In the Art Room

Do art teachers come with an expiration date?

Two of the art teachers I work with are, how should I put this? Losing their shit. Two of them. And this isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed the unraveling of a fellow, experienced, art teacher. Or two. Or three. Which makes me wonder? Do we art teachers have an expiration date? A good-til date? And what is it exactly that makes art teachers fall apart so epically? Our hectic schedules? Our workaholic tendencies? Our inability to take one single moment for ourselves? All of the above?

Why do we put so much of ourselves into a job, a career, that gives so little back to us? Where does the driving passion come from that propels us to get to work an hour early every morning, work through our lunch breaks every day, and stay an hour or two after work every evening? Self-sacrificing seems to be a prerequisite characteristic for becoming an art teacher. That and multitasking, flexible, open minded and patient (although, I often find myself thin on that last one).

Do we set ourselves up for momentous burn-out, or are multiple factors conspiring against us that will eventually culminate with are inevitable self-destruction? Is self-destruction inevitable as an art teacher? Do I have a use-by date? Will I meet my end storming from the classroom, surrounded by a fury of curses, or will I go down in a melting pool of obsessive meddling and frantic busybody antics? Or will I be okay?

I’d like to think I’ll be okay and that I’ll survive this crazy career I’ve chosen for myself.

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6 thoughts on “Do art teachers come with an expiration date?

  1. The melting pool of obsessive meddling and frantic busybody antics, added to those who seem to watch me and try to make sure I am just as busy as they are just might get me, IF I chose to let them. But I'll be John Brown if I let 'em…I'm going out with a smile on my face!

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  2. Yeah, some teachers are always amazed when I stay late. I can see their little thought bubbles in their head “what does an art teacher do exactly that requires staying late?” Prepping for 915 students maybe, making lesson plans for 6 different grade levels perhaps, figuring out different forms of discipline, grading, hanging art, getting prepared for art contests, paperwork, making flipcharts, making other teachers posters for their events, paperwork, working on other school enforced committees…paperwork, designing t-shirts for other school clubs, creating fundraisers for art club…I could go on forever, seriously. Our work is hard dude! No wonder we burn our candles at both ends…

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  3. I have taught for 33 years and I fear becoming one of “those” teachers that everyone says needs to go. This is a HARD job which ironically others think is easy. For me the drain and strain comes from more and more expectation but less support from admin, students, and parents. Other classroom teachers complain about the discipline problems they have…so not only do I have the three or four intense discipline issues in their class I have that multiplied by 30. Getting no back up from admin. doesn't help.
    I am expected to incorporate all subjects into art plus use technology in four out of five classes. I teach everyone once a week for forty minutes. When do we make art?
    It is also hard to make time for myself to create art which is what refreshes me. I DO love what I do and can't see myself in any other career, but it does take its toll. But I'm still hangin' in there.

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  4. I've wondered this myself lately…feeling as though I am being thrown into one of those spaghetti making machines with such drama week after week. What will my expiration date be? not sure, but I'm hanging on as long as I can…I love it too much to let them force me out!

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  5. If you took everything that comes from administration seriously, yeah, you'd burnout in a week. So I think the key to me not burning out is just to let everyone that needs to SELF COMBUST and to do my own thing! It seems to be working thus far.

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  6. Greta says:

    Ummmm….yep. I expired after 9 years…but I had lost it in the middle of my 1st year. My mental and physical health couldn’t take it all anymore. The time I spent on actual content planning was maybe 5% of my time as a public school art teacher. It’s a real shame though because at the center of it all are the students. I cared about them and opening their minds to seeing things in different ways through art. My district lost 3 good art teachers in 2 years, me and the other two…both taught less than 5 years!

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