Art teachers experience an unusual dynamic in the school culture because we are labeled as; "extra-curricular," "electives," "specials," etc. and it is sometimes a battle to win the respect of the "core academic" teachers, not to mention the occasional student who thinks art isn't a "real" class. Art is often viewed as a "fluff" class, where people assume the students are merely there to socialize while they play with paint and clay. I have found that most people do not realize just how academic visual art is! On this page, "Faculty Respect," you will find various comments from several teachers dealing with this subject. Most importantly, an art supervisor, Jan Stephens, describes the administrative policies she helped art teachers write to guard against the kind of situation described by this elementary art teacher. The following comment came to me via email:

An elementary art teacher asks:
"I've been trying to think of a classroom management/discipline question for a few days. I'm coming up blank. I'm in my third year and I feel pretty confident about my student classroom management system. It's the other teachers in my school that cause me grief. As a new(ish) art teacher, my biggest struggle is feeling that the other teachers don't take my class time seriously. I imagine that this is something everyone deals with. They see art as their "break" time not as my instructional time. If there is a school event that conflicts with their art time they think that I should escort their class to the event. But then their students miss art all together and their class is off my lesson track by two weeks! I have make-up class time build into my schedule but they find ways to abuse it. Last year, one teacher came to me and said she needed to re-schedule her art time for a day earlier. I happily made the adjustment and saw them one day early. The following day (at their normal art time) a sub dropped her class off again. She knew she was going to out and rescheduled to avoid missing her "break". I make-up classes that I'm not required to (classes missed on Holidays) and I make-up classes that I miss when I am out sick (my school doesn't provide a sub). At my school, I sense that their is resentment from the classroom teachers towards the "others". They seem to think we have it easier than them or that we aren't working as hard. I'm not sure how to change their attitude. Somedays it is really exhausting being the outsider at work. I'm very grateful to have a full time art position with great students, a fair schedule, and understanding administration. I welcome ANY advise on navigating classroom teachers to a positive view of my art time."


Sharon Christman said...

WOW, this is a tough one and I don't know if I have an easy fix.
I think teachers can sometimes act like their students, very self centered and selfish.
Ya, I said that, not indicating ALL are but many are.
This is the reason we ART EDUCATORS need each other so badly. We are alone in the schools!
I had the problem with teachers always picking up classes late which meant I had a class in the room and one in the hallway waiting to be picked up.

It's difficult to change the mindset of people. They truly do not know what art educators go through because they have never "walked in our shoes". At my school part of it was jealousy. The students LOVED coming to art. Especially the 5th and 6th grade teachers who had discipline and motivation problems with some students and those were usually my favorite students and best art students.

First off you have to decide. I use to make up classes because it helped me and the teacher.
It helped me keep everyone on the same lesson. Then the school received a new principle and that person told all the "specials" that we could not make up classes. (oh ya, they called us "Specials" and the classroom teachers hated that, they said we are all special. Really? are we in Jr. High School?). The new principal told us that was where the attitude that we have too much free time comes from. So that ended make up time.
And ended some of the abuse of my time. At first I hated it because it meant that I lost time with students and then grade levels were on different lessons. But in time I found it ended the abuse. Instead I used that extra time to work on Promoting my art program. Parent/student art night. Everyone could come do an art project together. Art shows outside the school, at local restaurants etc. I know many teachers use the time to do artsonia.

I noticed one day that one of the teachers had all her certificates and awards beautifully framed and displayed on one of her art room walls. I have never been one to "show" off. It never has been important to me but I thought it might make others realize that you have to have a degree to teach art, it's not just fluff. That helped some as they saw the wall and started thinking about it. I noticed it changes the attitude of some students when they saw it and parents coming in for conferences started treating me nicer and with more respect, I always made sure they sat where they were facing that wall...lol.

My main change came when I went to my new principal about my concerns (same as stated by the teacher who sent in the concern here). I had a kindergarten teacher who said to me one day "I don't understand the crap that you have the students do in your room". It was in response to an abstract project teaching tints and shades and the artwork was all BLUE. I went to the principal crying. She said she would be willing to have one of the professional days be mine so I could take them through a lesson just like I do with my students, that way they could see first hand what I teach. I had the lower grades in the morning for two hours and then the higher grade teachers after that. I did finger-painting, clay etc. the messier the better..lol. I taught them lessons that I taught my students. They found that not only was I running around taking care of the lesson but that as a student it was not that easy. It changed some of the teachers attitude but of course you always have that few that never see the light.:(

Hope this helps. But just remember. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND HOW IMPORTANT YOU ARE. Don't let the ignorant make you feel less valuable than you are!!


