When you are trying to keep a peaceful, product art classroom these are the top 5 things I have found that are very helpful.
1. Classroom Management-Find ways that will make your classroom run smooth.
Supply management-I have managers for each table and one overall classroom manager who acts a "mini-me". The managers keep their jobs all year or as long as they choose to keep it. I am quick to tell the classes that I do no like these people any more than I like anyone else, this is just the best way I have found to keep the room clean and get the supplies out as fast as possible. On top of the table managers who get all the supplies for they entire table there are a few other very important job managers--Sink/Paint manager, Paper Passer/picker-upper/drying rack manager, clay manager, journal/library manager, supply shelf manager. This system is great for subs as well, when everyone knows their job and the sub has to do very little it is great. If you would like more details on this management system just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Behavior Management-I am a huge believer in Love and Logic by Jim Fay and David Funk. This management system totally changed the way I teach, manage my classroom, deal with other people and really...live my life. I swear by it. It helps to teach with less distractions. I started my teaching career at a title one school in Houston, Texas with lots of behavior issues. I wanted to quit after the first month. This was the year hurricane Katrina hit and we got so many new kids from New Orleans we had to add a teacher to each grade level. Some of these sweet kids could not even write their names correctly in the 3rd grade. In my 3rd year my school implemented the Love and Logic system and it really chanced the culture and environment of our school. If you ever need a good book to read...this is the one.
You will never be able to teach quality art and have fun with your class until you have mad classroom management and timing skills. You want to be able to allow your students freedoms and the room to be creative while still having complete and absolute control of your room. Timing skills are a tricky skill to learn...sometimes it just comes with more experience teaching. But every time you teach a lesson you will learn how to teach it and time it better for the next round. There are times when I have had to go back and tell rotation 1 all the things I have learned in rotations 2,3 and 4!
Grading and Cleaning Time Management- I know it can back up on you, even though I have a plan it still backs up on my too. But I try...very hard to make sure of 3 things everyday--1. I grade all the papers for the next days classes. This helps me keep up this knowing the kiddos that are behind, don't understand the concept or art just need a little more time. It also helps me get their papers back to them faster and they love taking home their art ASAP. I am not a huge fan of grading elementary school art but it is a requirement in my district and I do feel it gives legitimacy to what I teach and they will be graded in middle school and beyond so it is a soft way to get them use to it. 2. I put things away that I use right away and in their proper homes. 3. I focus on cleaning or updating something in the room everyday. Do I make all these things happen every day...Of course not, but it is my mantra and mind set to do so. It really helps when report cards are due and you are not faced with a huge stack of papers!
2. You are a qualified art teacher...not an art supply stock room, poster maker or planning time baby sitter! Yes I do these things for my school but I have made sure they know I am an important part of the kids education and not just fluff creating pretty pictures. I do these things to keep peace but I have also said NO at times. Yes if I have extra red construction paper you may have some but not in the middle of my class when you send 2 giggly students to disrupt the learning time on Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day comes the same time each year...plan better! Or at least have the courtesy to ask me in the morning, in person before classes begin.
To make sure your teachers and admin realize your importance post informative posters with your art when you are putting it up in the halls and include your states standards. Suggest ways you can collaborate with projects with the classroom teachers. Create newsletters, QR codes, parent nights and use your schools website or Facebook page to communicate your greatness! The more your art program is noticed the more it will become part of your schools culture.
Basically do not let anyone treat you or make you feel less than you know you are. Do not be shy to show your art awesomeness. You know how important what you do is for the kids...let others know it as well.
3. Make friends with the support staff...janitors, office staff, bookkeepers, teachers assistant, the lunch lady, the copy room assistant...these are the people who truly make the school work. Make sure you maintain a positive relationship with them. I even get my janitors Christmas gifts at the end of the year gifts...the art room is a big, scary mess and they do an awesome job keeping me looking good.
4. Make time for your own art-For the first few years after I started teaching I did not create any of my own art. I did not feel good about it but I was spending so much time creating lessons, grading, going to meeting or Professional Development I was too tired to do anything else. One day got to a place were I was just to frustrated and angry and I did not know why. The why was I was not letting out my creative self. So my best advise to you is never loose touch with the artist within. Make time for yourself, your art, your hobbies, your social groups and most definitely your family. This also goes for PD classes that relate to art as well. Do not fill up your state mandatory recertification hours with boring classes that do not relate to what you do. It's mind numbing and a waste of your time. If your district does not offer art PD see if you can take a painting class at the local community center that would qualify. I went to Art Scouts with Cassie Stephens and it was so much fun. We learned a lot and I got to hang with so many like minded art teachers, it was awesome. You can also take a college level class from your local university. In Virginia, where I teach taking 1 college class will give you 90 PD points which is 1/2 of what we need in a 5 year period. If you do not have a college near you the Art of Ed web site offers on-line art courses. And one of my very favorite ways to earn PD hours is to attend your state or the national art conference. So many great ideas are shared and new friends to meet. I just love, love, love conference!
5. Be yourself-Do not let anything or anyone change what or who your are. Stay away from negative people. Sadly schools, the one place everyone should show support is the one place that can tear you down. Do not let it get to you. No matter where you go there will be something or someone who seems to want to stop you from being your most fantastic self. Don't get dragged into it all. Don't let anyone stop you from having the fabulous art program you dreamed about. Search out positive people to be with, join a community group, sorority, or find a religious or spiritual organization to be part of. Surround yourself with people who think that you are kind of a big deal...Because you are.
I also recommend reading the amazing Cassie Stephens Blog Post on her top 10s for the classroom.