Advice for New Art Teachers

Growing up with the internet, and understanding the public nature of everything we share there, it’s naive and silly that I’m still a little shocked when people outside my personal network stumble onto my website.

Most recently, art educators have been pinning some of my lessons on Pinterest and I’ve been receiving emails from beginning teachers asking for advice. While I still consider myself a fairly new teacher, I do have about ten years of experience under my belt in a variety of educational settings, so that counts for something, eh? The advice that I give is simple and I thought I’d share it here:

Classroom management styles vary greatly for every teacher, but it is always best to be clear about your expectations with your students from day one. Generate a class list of expectations together in positive language (such as “be kind and respectful in the studio”, rather than “don’t be mean”) and then be very consistent about following through. Let your behavior and communication style be the model for the types of interactions you want students to have in the studio.

As far as curriculum is concerned, check the national arts standards and let them them inform what you do while making sure to include what you’re passionate about (for me it’s asian art and aesthetic critique) because your unique viewpoint and enthusiasm are contagious, not only for your students, but for your colleagues! Don’t overlook the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues who might have exceptional skills to share with you- artists are not only found in the studio, and interdisciplinary links to other subject areas make learning rich and exciting!

The planning and reflection process is invaluable for students of all ages. You can model the language students are expected to use in order to be specific and accurate, allowing them to reference the elements and principles of art, art movements, and techniques. When you give students the time and the respect they deserve to talk things through on their own, in small groups, and with the entire class, you empower them and allow them to speak like the true artists they already are. Never underestimate what a student can create based on their age. Children of any age are capable of incredible insight and creativity especially when they feel safe, supported, and respected.