"Art Teachers Hate Glitter" is a great read! There is an article entitled, "20 things the elementary art teacher will never tell you." that you will find hilarious!


Mr. Wilhelm, elementary, F.E.S. Teacher of the Year, 2013-2014 said...

T. R. Wilhelm (Baldwin Cty.) said...
I have been teaching for twenty years and I can identify with many of your concerns. The good news is it sounds like your administration is supportive. The bad news is you will always find teachers that view your time as their free time. However, there are ways to lessen the pressure on you. It will require you being more assertive for yourself.
I understand the desire to want to accommodate the teachers but I believe, as you have discovered, some will take advantage of your good nature.
1) Only make up classes for teachers when they will be on field trips or school events that conflict with their class times. (Only if you have time to make up the classes and it has been prearranged.) If it is a one visit project, don't break your back trying to make up all classes that missed. That class just won't do that project - no big deal. There will be other projects and you aren't the one who scheduled the event. I can see why you would make up classes that you missed because of your being out but it seems to me you are over accommodating when making up classes because of holidays. Plan your projects well in advance (sometimes a month) and if you foresee a holiday will interfere with a class, plan a project that everyone can do in one visit and the classes that miss will have to miss. I'm afraid you open yourself up to being taken advantage of when you go to such extremes to make up the classes (as you sited with the teacher who you allowed to send her kids to you a day early). I certainly hope you turned the sub away when she brought you the class the next day. I'm sorry if I sound strict, but you must have a firm process of make-up classes or your teachers will always expect you to make up ALL missed classes. I believe your teachers will respect your rules when you have established and communicated when you will make up times. I've had teachers ask me to make up times. I certainly try to accommodate when I am able but sometimes you simply have to tell the teacher, "I am sorry, but if I find that I will be able to schedule a make-up class later I will let you know."

2) It doesn¹t matter what you do, how hard you work, and what type of work the students produce, there will always be teachers that think that your job is easier. It is true that no one truly knows what someone else does unless you walk in their shoes. Well, that's not going to happen. So what does need to happen is that you need to train yourself to become indifferent or immune to such squabble. Don't engage in it. Teach your students, keep your class organized and clean, plan projects, hang display boards, participate in art shows. In other words, you worry about you and your students. You can't control what other teachers think but you can control what you do. Many teachers will begin to develop a respect for you and your program when they see what you are accomplishing with the students and doing for the school. They will also respect you and your time when have a system that you are consistent with. Remember: there will be always some teachers that you can't please.
I try not to make my problems the administration's problem. However, it may be important to run your class schedule and/or make-up time system with the principal so that you earn their support. That also helps reinforce your system when dealing with a difficult teacher.
Your problem is not an isolated event and it won't be solved overnight.Though it can be one you can work on. All schools are different and with different attitudes, though you will always find that teacher or group of teachers that are more difficult to work with. I still have difficult teachers and I simply don't engage with them. However, I do my best to work with all students and I surround myself with the teachers that are supportive and positive. I believe you will find that it gets easier. I respect your eagerness to be accommodating for the teachers (there is room to accommodate). Regards,
T.L. Wilhelm

Mrs. Jan Stephens, college, retired art supervisor said...

