Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sharing Spaces

I've been pondering how to write this particular piece because I'm having a tricky situation this year.  Allow me to share the story:

I share an art room with another art teacher.

There's the brunt of the story.  No juicy details, no cat fights or name-calling...just sharing.

I do not wish to make anyone appear as a complainer or share frustrations.  As I've been pondering, I felt the need to share ways to create an inspiring art space that could be shared between two artists, or two dominant type A personalities.

I would like to list some challenges I have come across and share with you what works best in my situation.

Challenge #1: Veteran Teacher vs. Novice.  In my case, I am the novice.  I've been in the district for 6 years, my co-worker for over 20 years.  Knowledge and wisdom are wonderful tools, as well as mentorship possibilities.  Respect the advice your co-worker gives.  He or she may have some good stories to share.

Challenge #2: Materials.  I learned from day one that materials that are ordered are ordered separately.  We have saved on countless frustrations because we knew to keep our materials separate.  We share very few materials, such as the drying rack, paint cups, and the cutting board, but almost everything else is our own.  When we were both on carts, we had our own storage space separated, and it worked wonderfully.  Now that we have a shared room, we have our own shelves and space in the room for our materials.  This way, when one teacher walks out and the next teacher walks in, our materials are still there...especially the consumables.  With a shared room now, we combined crayons, markers, and colored pencils, and drawing books since they're the most used items for projects.  Everything else...still separate.  We like it that way.

(My old cart!  It's now turned into the resource cart: art books, coloring sheets, crayons, colored pencils, games)

Challenge #3: Communication. When it came time to set up the room, I was extremely passive.  I thought, "Hey, she's been wanting a room for the past few years, she's got it, I'll let her figure the floor plan!"   Then, when it was arranged, I found it incredibly difficult to navigate.  Instead of holding it in, I felt the right thing to do was to talk with my co-worker about the set-up and what would work best in both of our situations.  We came to an agreement, and now we're good.  If you've ever seen the end of the movie "Legally Blonde 2," you'll know what I'm talking about.  Speak up and share your voice, but don't be a meanie about it.

(With being on a cart for years, we are slowly building up out visuals for the room.  It takes time!)

Challenge #4: Display Space.  Throughout the school, everyone battles for display space.  My co-worker and I have specific spaces, but we have had conflicts with the usage of that space.  This year, we decided to alternate displays each month.  This gives us a chance to showcase student work from both art teachers.  My challenge is that I wished I could show more  of my student's work.  Who doesn't want to show off their awesome, amazing masterpieces?  Still, as role models for our students, we show how sharing is positive thing to do!

(Look familiar?  Yes, it's a Keith Haring inspired project I found on Pinterest.  Thank you to the original creator, my 5th graders were proud!)

(My co-worker's display space)

Challenge #5: Dealing With the Little Mistakes.  It's been two months into the school year, and we have had a few mistakes along the way.  The key is forgiveness.  Everyone makes mistakes, and holding grudges is never a good thing to your stress and your health.  Oops, one of us forgot to lock the paper cabinet.  It happens.  There can be a list of little mistakes that happen every day, the key is to communicate, be respectful, and try not to make the same mistake twice.

(Always make sure you double check your space before passing it over to the next person!)

In a way, I feel that writing this has helped me to understand that any frustrations I may have had, it's nothing compared to the big picture:  We are there for the kids.  We love our jobs, and we love art.


  1. Heidi, I share my classroom space with a Music teacher. She comes in the 2 days that I am not there. It's been interesting and frustrating at the same time. We don't really communicate because there is not a common subject and only there one common day. Also, definitely on the same page with novice vs. veteran. However, she has always been on a cart, and complained that the principal wanted her to use the room. I expressed that she should share that with the principal, however she is timid when it comes to administration.

    Also, at the beginning of the year, I always come in early and I came in 2 weeks early because it was a new building to me and I knew the previous art teacher had retired. I never met the music teacher until the first day of school, so I was not aware to the extent of sharing space and she never expressed that she wanted to put anything up. So the room space is physically an art room that the kids visit for music time. She's never really complained about having space for anything, I really believe she prefers the cart and she does have her own storage room/office. I feel your pain and share what you're going through. I'm so thankful to have an art room, but I wish I didn't have to put everything away at the end of the day and "control" my art mess :)

    1. I hear ya! This story was about my second school (I travel to two). I'm there a day and a half a week (I drive to two schools in one day). At my home base school (where I'm at 3 1/2 days a week), I share the room with the music teachers. They have a 1/4th of the room, and travel by cart during the day. Even when I'm not there, the room is used by clubs and the orchestra teacher, so the music teachers still use the cart.

      I love the music teachers at all my schools. They are fun, and we share our frustrations like any family of specials teachers. With your music teacher, it's interesting how she said the principal wanted her to use the room, yet she's complaining to you and not the principal?

  2. I too a teacher at two schools. At one school I am lucky to have the room to myself as I am the only art teacher at that building. The other building I work in, I share. Luckily we are both about the same age and we are pretty laid back. There have been frustrations like - who used the last of the hot glue (my fault), who didn't check and make sure the glue bottles were shut after their kids used them.... drying of paint cups, brushes, having subs leave things out where they don't belong.... Overall I find it frustrating because the room never really feels like your room. I can't leave out projects when I am running late, or if I move furniture for a project, I have to put it back. The walls never really are personalized for more than a project or two. I think the MOST frustrating part about it is that there is ONE day we aren't there and though it has gotten better - it often felt that our space was really a supply closet for other teachers. Sharpies, crayons, paint would go missing -- that has gotten better with a few emails and keys to our supply cabinets.

    1. I am constantly checking the room each day before I leave, and at times, the person I share the room with can still find something I forgot. I feel your pain!

  3. Thank you so much for posting this!! I share an art room with another first year art teacher and him and I can be night and day. He is in my homeroom much of the day. I am very neat and orderly and my students rock at putting supplies back where they found them. It can be very frustrating to return to my room later in the day to play clean up or ask my students to clean up what is not theirs to do. It has been getting better but I do dream of the day I am in my own room all day long! I will take any advice I can get because my patience are slowly running thin, especially when my supplies are being used and ruined.