Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
MAPPING OUT YOUR TEACHING ENVIRONMENT
by Heidi O’Hanley
This school year marks a first for me … I’m in my own classroom with a sink! It may not sound like that big of a deal, but many art educators struggle to find all the resources needed for their projects in their curriculum when they’re in alternate teaching spaces. Here are a few things to check off your list when setting up your space!
1. Find your water source. If you’re one of the lucky art teachers who have a room with a sink, you’re golden! Many of us do need to search other avenues to supply the element that cleans our paintbrushes. If you’re working from a room without a sink, I recommend finding the closest water source. When I was on a cart, I surveyed the closest bathrooms, found the classrooms with the sinks, and carried 5-gallon jugs from room to room.
2. Find your electricity. If you push a cart from room to room and you need the projector or laptop, you need the outlets. Before starting the school year, I would walk through all the rooms I pushed a cart into and surveyed the space. If you’re in your own classroom, set up your projection or computer station that is convenient for you.
3. Find your storage. If you’re on the cart, you can get creative with your storage. If you have a closet, plan a space to store your students’ flat projects in labeled portfolios (or folders) that are easy to change out. I recommend labeling boxes and bins to make it easier to find the materials you need to load the cart or switch out throughout the day.
If you’re in your classroom, figure out a space that you can store projects. I use metal file holders to hold folders of student two-dimensional artworks and bins for the three-dimensional sculptures. If you struggle to find space on the cart, talk with the classroom teachers to see if there can be a space above cabinets and out of the way of their instruction time.
4. Find your display space. Some schools have a dedicated space for art teachers to display, while others think outside of the box. In the past, I would set up a length of long paper on the wall and tape projects to it that can be changed out. A colleague of mine uses string and clothespins to hang the artworks, which makes it so much easier to change out.
You also need to find display space in your classes to show project examples. If you’re on the cart, check the boards in the rooms. I recommend getting your own magnets and labeling them. Even if you forget them in the rooms, students will still make sure they get back to you!
5. Find your method of organization. Being an art teacher means we are masters of organizing chaos. We have multiple classes, students with different accommodations, material adaptations, and more. Every teacher I know has their own method of organization that works for them.
If you have a classroom, create seating charts, even if you have 20+ classes a week. Make sure those charts are written in pencil in case you need to move anyone around throughout the year.
Do you have a list of IEPs? Organize your paperwork in files and make sure to highlight the adaptations you need to provide for your students.
If you’re on the cart, get yourself a file system that works for your space. I had a small plastic file container that held all my paperwork in the space I had, which could also travel with me on the cart if I needed to!
6. Find your privacy. Every teacher deserves his or her own space, which I refer to as your desk! If you are on a cart and do not have your own desk, I highly recommend you ask for one. Having your own space provides you with the comfort of having a place within the school to plan, plus, it’s much easier to do all the work you need to accomplish before and after your classes! If you have a classroom, it’s your choice where you position your desk space. Find what works best for you, but remember to take the time to sit and take a breather even for a few minutes during your time!
7. Find your creativity. Throughout the school year, you may go through lulls with your lessons, even if you pre-plan your curriculum. Most of you are aware of Pinterest supplying many pinned lessons created by art educator bloggers, but do not hesitate to turn to social media for ideas! There’s so many different ways to achieve the objectives of your lessons, but don’t lose your creative spark in teaching your lessons!
I hope you have a wonderful school year, and let your students’ creativity shine!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT), teaches art at Brodnicki Elementary School in Justice, Ill. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.