On Becoming the “New” Art Teacher


This is my first year at my current school, a private school for grades PK-8. It’s a very small school, so there’s only one section per grade level. Though I have about seven years of teaching under my belt, the students still see me as the NEW Art Teacher.

Teaching art is a funny thing. Since an Art Teacher works with all the students in the school, we establish a special bond with our ‘kids’. Not only because we see them weekly as they grow up through the years, but because teaching art fosters a special connection with each child.

I’ve come to realize that encouraging a child to be creative gives them a voice. A child who learns art with you is entitled to speak their own unique language. They transcend spoken communication as they invite you into their world.

This is why, when I first start teaching in a new school, I meet resistance. The student misses his or her last teacher. They felt comfortable with them. They knew them. They felt safe. They had a voice.

Now, they meet the challenge of trusting a new person with their fragile gift of creativity.

Understanding this dynamic has helped me not to take it personally when I hear, “Mr. _____ never made us do that!” or, “Ms. ________ had us using Sharpies-Why can’t we!?”

The students who take it the hardest seem to be the ones who are most skilled and passionate about the arts.

One level at my last school stands out in my mind as being the most collectively creative group of students I’ve ever taught. This class was so special to me, not because I taught them over the years, but because I learned from them.

This particular level had a different teacher in art every year for about four years. They took the very best from each teacher’s skill set and applied those techniques to their own art. They were the cumulative result of those strengths.

By the time I got to teach them, I was so impressed with what they had learned, and the ease by which they welcomed me. They had learned adaptability through their experiences. What a joy it was to teach them!

Whatever the future holds for me, I know that I look forward to bonding with my current students as their “NEW” Art Teacher. I will support them through their artistic growing pains as best as I can. I’m excited to see them face the new challenges I set in front of them, with or without their resistance, because I know that in the end, they will be proud of themselves for what they have accomplished.