For Beginning Art Teachers

This question recently came up on the listserve I belong to:
What art the top ten things beginning art teachers need to know and be able to do?

Here is my reply:

1. Teach less so they learn more. A professor said this to me years ago and it stuck. Teach the basics and let them explore.

2. Make friends with the custodian and secretaries. Everyone knows they run the building! My custodian saves items for me, checks the kiln, and does a great job keeping the room clean.

3. Set the standards for your classroom from the beginning. I had several teachers approach me and ask that I create the decorations for each holiday to hang outside their doors. I made it clear (very nicely!) that I teach "art", not "cut and paste" class. I haven't been asked again and I have the respect of my peers.

4. Advocate for your classroom! Attach a summary of the project you have done to the back so parents will understand the hows and whys of the artwork. Send home newsletters explaining what your class is learning. Have an art show or arts night. Communication with the parents is key to getting them on your side.

5. Get a parent volunteer that you can trust. He/she will be a lifesaver.

6. Join your state association and go to the conventions!

7. Stay creative. Keep creating your own art. I didn't and now I regret it!

8. Organization is key in the art room. Find a system that works for you and keep it consistent so that it will become habit for the kids. Assign clean up jobs, label everything, have one student in charge of counting supplies at the end of class, etc.You don't want to be at school until 6 cleaning.

9. Learn all of the kids' names. I know this is hard, but it makes them feel safe, important, and part of the class. Use nametags until you get them down.

10. Have fun! How many careers involve creativity with children every day? Once it stops being fun, re-evaluate and start over fresh. Try new ideas each year.

So, any comments? Questions? Anything you would add?


  1. Bravo! These are all excellent suggestions! I would say #4, #6 & #8 are my top 3. #4 - Advocacy - tell your school community about your program, if you don't - NO ONE else will! Newsletters, a website, a blog, Artsonia are all great ways to PROMOTE your program! E-mail your administrators when you have good news. Share photos and invite them to events! #6 Your State Association - if you are teaching Elementary School you are most likely the only ART teacher in the building and sometimes it gets lonely. Your State Art Ed Association will provide a place to find other like-minded people and amazing professional development - get involved! #8 Organization - I am also a BIG fan of being organized. I have over 500 students - I cannot be wasting time looking for scissors, crayons, glue!!! If the room is organized everyone - you and the kiddos will be able to FIND what you need!

    Here is my suggestion - collect old tennis balls enough for the bottom of all the chairs/stools. Have your custodian cut an X in the top of each and POP them on the feet of the chairs/stools it will bring the squeak level down to 0 - heaven! : )

  2. Thanks for your list- wish I had had it when I started to teach art. The truth is if you don't toot your own horn -newsletters, blogs, etc. people don't know you need their support.

  3. Add to your list:
    1)Learn to laugh when things go wrong, and make this important for the kids to learn as well. An art project gone wrong was still fun to create, and will not cause the earth to stop spinning. And everyone will remember the disasters!
    2)Teach kids to REALLY wash paint brushes.
    3)Make your classroom a complaint & whining-free environment.

  4. Thank you SO much for your tips! I just found out I am teaching art at my K-4 Elementary school next year! I AM THRILLED!!! I have taught Kindergarten the last 3 years and teaching art is a DREAM come true!!! I feel like I have won the lottery! Any suggestions of books/resources (other than all these fabulous websites) to get started?

  5. Mrs. Picasso,
    Your blog site is absolutely wonderful. I have been teaching for 5 years and I think this is the best list of advice for new teachers. In looking at your list the only thing that I still have issues with is teachers coming to ask for boards and doors to be decorated and in class extra teaching sessions to their students. I have informed administration and nothing seems to help, what tips do you have because these extra activities tend to interrupt plans that I already have.


  6. These ten tips were, not only awesome; but, dead-on!
    With the new school year upon me, I'm going to start implementing them tommorrow!

  7. This may sound crazy, but I graduated from college WAYYYY back in 1989. I had an art minor, but had an art teaching license as well. Long story short, I never taught art for various reasons. I ended up teaching in special ed for 16 years as of the end of the 2016-20017 school year! About 3 years ago I started the process to get an art teaching license again - art was my first love! So, as of today, I was hired for the 2017-2018 school year to take the place of one of our art teachers at the high school where I have taught special ed.

    I have never taught art, but I am EXCITED at this great opportunity. What advice do you all have for me? This sort of like starting teaching for the very first time.



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