These questions came from the New Teacher FAQ session at the 2009 PA Art Education Association conference. We decided to post the questions here to get responses from the community. Notice that the questions are specific to visual art, but they may have relevance to teachers in other arts disciplines as well.

  1. How do you deal with budget constraints?
  2. How do you effectively divide your budget?

  1. What kinds of art are not acceptable to share with students in the classroom? Are they different by grade levels?
    • Honestly, this might differ not just by grade level but also by where in the state your school is located. Since the local school board is the final word on most workings in the classroom, a written department policy that is board-approved is going to be your best bet if you find you'd like guidance on controversial works.
  2. How would you incorporate works that may contain subjects such as nudity or other things such as that?
    • Re: Nudity - start early. Work with your art dept. and district to create a rationale for why these images are used and how they will be used.
    • Students should see nudity in the art classroom in the very early grades.
    • Don't use nudes just to use them. What are they demonstrating? One time, I decided to show Myron's "Discus Thrower" to 1st graders as part of an investigation of movement in visual art. One of my students asked, "Mrs. Gates, why doesn't he have any clothes on?" And I responded, "He was an olympian. When the Olympics first started, the athletes did not wear any clothing." The student's response? "Oh, ok." We moved on. No issue.
  3. How easy (or not) is it to integrate PSSA items into the art curriculum?
  4. What ideas do you have for cross-curricular lessons?

  1. Any tips for balancing all of the roles and responsibilities of a being a new teacher?
  2. What should I do with the kids that never seem to be able to finish the project?
  3. What is the best thing to do when looking for a position as an art teacher?
    • Some times it is simple: be willing to move. If you're not willing to move (or to have a considerable commute), you may wait a long time for a job. Pennsylvania and Michigan produce more teachers than they need to staff their schools. Many teachers certified in these states find their first job in neighboring states or in high need (usually urban) areas within their home state.
  4. What are other options besides teaching in K-12 public settings?
    • Museum education
    • Private education
    • Running private classes at a community center or out of your home (look into licensing and insurance issues)
    • Teaching an art trade (graphic design, furniture design, etc.) at a place like the covenant house (
  5. What is the best way to get kids who don't have any interest in art to engage in the classroom?
    • Ask them! Ask them what they are interested in and what kinds of things would get them engaged. The trick is then balancing what they want with what they need as learners.

  1. As a new teacher, how do you establish good classroom management?
  2. What are the expectations of an art teacher outside of the classroom?
  3. How do you work with an administration who does not think art is important?
    • Recognize first and foremost that they most likely did not have a quality art experience as students. As soon as you have a curriculum that is challenging and relevant, invite administrators and parents into your room. If you have parents in and out of your room on a regular basis, it's going to be very difficult for administrators (and anyone else in the building) to ignore what's going on. Post work in public spaces with artist statements. Document those cross-curricular connections that naturally happen and make sure they are visible during any observations that your administrators do. We know that art is important, but sometimes we need to make connections for other people to things that they think are important.
  4. What are the top mistakes at an interview, or reasons for not getting the job?
    • Two that I can think of right away: not being honest and not asking questions. If you don't have experience with something, it's okay to say that instead of lying. Also, do research on the district before the interview and have a few questions in mind just in case you don't think of something to ask during the interview.
  5. What are things to avoid during interviews?
  6. How to establish respect in your classes, from the start, and among your peers and community.
    • Establishing respect in your classes: be fair, firm and consistent from day 1. If students know what to expect and know that what happens to them if they push the boundaries doesn't depend on your mood but is fair and predictable, that makes them much more comfortable as learners.
    • Don't be afraid to admit mistakes or ask for help from your students. Establish a climate where you are all learners.
  7. What are effective practices for maintaining classroom control?
    • Most importantly, plan for engaging, rich, and student-centered learning. Ask your students about their interests and use them to plan instruction. The more engaged students are, the less likely they are to misbehave.
    • Be fair, firm and consistent (see #6 above).

The Bigger Picture
  1. What is the future of the arts in PA schools?
    • Policy has not changed; schools are still required to provide instruction in all 4 arts disciplines to students every year in elementary school and at least once at the middle level and once in high school. Beyond policy, the future of the arts in PA is really in the hands of local school districts. That's why establishing positive relationships with administrators and school board members is so important.