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Career Story: Art Teacher At An Elementary School

Art Teacher At An Elementary School

Job Title: Teacher

Type of Company: I work for a public school district

Education: BA in Art, Bates College, MS in Education, Mass. College of Art

Previous Experience: I have been a teacher in three other school systems

Job Tasks: I am an art teacher in an elementary school in a suburb of Boston. Students come to art once a week for an hour and I see some classes more than once in a week. We have a choice-based art program which means that students get to choose what artwork they will make and how they will do it. For example, a child who enjoys working with clay can make whatever she or he wants, but their friend who does not like working with clay can draw instead.

I teach basic techniques in all media, and we talk a lot about how to generate good ideas for artmaking. In our art room, we have the following studios: clay, drawing, painting, 3D construction, collage, fiber arts, digital arts and printmaking. This pedagogy is called Teaching for Artistic Behavior and works from the premise that students are artists and should learn how to use their ideas and skills to make art about the things they value. There is a book coming out soon called Engaging Learners Through Artmaking: Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom. This book will give the reader a good framework to develop a choice-based art program, incorporate instruction with assessment and provide for differentiation among students.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is that I get to play with art materials all day, help young artists problem-solve as they make their art, and make a difference in the world of education. The worst part is that, after everyone goes home, I still have to wash the paint brushes, the tables, fire up the kiln, and so on.

Job Tips:
1. If you think you might like to be an art teacher, visit a school and observe the art program. Volunteer if you can, art teachers always need extra help.

2. Take a class in art education.

3. Join a listserv and read what art teachers are talking about. Ask questions.

Additional Thoughts: I began my career as an illustrator and had many good years in that field. However, I find being a teacher is the ultimate satisfaction because I work with a wonderful community of colleagues, parents and students. Best of all, the job begins and ends each year, so there is always a feeling of completion. Summer vacation is fun! I spend most of it taking courses, reflecting on my profession and making artwork.

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