I was in a similar situation about 4 years ago, the 3rd teacher in four
years at a 5-8 middle school. Part of the challenge for me (like I'm sure it
is for you) was coming into a situation where students were used to having
control. The students who were in their last year had seen so many come and
go, they assumed they could run me out of there.
Those who responded already have given you great suggestions. I think the
reason you haven't had many ideas for changing the attitude of the admin, is
that it is much more difficult and is a long-term goal. Do you have a
department head for the district? Can you tap into those resources? If
students leaving the middle school program are unprepared for the
expectations at the high school level, that could support your plea to place
students elsewhere. Another ally is the parents of your top students. Surely
those kids are going home and complaining about the disruptive students. One
or two committed parents can be a big help.
I don't know how this would work at the middle school level, but I was
thinking could you enhance your program the way the music department does?
For example if there are general music classes but also band and chorus,
couldn't there be an art society or honors art group that could also meet
during the day? If you are the only art teacher, that would eliminate the
number of spots you have open for those who don't want to be there.
What I tried to do was highlighting the arts and keeping our successes in
plain sight. By showing them my commitment to the program, it made them more
willing to listen to the 'squeaks.' Some things I tried my first year:
- Implemented a rotating art display in the admin building. Students and
parents invited to the board meeting to receive certificates of recognition.
Their work was framed professionally and would remain at the school.
- Began an online artgallery with www.artsonia.com
- Volunteered with the existing art club (was run by the guidance counselor)
- Chose student docents and trained them to lead tours during our school art
show. It helped to prevent the art from just being a 'backdrop' for the
annual music concert which is what usually happens. Also had stations at
various places including an artist scavenger hunt, related craft ideas and
an interactive computer station with the works online.
- I also posted state standards with my bulletin board displays and gave
tests, which my students informed me was unfair, etc. (Some admins equate
testing with 'serious' content...sad but true)
My goal with the above was to create an art-friendly climate in the building
and position my program equal to the other disciplines. I'm sure it looks
like a lot of brown-nosing and looking back, it was. Like you I was trying
to get myself tenure before squeaking.
The point of my original post about art as a dumping ground was probably a
little unclear, seeing as I've mostly gotten replies about how to deal with
the problem student I described. (Not that I'm not thankful for tips on how
to deal with her - I'll try anything at this point)
My request for advice was more about how to deal with the attitude my admin
and counselors seem to have about where to schedule problem students. They
basically told me that they won't put students they know to be a problem in
the other electives because they aren't "team players" and will damage the
other elective programs as a result. ie, they're KNOWINGLY giving me
classes full of behavior problems because my art program isn't as important
as band, orchestra, foreign language, etc...and it won't matter if they
disrupt art class.
And in case anyone missed it in my replies to this thread - I'm the 4th art
teacher in 5 years at this school (it's only been open 5). I'm the only one
who has come back for a second year. I've heard through the grapevine that
they've found reasons to not renew the contract of prior art teachers
because they were too much of a "squeaky wheel" - that they view teachers
(from any subject) who sent numerous kids to the office as having poor
So, not only are they knowingly filling my classes with behavior problems,
but if I complain too much about it or send too many of them to the
office...I'm the one who will get blamed.
Ridgeview Middle School