In the Art Room

I Survived 7th Grade Art

Today I re-entered the wonderful world of substitute teaching, which I haven’t done in over three years. I chose to jump all in and spend my day subbing for 7th grade art. Ouch. I haven’t been in an art room since last April. I haven’t been in another art teacher’s art room in over three years. Subbing is not something I enjoy. I was a part-time building sub for two years while I was a part-time art teacher in the same district. This kind of subbing wasn’t too bad because I was already familiar with the students and the teachers and the school. However, I found it difficult to be a sub in regular classrooms in the same building where I was an art teacher.

Being an art teacher is a completely different ball game than being a regular classroom teacher. The way you manage your classroom is different, the type of work you do is different, your expectations of the students is different, and you are different. There was nothing more painful for me than having to spend the day in a regular classroom with the same group of students all day. In the art room, the students you work with cycle through about every 45 minutes or so, daily, and weekly. If there’s one punk kid getting on your nerves, you just send him on his way at the end of the period, and then you don’t have to see him again for another week or more. If you’re in a regular classroom, with the same punk kid, you’re stuck with him for the entire day.

I strongly dislike the structure of the regular classroom. The routine. The restrictions. The tedious way the class runs. It’s so painful. I crave variety and change and excitement. That doesn’t happen in a regular classroom. In the art room however… well, that’s a different ball game.

The art room is notorious when it comes to subbing. NO ONE wants to sub in the art room. I, however, being an art teacher, have no problem subbing in an art room. Sort of. There are a few things that really irritate me when I’m subbing in other teachers’ art rooms.

  1. Busy work. I despise it when art teachers leave busy work. I understand why they do it. It’s easier than writing out project plans. Plus, you never know who you’re going to get as a sub in your room. 9 times out of 10 you won’t get an art teacher. I get it. However, I think it is so insulting to the substitute and the students when you leave busy work. As a substitute, I know it’s busy work, and trust me, so do the students. There’s nothing worse than trying to get students to complete busy work. They’re not going to take it seriously, especially if they know they won’t be held accountable for completing it. Really, any teacher who (aside from in the event of an emergency) simply leaves busy work for the sub is setting that sub up for a miserable and difficult day. Set a sub up like this… well, good luck getting that sub to fill-in for you again.
  2. Inadequate sub plans. Next to busy work, this is my second biggest pet peeve. An art room is a tricky place to sub in. What with all the different materials and storage spaces. There’s nothing worse than being in a room and not knowing where anything is. This can create chaos in the room when you ask a student for assistance (because, of course, they’re all going to want to help). Materials aside, there are also numerous routines and procedures in the art room that would be handy to know. For example, do the students get out their own materials? Do students have assigned “jobs” in the room? What are the clean-up procedures? And so on and so on. It would also be handy to know about any classroom rules, seating charts, hall pass procedures, a description of other duties, etc., etc. Get it? Neglect to leave this information behind… well, good luck getting that sub to fill-in for you again.
  3. Underestimating the ability of the students. This one isn’t so much a sub issue as it is a personal grievance. I find it very aggravating when I realize that the art teacher I’m subbing for has extremely low expectations of the work their students can do. This becomes evident to me in numerous ways, one being listening to the students. Students will always complain if given the opportunity and if they know you’re listening. I’ve had students complain to me that the work they’re expected to do is too hard. More often though, I’ve had students complain to me that the art they do is too easy. This is particularly devastating when the art teacher leaves busy work that is far below the level of the students. I subbed in a room once where the teacher had junior and senior art students make color wheels out of cookies and frosting. This was probably fun the first time they did it, but they told me that it was the third time they had done it that year. And on top of that, their classes were 90 minutes long. And the color wheel was the only project the teacher left for us. Today, I was left busy work for seventh graders. Busy work that I would have given second graders to do when they finished a project up early. I cannot even beginning to explain to you how frustrating this is.

Long story short, I’ve started subbing again. Well, kind of. I don’t have any other assignments lined up yet, but, I’m keeping my fingers crossed. As much as I hate subbing, at least I feel more confident about jumping back into it. Not everyone can sub for 7th grade art and live to tell about it.


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