I am so sorry to hear of this situation but unfortunately it is not all that unusual. Over years of dealing with such attitudes of non art teaching teachers I began to enlist the help of the local school administrators by having the art teacher develop something along the lines of an "art policies" page to be added to the school's policy manual. This should be written by the art teacher along with perhaps the music or "other outside the core curriculum" teachers and approved/signed by the principal. Developing administrator approved policies helps so much to give the classroom teachers a sense of seriousness about the role and curriculum of any art, music, theater, or any other "specials" teacher in any school.
Among the things that I have addressed in the development of policy are:
1.) Rearranging the schedule for an entire class missing art class for whatever reason...field trips, school events, etc. should not be tolerated due to the conflicts this causes with accommodating other classes, in other words, make-up classes should not be allowed.
2.) Individual students should not be allowed to miss art class due to another teacher's decision to keep the student out of art class for any reason other than illness (sometimes they do this as punishment for poor behavior or to allow more time on a particular lesson if the student did not finish an assignment).
3.) The principal's signature of approval must be on any request a classroom teacher makes of the art teacher for altering the art schedule or curriculum in any way to accommodate that particular teacher/class. In other words, the art teacher should simply tell the teacher making the request that if the principal sends written and signed notice of approval of this request the art teacher will accommodate.This usually stops the classroom teacher from pursuing the request.
4.) Student preparedness for class, e.g. students should bring any particular materials to art class needed for a specific lesson.
5.) Tardiness of students held back from class for whatever reason should not be tolerated due to the disruption of instruction that this causes the art teacher, in other words, if the student is unable to come to art class along with the rest of his class at their appointed time then the student should miss the entire class and catch up next week.
6.) Special requests of the art teacher for particular curriculum by classroom teachers should not be tolerated as the art teacher is teaching curriculum based upon the standards listed in the "Alabama Course of Study, Arts Education", (sometimes classroom teachers will ask the art teacher to "extend" curriculum they are teaching or do something to commemorate a particular holiday...if the request happens to "fit" the art curriculum that is good but often it does not. The art teacher can offer resources or to come to the classroom to help the classroom teacher teach this particular lesson at some other time.
7.) ANY other particular concerns that have arisen in this particular school should be developed into policies and added to the list for this page/pages for the manual.
This is such a difficult and delicate issue and it will only help the art teacher if the administration is supportive. Yes, it will make the art teacher a little less "popular" with some of the classroom teachers for a while but eventually they will come to respect the fact that art is considered "core" in the curriculum and therefore the art teacher's time and curriculum should be highly respected.
School districts like JefCo have art supervisors to help with situations such as this but so many in our state do not. If this is one that has staff at the central office level to help art teachers then the teacher should definitely enlist the supervisor's help. Hopefully this teacher can find some support somewhere as this is an abusive situation.


Accept that things aren’t great, but steal moments of greatness. Try very, very hard not to fall into the trap of grumbling and complaining if things aren’t working the way you had planned. Having a good attitude and absolutely REFUSING to complain about decisions administrators make can go a long way toward helping your relationship with them. A few years ago I came close to quitting when my school began a program called RTI. It meant that, as an elective teacher I was monitoring students (for 30 minutes a day) seated in the school hallway while a few small groups of students received remedial help in the core academic classrooms. I had to watch 3 classes simultaneously and keep them quiet, and at the same time I was denied that precious time in my own classroom with my own students. We all know that art is a discipline in and of itself, and there are skills we want our students to learn and there are plenty of students who could benefit from remediation with us. However, as an elective art is just not viewed as important and we must live with it and try to change that attitude as cheerfully and wisely as we can.

Penny Adamson, elementary said...

My number one concern as an art teacher is the very limited amount of time I have with the students. I service over 450 kids and I am one of 3 “activity” teachers. I have the kids for 30 minutes a day on a 2 week rotation. Many times kids are held back out of art to make up work, receive extra help, or attend clubs or the gifted program. Even though I understand most of these needs, this frustrates me as I am trying to teach lessons that build and complete art projects. There is no simple solution to this problem. It is my wish that the arts will become one of the priorities and not just an “activity” . I believe the arts are very important in education!

Lindsay said...

For years I have been emphasizing the benefits of arts integration and how the visual arts can supplement in the regular classroom and really capture the attention of our young students.

Finally, this year I was asked to collaborate with the classroom teachers at my elementary school and design arts integration lessons one day a week.

I was very excited, but had no idea how beneficial this would be for my sense of self-worth at work and helping increase (or at lease increase my perception) the level of respect I get from other teachers.

I think some of the lack of respect for art teachers is simply because other people don't know what we do and don't understand the long lasting impacts of learning about art in an art education environment.

So, (if you are in an elementary setting especially) if you are struggling with lack of respect from your fellow colleagues, consider offering (even if you only have time to do this once a year) to go into the classroom and make an art connection to one of the Math, Science, Social Studies, or Reading standards they teach.

Just an idea, it did wonders for me! :)

Lauren Fowler said...

Totally agree with all answers thus far, stay focused and enjoy every moment you have with your precious kids.

I have achieved National Boards, received a Fund for Teachers travel/research grant...and then fellow teachers response (if any at all): well that's because you teach art, its easy for you! What??? Poor them! Unfortunately so many regular classroom teachers cannot /don't know how to think outside their own boxes.

My moment of recognition came when I received Elementary Art Teacher of the Year. Finally they recognized me for an achiever! Being recognized by other people within your own field impresses those who don't understand our field. makes sense, right?

My advice: make sure you are a member of your states art ed association, local groups too, become involved, teach workshops, and nominate people! My crowning moment: being presented before our District Board of Education Meeting, SWEET!