Saturday, September 10, 2011

Knowing your Schedule and Expectations

All teachers have a strict schedule to follow with little room for flexibility.  It’s especially tricky when balancing your time moving from room to room, especially when you’re juggling materials throughout the day.  Every school district has expectations and guidelines for their teachers to abide, and as travelers, you’re expected to do the same.  In many cases, expectations are one of the causes of teacher burn-out. 

Your Schedule

Another challenge is your schedule, which changes from year to year.  In the beginning, you receive the schedule and start your planning for the day.  It can take a few weeks, but you soon have that schedule memorized and timed perfectly.  Planning lessons within your schedule can be another challenge.

If you have a schedule with all grade levels throughout the day (a good example would be mine this year, which is 7 classes, grades K-6 all in a row), your biggest challenge is materials, and this goes with classroom and school.  You need to create examples for all 7 grade levels (unless you’re K-8, and you have 9), design lesson ideas for all grades each day, and figure your materials for each grade level…each day.  By the end of the work day, you want to drop...or cry. 

To help improve your schedule, try your best to plan lessons that require the same materials.  This idea can help you with the heavy cart.  For example, if you have cutting/pasting projects and need bins of colored paper scraps, plan the appropriate lessons at the same time.  I keep my bins of colored paper in the hallway, and just slide them from room to room during the day.  There will be overlapping of projects since some grade levels take longer than others, but it helps save you from a heavy cart load.

Some schedules are planned with back to back grade levels (for example, K, K, 1, 1, etc…).  These schedules are amazing because you may be preparing for many students, but you’re preparing for fewer projects.  I found more flexibility with this type of schedule, but like everything in life, nothing stays the same.  You will always be adapting to what the school’s needs are at the time.

When you do get your schedule in the beginning of the year, there will also be fine tuning involved.  If you’re on a cart, you need that time between classes to move from room to room (and grab that one item you forgot for a future class!).  If you find a conflict, discuss it with the teacher at the time, and plan any minute changes needed to make both teachers comfortable with their schedules. 

Another issue that you may come across is when duty calls.  If you have a lunch duty or T.S.P.E. duty immediately after a class, you may not make it on time.  Inform the administrator about the issue, or talk with your duty team about times when you may need to take down, clean up, or wash brushes.  Morning and afternoon observations can also cut into your set-up and take-down time.  Be sure to get to your workplace with time to prepare for this.

In the end, you will have your schedule fined tuned within a few weeks, and you’ll know your time so well, that daily schedule taped up on your cart will be hidden behind artist posters (keep it there just in case!).  And…one of your job expectations, the schedule, will feel mastered.

Your Expectations

As educators, we are expected to design a curriculum (following specific guidelines), keep up with student/parent contact, record data and assessments, know the school policies, create lesson plans, and much more.  As an art educator, you may be expected to be the visual person in the school, which includes hallway displays, community displays, props for school musicals, creative or art shows, press releases, contests, and the list goes on.  Every educator has their own amount of work and expectations, and ours may be different, but the work load feels just as heavy.

One of the ongoing battles I hear about with educators is that someone has a heavier work load than another.  This myth is very untrue.  The argument pops up continuously because of the wide variety of responsibilities each person in the school team has.  When working collaboratively, your teamwork efforts help to bust that myth.

As the art teacher, it is mostly your responsibility to handle all the visual art requirements of the school district.  With open communication, you can work as a team to create wonderful displays.  Your displays can be hung anywhere around the school, in public areas (such as a village hall), or at district meetings.  Around the school, students are more than willing to help display their own work.  It shows a sense of pride in their own work, and when more work is displayed, students have shown throughout the year a more positive response to the artwork and respect for the displays. 

All teachers in our school create press releases for the public, and I have just as much fun creating the pictures.  I enjoy showing the community what the students learn within the art program, and how it ties into what they do every day.  The students also are joyous when they see their faces in the local newspaper.  On a side note, if you plan to create more press releases for the public, make sure you have a list of students who are not approved for photos or public releases.  This is very important, even when you decide to pursue a master’s teacher certification level. 

School musicals are another expectation within our school district.  As a team, the music teachers and art teachers discuss in advance when the musicals arise, and what the themes may be.  In the past, I’ve saved props for multiple uses (trees are great examples for this).  When making new props, I’ve now enlisted the help of upper class students to color and cut out.  This has been a huge help with time, and students again have more pride in the work displayed. 

Art contests are always around, and many times can be a voluntary choice for the art teacher.  I like to display national contest information for my students outside my classroom door and pamphlets are left in a spot on my cart when travelling.  There are main contests within my district that take place every year, and since I am aware of them in advance, I fit them into the curriculum.  If you are a first year teacher, make sure you discuss with your administrator any contest opportunities that may arise throughout the year.

The list of expectations can go on and on, but remember you can always use the resources you have:  the students, parents, and co-workers.  As a team, you can help make your school a creative environment while fulfilling your duties.

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