21 9 / 2014
In a couple weeks, I’ll officially be a third year teacher. This is nothing compared to so many fantastic Tumblr teachers, but in my short time in education, I have seen many teachers come and leave the profession. Apparently, at high-poverty schools, 20% of teachers leave every year. After working in one of those schools, that statistic doesn’t surprise me at all.
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here’s my advice for staying sane your first few years (and beyond…it’s a good reminder to myself!):
DO NOT go into teaching with a savior mentality. INSTEAD, keep in mind that you are coming in to a new school (and often a new community). All teachers want to make a difference. But remember that the school, teachers, and community have been serving children long before you were hired, and that ignoring this fact will not gain you much respect. Take time to become a part of your new school community.
DO NOT take misbehavior too personally. Kids will have rough days/weeks/months. Many children have diagnosed difficulties or traumatic pasts that even wonderful teaching can’t completely undo. The fact that Samuel threw a fit does not mean that you have failed as a teacher, and it definitely does not normally mean that he was trying to personally disrespect you. INSTEAD, stay level-headed and remember that they are children. Work to improve behavior, but don’t let children’s misbehavior define you. Even incredibly experienced, teacher-of-the-year types have difficult students.
DO NOT stop learning. You just completed years of college and student teaching. Maybe you even got a Masters. But your study has just begun. INSTEAD, read books, articles, and attend tons of PD. Everything you learn is so much more relevant now that you get to apply it to your own classroom in your own way.
DO NOT isolate yourself from your colleagues. It is difficult to come into a new environment, especially if you (like me) are much younger than everyone else and they are more “traditional.” Additionally, teaching can be a very lonely profession without collaboration. INSTEAD, remain respectful and friendly with everyone. It is ok to do things a little differently, but do not get competitive. Find a few teachers you really respect and build your own support network.
DO NOT feel like you need to be perfect at everything from the beginning. INSTEAD, choose a few areas to really focus on every year. My second year, I focused on reading. This year, I’m focusing on math. It takes years to become strong in every area, and that’s ok.
DO NOT see teaching as a sprint. Every lesson does not need to be perfect. Your value as a teacher is not dependent on you staying until 11pm every day for a month and functioning on adrenaline and caffeine. INSTEAD, imagine teaching as a marathon. As a beginning teacher, you are hardly on the first lap. While you want to be the best teacher you can be for your current students, you also need to keep your future students in mind and make sure your practices are sustainable. It’s ok to leave work at 4 some days to see friends and to get 8 hours of sleep.
And finally, DO NOT forget to enjoy your first years, even with all the newness, stress, and craziness. INSTEAD, remember that it’s a special and exciting time. Find those moments where everything is going exactly as planned, step back, watch your very own class in action, and think, “I’m finally really doing this. This is what I’ve been dreaming of.”
20 9 / 2014
I adore my 7th grade self-contained class. They’ve been with me since last year. This year has been hard so far though. Students who were engaged, excited, and complied with procedures have become resistant, withdrawn, and occasionally outright combative and disrepectful.
I knew they were upset with me about the unit content. Totally furious. Unit 1 is a writing and art criticism unit. This class does not like to write. At all. Art last year let them feel smart. This year, I was bringing out things that made them feel dumb.
After a disheartening observation from my lead teacher where a student would not stop making loud whistling noises while I was teaching, I knew I had to change something. When lead teacher and I went to debrief about this she also suggested a game change. I needed to find an entry point that could grab them.
What I was asking from them in class, was very removed from their lives. I needed to help them make a connection between describing the content of an artwork and their own experiences. That night, I took a picture of some random crap on my kitchen table and prayed it would work.
For the Do Now, I explained to them that they would have 45 seconds to look over the image and memorize everything in it, a lot like the tray game at bridal showers or baby showers. After time was up, they had to write down everything they saw.
They loved it. I was able to connect the activity to the idea of being a witness or a police officer, a coach, or a teacher; that this careful observation can be for more than just art. It was also nice to humanize myself a little to them. They are very interested in where my clothes come from now (an H&M tag), that I skateboard (a spare wheel), and that I live for Combos (the empty flat box that I put everything on).
We were able to transition to the next part of the lesson with enthusiasm instead of groaning. They took fast and furious notes with little prompting. Easily the best teaching day of the year so far.
03 9 / 2014
thesedaysaredark said: Hi Amy I hope you're having a great start to the new school year. I look up to you a lot as an art teacher and it seems like you always have really great advice to give on here so I thought I might ask you for a bit too. Baisically I'm working on getting certified in a new state after moving post graduation. I am feeling like the best way to get my foot in the door is to sub. Do you think there is anything I should do to be known to art teachers so I can sub for them more often? Thanks!
Hey! Thank you so much for the kind words.
And, as for your question…Oh Holy YES. Art teachers are ALWAYS in need of good subs. Here is the method I would follow:
1. Go through the school district to get hired as a sub (you may have to go to special training).
2. Once you are officially hired, go to the main district website and get the individual school websites for all of the schools in the district.
