today’s birthdays. And…all day long. These things are not in the scope of our job as an art teacher. It all adds up to taking away from the class we’re supposed to be focused on.
10) Picking up kids and not asking how everything went. We might not be grade level partners, but we’re still a team. When you come to receive your students, it’s encouraging for your art teacher to know you care about how things went. We feel the same when you drop them off telling us how their day has gone thus far. We enjoy quickly sharing how your students behaved and in some cases, what they learned.
11) Yelling, “Have fun!” and then sending them in like a pack of wolves. Like what I teach is not important but more like dropping off kids for a play date. In all honesty, your art teacher would much rather you add in, “…and behave!” or “…and be prepared to share what you learned!” It shows you care about what your students do when they’re not with you. We care to know what they’re doing when they’re with you. And often we try to incorporate that learning into our classrooms. We are seeking the same.
12) Allowing the kids to come into the art room running and screaming. Does this one even need any rationale? If you drop them off that way, I’m fashioning a plan to return them that way.
13) When you state in front of your students “I’m terrible at Art. I can’t draw!” And then you usher them into class so they can presumably learn more than you know about our subject. That telegraphs to your students a fixed mindset. If you’ve somehow missed this proverbial Eye of Sauron gazing upon you these last few years, I’m referring to Carol Dwek’s Growth Mindset philosophy. If you project a positive outlook on learning in all facets, it’ll help your students do the same.
14) Treating Art as your “prep” time (and not the student’s art time). Admins are equal opportunists when it comes to this one. In all honestly, this topic is so weighty, that it deserves its own blog post. Nothing telegraphs, “you’re just my weekly substitute teacher” more than not caring or respecting us as fellow colleagues. If you go on a class trip or have a special event that prevents you from dropping off your students, call your art teacher and let them know. And please don’t presume your art teacher wants to skip out on teaching Art to partake in an all-day STEM (not STEAM!) marathon.
15) Borrowing things and never returning them. I think this one is so obvious, but it’s really frustrating when we lend things out and don’t get them back. This is why we don’t want to let anything leave our room as we know despite making a sign-out sheet, we think it’ll be the last time we see it again. If you come into our room and find things under lock and key, you’ll know why!
Art teachers, what did I leave out? Classroom teachers, it’s your turn. What do we do that drive you nuts? Tag, you’re it!