Ever wonder what qualities makes a Good Art Teacher? Being an Art Teacher or Educator is an AMAZING job. But… Have you ever wondered how you can be the BEST Art Teacher your students will ever have? Do you stay awake at night wondering what will make you a better or great Art Teacher for your students? Do you wonder how you can get that fabulous Art Teacher confidence that you see all over social media? Do you want to know how to get a grasp on all-the things? Want to say YES to being a Good or AMAZING Art Teacher? Here are the Top 5 Qualities and Traits of a Good Art Teacher.
5 Top Qualities and Traits of a Good Art Teacher
Memorable and amazing Art Teachers stand out, not only all over social media, but to their STUDENTS (which is more important than any follow of your Instagram or Tiktok). They stand out in the memories of kids and plant the seeds of art appreciation, creative thinking, and art making for a life time. The best Art Teachers have the ability to spark creativity and the imagination of kids while letting them explore their interests while still teaching the standards and curricular content. Good Art Teachers all have these Qualities and Traits in Common: the listen to their students, acknowledge and practice being life-long learners, focus on engagement, are prepared, and are patient. Let’s dive into the 5 Top Qualities and Traits of a Good Art Teacher so you can grow and become a better Art Teacher today!
Good Art Teachers Listen to their Students
Good Art Teachers listen to their students. Not only during the exciting times, when kids are bouncing with amazing and creative ideas, but also when kids are stuck, are in red-beast mode, or are not having a great day and it is becoming apparent in your classroom. Listen to your students. it will help you understand their story, their perspective and all of this will inform your teaching and if you might have to change things up or choose a different path.
I had one student who had a safety plan and through talking with the child when I could see that things were maybe about to turn for the worse and a red-beast was boiling, I would ask if they needed something to eat. Turned out that, after a non-verbal acknowledgement, that they were in fact hungry. This was a problem I could solve and it prevented a lot of escalations. After the red-beast went to sleep, I was able to learn that they hadn’t had anything to eat at home. Now, this is not a typical case (for many, many reasons that are personal to the individual), nor are all problems solved by food. But some might be.
You will learn a lot about your students by listening to them. It will help you plan your entire year. You will learn about what they want to learn, what skills they already have and want to acquire, what they like and are interested in… and you will use this to plan your year. It will help you select your art lesson plans so when kids come in and see the lesson you’re about to teach, they will already feel like it speaks to them and they have a connection to it. They will engage.
Listening to your students helps you gain perspective and helps you build a relationship and earn trust. Not all students trust adults or authority for a range of reasons, so you will have to earn it (rather than demand that they trust and respect you. This will give you serious backlash from some kids).
Listening to your students helps you understand their story, their perspective, creates trust, earns respect and they feel like you’re listening and understand, they will be more willing to navigate this Art Education journey with you. This will make you stand out as memorable and a difference maker. And once you have this, they will WANT to make art with you. This is KEY to classroom management and the months that you practice this at the start of the year will pay off in the last 7 months when everything is a well-oiled machine. And if you teach these kids multiple years in a row? All the better. Build on it. They won’t be the same and their interests change with the times and trends. Be the difference maker.
Finally, how do you expect to give feedback on student’s artworks or have small group instruction or 1 to 1 conferencing if you have no prior time building this trust with your students? Or haven’t taken the time to sit and listen to them along the way? This is for me, part of your classroom management and Back to School initiation, when you set the tone for the year and build your students (and yourself) up for success.
Good Art Teachers Acknowledge and Practice Being Life-Long Learners.
Being a life-long learners is essential. I learned so much during each of my years in the classroom and not one year, classroom, or student was a like; each presented a new learning moment or challenge to overcome. All the hard and difficult moments and times made me a stronger, better teacher and honed and refined my engagement strategies, teaching strategies, and classroom management. Is teaching hard? Absolutely, but never for the same reason.
I always taught Growth Mindset and modeled being a life-long learner in my classroom because it not only helped me acknowledge my own growth, but it taught students how to perceiver when things got hard or were challenging and showed them HOW to approach mistake-making.
Did I have a melt-down and through a chair or break a pencil? Absolutely not. Would I get embarrassed and shut down and refuse to do my job and leave? Nope, that would be a silly thing to do as an adult. So if I made a mistake, which would absolutely happen no matter how many times I have taught something, I would stop and say “well my friends, I have made a mistake” (acknowledge the mistake) “I am going to try again. Mistakes help me learn and as a good learner I won’t give up and I will try until I get it right” (model how to approach the situation. Hopefully, this will eventually stick with all your students or at some point in their journey), and then I would SHOW how I would overcome the mistake or work it into the artwork.
