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Career Story: Art Teacher In A Public Elementary School

Art Teacher In A Public Elementary School

Job Title: Elementary Art Teacher

Type of Company: I work for the public schools in Wake County, North Carolina.

Education: BA, Art, Salem College •• Teacher Certification, Appalachian State University

Previous Experience: I was apprenticed to a potter after college and was hired to teach art part-time in elementary schools in my rural county. I realized I preferred teaching to making pottery and returned to school to gain teacher certification.

Job Tasks: I am the art teacher in a public elementary school. I teach all 720 students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, or thirty classes a week. Each class comes to art once a week for a 40 or 45 min. period. This schedule requires maximum organization on my part!

In art class students use a variety of media - clay, paint, chalks, oil crayons, cut paper, etc. - to follow structured art lessons that I've planned. The lessons are age-appropriate and often reinforce the academic subjects. For example, in a second grade art class we might do a drawing lesson based on the life stages of a butterfly since that grade studies metamorphosis in science. I follow my district's art curriculum, yet I enjoy a lot of autonomy.

Students generally love art class as it's a chance to get messy, use their hands, engage their imaginations, and shine in a non-academic way. Children come to art class ready and interested.

Often I display student artwork in the community; the local bank, businesses, art fairs are all venues for sharing my students' accomplishments.

The art teacher plays a significant role in an elementary school. Children learn through their hands and it's important to provide enriching art experiences for their growing minds. In this era of intense testing, pressure to achieve, over-scheduled childhoods, I like to think that my art classroom is a sanctuary for children to explore, to wonder, and to create in a supportive environment.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is the children! Seeing a child get interested in an art topic and pursue it outside of school is fun, as well as having them bring in drawings, sculptures, stuff they've made at home out of practically nothing and be excited about it is very rewarding for me.

The worst part is this killer schedule I have this year. Thirty hands-on classes a week is very exhausting. Trying to maintain a high standard of teaching with this overload is daunting.

Job Tips:
1.) Be sure you take a pottery class so you know about firing clay. Clay is the children's favorite medium!

2.) Behavior management is important in any classroom, but especially in art, which not everybody takes very seriously.

3.) Learn to get along with the staff and administration. Being the only "art person" in a school can be lonely.

4.) Be open to students. They bring a lot of gifts and baggage to school every day, but they are CHILDREN.

Additional Thoughts: As in any job, you have to have a sense of humor. Working with children is fun, but they work best in a structured situation of peace and calm and acceptance. It's taken me years to get to this philosophy!

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