A few weeks back I received a really nice letter from one of my blog readers.
Amy wrote in her letter that she applied for an art teaching position and got accepted. It was a long dream for her doing this and now, that she has started preparing herself, without art college and teacher college backing her up, suddenly the fear hit in and she was completly uncertain if she could actually do it. Her big question to me was:
How can I prepare myself to become an art teacher?
Her letter brought me back to my very first teaching position, the fear, the uncertainty that was transformed into "stage fever" when I stood in front of a whole class for the first time all by myself.
How excited I was after the first day and how unbelievably exhausted on my last day of that school year.
Here is my advice:
1. Prepare your closest people about your constant school talk.
You have probably already read somewhere the quote: Say goodbye to your private life.
I wouldn't fully agree, but I would clearly agree that you should prepare your private life as well as possible that from now on you won't be able to talk about anything else except "your" kids (aka you students), your teaching day and your colleagues. You probably won't have any other topic. And trust me, even after nearly 25 years in the educational business it doesn't stop. I still have these kids which jump straight into my heart and I'm full of stories when I come home. My private life is pretty much aware that there is always this one student or class that I can't stop talking about, or this one particular student who makes me think how I could support him more, better or less.
2. Open your closet!
You are becoming an art teacher, so say goodbye to fancy dresses and expensive shirts. Yes, there are the art teachers who are able to teach without getting a spot of paint on their outfits, I even met a teacher once how was able to teach in white trousers, and I admired her for that, but I'm actually the total opposite....
I usually leave school with paints spots all over my clothes, hands and even my face. So I give you the advice, if you do not have a super, super strict dress code in your school- and mostly art teachers work a little under the radar anyway- make sure you have a few black t-shirts and black trousers in your closet -nothing fancy, and get 3-4 high quality aprons. Why so many? Because I usually have one in the laundry, one in my car and at least one in school. They are my one and most important work tool. As I try to get them with pockets I can carry all my necessary goodies all the time with me. Like masking tape, glue, plasters and a pen. These pockets are a little like Mary Poppin's bag and I'm always surprised what I find in there. An apron covers your clothes and you can make sure that after your day at work is over and you have a meeting with parents, admin staff or anybody else, you only need to wash your hands and in if you are like me your face and don't need to worry about a whole new set of clothes.
3. Over your summer break stock pile pot noodles and snacks
Why pot noodles? Well, because, as long as you are not living with a chef or your mum, you need to cook.... but... especially in the first 6 months your are going to be tired and when you are finally home and on your comfy chair, the struggle will be real to get up and start cooking for yourself.
I always compare your first year of teaching (or in a new school) like living in a washing machine. You'll find yourself constantly upside down and when you feel it's going to settle you are going to be tumbled again. So that you don't have to worry about food, get pot noodles and snacks. (also a pile for school)
Now on a serious note
4. Get used to the curriculum
It's fine to have all these ideas, but you need to know what you actually have to teach, and what has already been taught to the classes you are going to teach.
Try to set up a meeting with the person you are taking over from. Maybe you can even get their files.
Before you start try to get as much information as possible. Nothing can be more frustrating than having a lesson prepared and then students tell you they have done exactly the same years ago.
5. Have your resources ready before you start.
The internet is full with ideas how to teach, what to teach and when to teach. But be careful! I never use the first 10 things that come up, as they have usually been done many times before. Take them as inspiration and change them for your students needs.
6. Last one!
Have fun, keep your humour and keep in mind
Everybody is an artist!? Really!