3. Use the school websites to figure out who the Art teacher(s) is/are at each school.
4. Email the Art teacher and CC the school secretary (usually helps teachers find subs) and the school principal (makes you look good; helps you build a good relationship).
5. The email should say something like this:
“Dear Art Teacher, My name is Ms. Reciprocity Teacher. I am currently an active substitute for School District Name, have undergone all required substitute teacher training, and am certified to teach K-12 Art in Former State of Residence. In my Former State of Residence I taught Art for X many years to students in Grades X-X. I am currently working on earning my certification/reciprocity in Art Education in Current State of Residence, and I would love extra experience and opportunity in the Art classroom. Please keep me in mind this year if you have any need for a substitute. My current availability is hours/days. My contact information is email and phone number. Thank you so much for your consideration! “
Since I’m sharing this with everyone, if you are a preservice teacher who is subbing it should look something like this:
“Dear Art Teacher, My name is Ms. Preservice Teacher. I am currently an active substitute for School District Name. I have completed and undergone all of the required training to be a substitute teacher in School District Name. Currently, I am working on my degree in Art Education at Listed University, and I would love extra experience in the Art classroom. Additionally, I have knowledge of working in an Art through my Practicum / Student Teaching / What-Have-You that was at Listed School with Listed Teacher. Please keep me in mind this year if you have any need for a substitute. My current availability is hours/days. My contact information is email and phone number. Thank you so much for your consideration!”
6. Go back to the school district website, find out if there is a Fine Arts Supervisor. If so, send a similar email to him/her and mention the word “supply teacher.” Supply teachers serve when teachers are out on extended leave (like maternity leave). Being a supply teacher is a great way to make relationships in a new school district and to find a job. Lots of people I know got a job because they were a kick-butt supply teacher…The absent teacher either didn’t return to school for a reason of his/her choosing and/or the supply teacher just made great contacts.
6. Await the responses. In my school district, you’d probably get a call THAT. DAY. We are desperate for quality subs.
Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors!
01 9 / 2014
I’ve started work on a Google Spreadsheet listing contemporary artists (with genre, theme, and link to online home) for the #arted community. Feel free to add to it, finish completing information for the artists I already have listed, share it with other art teachers etc. etc.
My plan is to eventually have it sorted according to genre / media. That way, when we need a little new inspiration…We can use the spreadsheet and search according to our curriculum needs.
15 8 / 2014
Reclaiming clay is pretty simple but time consuming. Really all you do is soak the dry clay in water. It is best to break it up before hand but if you don’t do that, just make sure you leave it in water long enough for it to thoroughly soak the clay. It is going to essentially become slip. You then put the wet clay on a porous surface to dry, flipping occasionally. Most people I know just lay it out on canvas, but if you are able to, make yourself a plaster table. Luckily my school already had one, although it is a little small. You may have to replaster it every now and then but totally worth it. Here is the one I just replastered today.
Finally just wedge the clay until it is a good consistency. This is the part that becomes the pain, literally. My wrists hate this part. If you have a pug mill your life would be easier, but those cost as little as 2900 and as much as 6000. Not many schools are willing to fork that over. (I’m thinking of writing a grant for one, but again, a long shot.)
Hope that helps, @lovelesswrists
13 8 / 2014
bettterthanbuttter said: Do you have any recommendations for how a first year teacher junior English teacher can decorate their walls on a strict budget?
Go to the movie theater and ask for old posters.
Go to Walmart and check out the five dollar posters.
Use cheap tablecloths to cover bulletin boards.
Recite.me is a free way to make mini posters.
Ask veteran teachers if they have a stash of stuff that’s not on their walls you can use.
Also the clearance bin in the fabric department at Walmart! It lasts a lot longer than the tablecloths for bulletin boards and gives you a bit more style!
13 8 / 2014
xavierjones said: I read (and obviously follow) your blog a lot, and I've always wondered why your art instruction has so much writing in it, but this makes more sense. If it wasn't in your mandated curriculum, would you make them do all the writing, or do you feel like it helps?
If it wasn’t in the mandated curriculum, I would never have tried it; which is pretty sad!
I definitely think it’s helped my students. My philosophy of teaching shifted significantly this last year, or maybe my approach to it… I’ve always written that I wanted my students to be effective art makers, writers, and speakers. This year I had to put my money where my mouth is and actually do it.
I’ve accepted that not all of my students will love art. I also realize that many of them won’t learn as much through the act of making, but can learn a great deal through reading and writing about art. Even if they hate the act of painting, having them write about it helped foster a growth mindset in class. In IB we talk a lot about developing inquiry within our students; kids who can really think and ask questions.
As a secondary benefit, it helps to build respect for the arts in your school. I struggle to explain and show the importance of my classes, but a pile of visual journals does. When district people visit, I have piles of evidence to show the rigor of my classes to people who just don’t get art.