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Lesson Plans

Art teaching career advice (Liz)

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Sandra Hildreth (shildret)
Sat, 16 Nov 1996 13:41:21 -0500

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>1) What are the best parts of the profession? Is it worth it to you? What
>kind of person would be well suited to this field?

The best part of being any kind of teacher has got to be the vitality and
energy of the new crop of students you get every year. While you may teach
the same courses each year, you are teaching them to different people, and
you can modify and revise how and what you teach. Some people get trapped
into using the same lesson plans, the same text book, the same materials
over and over - it's no wonder they get burned out. I am a high school Art
teacher, and yes I have lessons that I enjoy and I know provide positive
instructional experiences for my students, but I continue to search for
creative approaches or variations. It makes it more enjoyable and
challenging for me.

The best kind of person for teaching? Someone who enjoys change and
challenges - who likes kids - who loves learning and creating and designing
themselves - someone who would like to do something different every day.
That's what I like about it.
>2) I've heard a lot about how the arts are undervalued and underfunded in
>public schools; is this something that should be a major concern or should
>dissuade someone from considering a career as an art teacher?

It should be a concern because something needs to be done about it. Not the
development of elitist programs designed to cultivate future artists
either. The only way to counteract the undervaluing of art education is to
prove how valuable it is for all children and adults. So if you want to
work with serious art students - teach in an art school or on the
university level. If you want to be a K-12 art educator, prepare to fight
the establishment and demonstrate the values of learning about art, art
history, art criticism, aestheticsm, as well as making art. Bring to light
the ways that the arts are integrated into the other disciplines and that
the arts can help improve teaching and learning in the other disciplines.
>3) What are the job prospects? Is it very difficult to find a job? Is it
>easier to find a job in certain parts of the country, in rural areas, in
>suburbs? Is it easier to find part-time work than full-time work? Is this
>field supposed to grow or shrink in the near future?

I can't speak with any official statistics, but I think there will always
be jobs - and the baby boomers are nearing retirement age - so there will
be more jobs. I think the best strategy for marketing oneself would be to
have strong computer and technology skills, and a way of demonstrating
interdisciplinary connections. The University that I teach an Art Methods
course for now requires teacher certification candidates to have a
portfolio for their final project. Not just Art teachers, but all subject
areas. The portfolio should be a summary of the individual and their
preparation as a teacher - containing things like a philosophy of teaching,
sample lesson and unit plans, research papers, samples of student work -
something that could be presented during job interviews.

>4) Any reflections on working with different age ranges (e.g., elementary
>vs. high school)?

The younger ages can be more spontaneous and excited about what they do.
You can get more in depth in terms of discussing or investigating topics
with older ages. They all have their high points and low points. One learns
to focus on the positive aspects.

>5) Is there a particular educational background that is the most desirable
>for becoming an art teacher? (See info about my background below.) What is
>your background?

I believe a good, solid liberal arts background is essential. A
comprehensive studio art major that also includes extensive art history
should be there. Computer graphics and other technology training. Ed
courses that are up to date concerning current instructional strategies
like cooperative learning, multiple intelligences, meaningful use tasks,

My background: a BFA in Painting plus K-12 teacher certification. Over 60
hours of grad courses in every area from Anthropology to Educating the
Gifted Child to Multimedia in the Classroom.

>6) Do you have any words of caution, or words of encouragement?
Go for it. But learn about yourself as you train to become a teacher -
don't try to be like someone else - learn what your skills are and how best
to apply them to the classroom.

Sandra Hildreth <shildret>
Art 7-12, Madrid-Waddington Central School, Madrid, NY 13660
Art Methods, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617

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