This will help solve a lot of problems of “giving up”, “ripping up artworks”, “breaking pencils”, ” shutting down and refusing to work”, “needing a new piece of paper”. Sound familiar? Now, will this solve all the problems? Nope. Will you have to repeat this and re-teach it (especially every back to school)? Yup, and you might have to stop and sit down with your student and walk them through the steps of overcoming mistakes again.
And if you want to really make life-long learning apparent and visible in your classroom, make it a poster or an anchor chart in your classroom. Or if you want it to be something that you can print and send home or use in a lesson at the start of the year, or glue into their sketchbooks, grab a printable version of my “Be an Artist: Steps to Fixing a Mistake in Art” by clicking here.
Good Art Teachers Focus on Engagement
A good art teacher will focus on engagement in their classroom. Engagement and participation is key to classroom management and will have your students eager to learn from you. Sometimes it does feel like you’re pulling out all the stops to get their attention and that is because every day is a new day in teaching. The first couple months are the honeymoon period and things can go easy. Then the holiday season shows up and they are distracted and it is awfully hard to get them to want to learn about the Element of Art Value so, yes, you have to try all-the-things.
Some ideas for engagement:
1) Have a strong lesson plan. Take the time to prepare a solid art lesson that has a hook, demonstration and learning, life-experiences, and a conclusion. Don’t just pass out a worksheet that you printed off 10 minutes ago and expect them to be excited.
2) Have a Hook. You absolutely need to have a hook for your lesson, whether it is a question or cool fact, an example of what they’re going to make, a video or documentary of an artist or art period, a PowerPoint presentation, an online exploration or “visit” to a museum… You need to get them excited and plant the seed for what they’re about to learn and make the curricular content or standards visible while speaking to their interests.
3) Use Total Participation Techniques. I think this book is one that always stuck with me. From asking a question and passing around post-it it notes where students record ideas and add it to an anchor chart, to doing 4 corner questions for kinesthetic learners, to using quick-writes and quick-draws to access prior knowledge or use to assess learning, or think-pair-share, this is essential.
4) Choice-Based learning. If you’re feeling like you need to re-energize and increase engagement in your classroom, then bring in more student-directed or choice-based learning ideas. The end result will be different from the step-by-step traditional process, but they will LEARN so much from being creative and experimenting and will be a lot more engaged.
Good Art Teachers are Prepared
Nothing makes you more stressed, panicked, disorganized, or appear to be unprofessional than not being prepared. And by that, I mean having a plan for how you will tackle the year, what you might teach each month, and definitely have it written out in your day book all the lessons for the week. And for each lesson you already have your lesson plan done, you have all the materials copied, hooks planned and materials prepped. You know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. You’re not showing up that morning and are asking a random Facebook group for a free idea for that day (which is problematic, no one there knows YOUR kids). Get organized and batch prep. First, take the time at the start of the year to write a plan for what you will do each month ( a guess and be okay with it changing as you assess your learners and get to know their needs). Then, for each month, write in (or copy and paste in) all the standards you want to meet in that month so you will know you will cover what is expected of you.
Then what I recommend is batch lesson planning and photocopying two weeks at the start of the year so you have 2 solid weeks written out in your day book, photocopied, everything. Have bins for each day of the week with all the materials inside. Then, each week, prep a following week. This way, you’re always a week ahead through the year and if you’re needing to be away (because you get sick or an unexpected absence), it is no big deal. You won’t be stressed and you will always be ready.
And if you really want to take things to the next level? You can find fully planned art lessons and resources in the Ms Artastic TeachersPayTeachers store (over 800 ready-to-use art lessons and printables) OR if you want to eliminate Art Lesson planning for good, subscribe to my Art Curriculum called the Artastic Collective.
Good Art Teachers are Patient
Good Art Teachers are patient. They are patient when whey make mistakes, when students are showing unexpected behavior, and when things feel like they’re falling apart, kids are needing more time and instruction to learn the skill, and when everything is in the messy middle and it feels like the end will never come. The biggest thing you can learn to do is put on a smile (even when you don’t feel like you want to) in front of your students, and stand quietly and be patient. Show them a hundred ways to do something or re-teach until they get it. I know the year feels short and the curriculum feels long, but there is no point in rushing through and skipping over teachable moments so the kids never get it and are lost and then hate art. It feels like a lot in the moment, but this can make or break their curiosity for art mediums forever if you don’t do this one thing.
Being an Art Teachers is an amazing career. Reflecting on and focusing on these Top 5 Qualities and Traits of a Good Art Teacher will make your an AMAZING Art Teacher BOSS. Remember, to be a Good Art Teacher you need to: listen to your students, acknowledge and practice being a life-long learner, focus on engagement, be prepared, and be patient.