A Day In the Life

20 Things An Elementary Art Teacher Will Never Tell You

Yeah, I’m talking to you, regular classroom teachers.

1. When you say things like, “at least you only teach art,” we want to punch you in the face. Just because we only teach one subject doesn’t mean we don’t work as hard as you or that our job is any easier than yours. I teach 21 different classes. That’s 21 different groups of students with different group dynamics and different levels of understanding and ability. Not to mention I teach seven different grade levels. You teach one group of students at one grade level, and yes, you may teach four or five different subjects, but at least you don’t have to teach a class of 24 Kindergartners to draw the human figure and then immediately switch gears to explain to 6th graders how to convey the message, “We Hold Peace in Our Hands” through art.

2. We have our favorite classes. Yours is not one of them.

3. We probably don’t know your first name. And furthermore, we probably wouldn’t recognize you anywhere in our building other than standing outside our door. And outside of school? Forget about it. Especially when you’re new to the school like me. Again, 21 different classes in 3 different schools. You’ll be lucky if I even remember your last name by Thanksgiving.

4. We assume your students’ behavior in our room is a reflection of your classroom management skills. Or lack thereof. Seriously, I can tell you exactly what teachers have unruly classrooms based on the way their students act when they come to my room. And if your classroom management sucks, it means I have to work extra hard at managing your group of kids while they’re in my room. Oh, and #2 definitely applies to you.

5. We don’t have the time, the patience, nor the memory to keep track of your classroom’s tally/chip/point/star system, so please don’t ask us to use it in our room. I have my own classroom management strategies. An art room is drastically different than a regular classroom. Chances are, I have multiple different classroom management strategies and systems in place for different classes and grade levels. Your system will not work in my room. End of story. Oh, and when you pick your kids up and I tell you they earned a point or a chip or 10 seconds of talking time, I totally just made it up on the spot.

6. We hate it when your class goes on field trips. There’s nothing I hate more than having a class miss art because they went on a field trip. No, wait. There’s nothing I hate more than not being told a class is going on a field trip and having them not show up for art. I don’t keep track of your classroom calender. I have no idea what goes on outside of my room. Chances are, I didn’t get the memo. Assuming one went out. Yes, the nurse, the cafeteria, the custodians, the PE teacher and the bus drivers all got it, but the art teacher? Nope. Oh, and telling us we’re lucky because we won’t have your class that day is insulting. We work just as hard as regular classroom teachers to plan out our lessons. When your students miss a class, it throws our curriculum plan off by weeks.

7. Our favorite students are not the same as your favorite students. I tend to favor the kids with personality. The ones who get in trouble in your class. The ones who can’t be bothered with things like math and language arts. Chances are good that those students thrive in my classroom. Your good students? Chances are they do exactly what they need to do and their work looks exactly like my sample piece. This is not a good thing. They lack creativity and originality.

8. We kind of envy that you have time to sit down and eat lunch. Even if it is in the cafeteria with your students. I rarely have time to sit down, let alone eat something.

9. We can tell you have a substitute in your room even before your class shows up for art. Because they’re late. Or early. Seriously, is it that hard to leave directions to the art room for your subs? If I can hear your class coming down the hallway before I can see them, I’m pretty sure you’re out today and there’s a substitute. Your students are horribly behaved when you’re out. Which makes my job that much harder. Not that that’s your fault, I’m just saying. Although, a little heads up wouldn’t hurt, but I understand, you’re busy.

10. Yes, we’re art teachers. No, we don’t want to make your poster for you.

11. Art teachers hate glitter. And Popsicle sticks and pom poms and feathers and pipe cleaners. Yes, most of us have these in our classrooms, but I can assure you, we have no idea where they came from. A colleague and I are convinced the craft cabinet breeds in the middle of the night. Crafts are not the same as art.

12. Crafts are not the same as art.

13. We have to pee. Like, all the time. 

14. We don’t want the bag of rejects you amassed while cleaning out your junk craft room at home. Stop bringing it in to us. I have no use for 28 wooden spools or that box of 85 to-be-painted wooden cut-out Santas you have. Stop it right now. Stop. Right now.

15. Your students complain about you in our room. We let them do it. I do not, however, complain along with them. I just provide them with a safe and comfortable environment to vent their frustrations about you. Nothing against you, I just understand that everyone needs to vent from time to time.

16. We feel isolated and alone 88% of the time we’re at work. For real. Regular classroom teachers have team meetings and math meetings and ELS meetings and ESOL meetings. You have a bond and relationship that elementary art teachers only dream of being a part of. Our lunch time isn’t the same time as yours. Our planning time isn’t the same time as yours. We don’t get invited to IEP meetings. You only visit when you want something. Or when you’re dumping your students off on us. Heck, we feel more welcomed by and closer to your students than we do by you.

17. We aren’t journalists. Don’t ask us to come in and document your Bahama themed party with our digital camera. That’s what parent volunteers are for.

18. We hate having an “extra set of helping hands” in our room. Aides, assistants and volunteers in the art room create more work for me. It’s like babysitting adults. They don’t know what to do, where to stand, or how to hand out supplies. And they certainly don’t understand my unique style of classroom management. Plus, 9 times out of 10 the working noise level in my room will drive them bat shit.

19. It makes us feel good when your students bring us leftover snacks. Especially on birthdays.  Although most of the time, I will admit, I don’t dare eat the snack they bring. It still feels good to know that I’m good enough for your leftovers. You get holiday and end-of-the-year gifts. I get the smooshed cupcakes and broken cookies that no one else wanted. Would it kill you to request that your students start bringing in whiskey and ginger ale for snack though? Trust me, after my first three classes of the day (an hour each), I could use the pick-me up.

20. Art teachers are super stars. We have admirers down every hallway. We know you your students think we’re super cool, and we know you’re envious and wish you could be like us. My adoring fans shout out to me from across the cafeteria, wave to me from bus windows and high-five me in the hallways. Your quiet hallway line instantly becomes a twitter with “hi”s and “Do we have art todays?”s when I walk by. Line rules are broken for hugs. Grouchy frowns turn into excited smiles. “Hands by our sides” quickly spring up for quick and energetic flappy greetings. Your students love us. You wish you could be us. And we love everything, and I do mean everything, about being an art teacher.

PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO READ MY FOLLOW-UP, Humor. It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses. Mostly It’s Not.

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129 thoughts on “20 Things An Elementary Art Teacher Will Never Tell You

  1. Jaime says:

    Love your sense of humor and witty writing. I was an art teacher for 13 years. 7 of those were in an elementary school where I saw close to 950 students in 6 days. No one seemed to get it and always told me how easy I had it. I appreciate your willingness to put this out there. Our brains are training to remember the bad stuff so I hope you go back and re-read the positive comments. Thanks for sharing this!

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  2. Pingback: 20 Things An Elementary Art Teacher Will Never Tell You | daily art enrichments

  3. aquanita yancey says:

    I’m a music teacher, most of what you said is how music teachers feel. I love no.4. About no. 16, one year the art teacher expressed those concerns and the principal added music art and gym to those meetings. Believe me when I say don’t complain, this one is a blessing in disguise.

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  4. Nhelmy says:

    I LOVE your blog! It is so true and can’t agree more on each part. Those statements are part of my daily life. On the other hand, it makes me more proud of my unique different hard job 😉

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  5. mary campbell says:

    Finally someone who understands my life…School just started and I’m feeling particularly lonely in my insane love affair with this joyfully thankless job. My husband doesn’t get it, my fellow teachers don’t know and my principal definitely has no clue! Yes I need some friends (any other artists become teachers out there interested?) but when?.. maybe next summer, nope, don’t think so I need to take a further education class!, Oh well, I’ll just keep dreaming of painting for myself again one day and drink in those hugs and waves from all my mighty little admirers who appreciate me and make this insanity worth while.

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    • mary campbell says:

      I take that back.. my principle(s) have always given me the room and supplies and mostly the time I need.. However I am called a special…. and I feel like I’m a bother because they (principles) can act as though they have real teachers with real needs to attend to.
      After reading though the other comments, I feel like a lucky one, a very lucky art teacher.. and I love the kids I teach.

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  6. That was WONDERFUL!!!-Every bit of it was as if you had been in my head… walking in my shoes… AND wearing my paint, plaster and clay covered apron for the past 32 years of being an art teacher! It was so good to read the words-and I hate to say it…find that there are OTHERS who share a common bond.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jessness says:

    i cant be the only one that finds it really unprofessional that this art teacher uses her class time, she claims shes incredibly busy, but she has time to gossip with the kids about the other teachers. almost like she wants to be the cool teacher. =/

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  8. I love this post and every one of these is true 10 times over. I have taught art for 20 years, the last 16 at an elementary school with 750 4th, 5th and 6th grade students. The only things you left out (for good reason) is the dumb things our principals ask us to do and say to us. You go glittery one and keep up the dark humor. It is crackling in my ears and I laughed so hard I had to go pee..see number 13.

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  9. A former teacher says:

    That is not very nice. General ed teachers have A WHOLE LOT on their plate, too. NO teachers have it easy. I don’t find this blog post funny.
    I bought our music teacher lunch and helped out early on our program day.
    I really do appreciate all the teachers in the building, regardless of what they teach. Other teachers might, as well.

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  10. Heidi says:

    OMG! I love this! True! so true! I’ve been teaching art this year for the first time. I’m a K-6 certified teacher who was hired for a LOA to teach Art. I can identify with almost every one of your points! I especially love and relate to #s 6, 9 18 and ***12***!!!

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