Gaining Support From Classroom Teachers

Do classroom teachers support your efforts in the art room?

I have a story to share about something that has never, ever happened when it comes to classroom teachers support, and I feel it’s a success story.

Let me preface this by saying how lucky I am that the classroom teachers at my school(s) are very supportive for the art program, following through with behaviors, and know we aren’t just finger painting in general. I do however, believe they have a lot on their plates, and enough to worry about. I try to really keep my issues to myself and take care of what happens in art, in art. More about my management plan can be found right here.

One particular group of 1st grade students has been giving me the runaround all year long. I tried to brush it off, I didn’t want the classroom teacher to know I was having so much trouble. I wanted to seem like I had it all together. Tough girl. But on the inside I was screaming. The kids were seeing absolutely no connection between what happens in the art room and at this point in the year, the class was at least a class or two behind the other 1st grades, and it was all because of behaviors. I couldn’t take it any more, especially when all of my other groups K-5 do such a nice job. I had a feeling it was not “just me” because I have little management issues during the rest of my day.  For the record, I am not very simpathetic to teachers who have management issues all day long and then want someone else to bail them out every time, but I honestly feel this situation was unique, so I composed the following email:

Classroom teacher,

I just wanted to let you know that if you seen a unusual number of Art Room Opps Notes sent home, it’s because I am noticing the art room behaviors getting worse and worse and I am really cracking down. I know it’s a hard group of kids but I totally blame myself because the kids see absolutely no connection between their behaviors in art and the classroom/home.  I realize we have our high fliers for behavior, but also have a suspicion that students who are normally fine in the classroom are starting to sense that it’s ok to mess around in art class and are really pushing the boundaries, and pushing them far more than I am comfortable with. I am hoping that a communication home directly from art may impact some who are on the fence.

 This all came to me, when I realized your students are behind on their art projects, and it’s all because of behavior. Last week we only got a VERY small amount of art done and at this rate we wont’ finish in time for report cards. When behavior impacts student learning this much, I need to continue to change what I am doing in order to help solve the problem. It would be too easy for me to say “it’s only 45 minutes a week” and brush it off, but as you know that is not the kind of teacher I am.

 Of course, I will continue with all the positive behavior systems I already have in place, including table competition for character slips as well as positive reinforcement and earning the letters ART for whole group behavior.

I know this is not “your issue” and it’s “my issue” but I wanted to just let you know, there is way to much of the year left, and Power Standards to be assessed for me to just give up on this  mission.

Thanks for your support!  

And support I got.  I assumed the teacher knew this was all going on, but I think I provided a lot of new information in my email, and she was willing and equipped to help make art go a little more smoothly. I do know this is a difficult class in general, even for this seasoned teacher, but I KNOW they can act better especially for me.

The teacher talked with the students before art class. They practiced what coming into art looked like. She even brought a chart with her that had a list of student names.   I was to fill out this chart in specials from now on. Anyone who was highlighted would get a positive punch in the classroom. Anyone who’s name wasn’t highlighted would be staying in for the next recess.

I don’t think the kids really believed us.  Sure enough, by the end of art, 7 names were NOT highlighted. These kids came in for recess and the teacher brought them down to the art room, per my request. (I have never kept a kid in for recess before, can you believe it?) They (with the teacher and myself) practiced coming into art, sitting quietly on the carpet, working and cleaning up.  WOW. It was pretty powerful to see the students actually have a concepquence for art room behaviors. It was powerful to see the students who I know can do better practice doing the right thing. I hope this situation made an impact.  The next art class I only had one student need to stay in for recess, so I do think an impact was made.

Moral of the Story: I coudln’t have made these strides without the support from the classroom teacher. I know there are just some things kids don’t get about the connection between specials, the classroom and home. It takes teamwork to make that happen.

Do you receive support from classroom teachers? 
Do you have any relationship boosters or suggestions to keep the communication open? 

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • As my mom always said, “Let the punishment fit the crime” and if the ‘crime’ is not following directions the ‘punishment’ has to be practicing following directions.  I keep all sorts of kids in for recess at the beginning of the year to ‘practice’ what they need to do in my room.  It generally takes one or two times before they finally get that missing recess to practice following directions really isn’t fun.  I have had WHOLE classes that spend an ENTIRE art period practicing how to clean up – we get out paper and pencils and then clean up after about two minutes.  Next we pass out pencils and crayons, work for a few minutes, clean up – etc.  After about the 3rd clean up it gets old and the lesson in learned.  The next time they start having a rocky clean up I remind them of the consequence and suddenly they all remember the expectation.  It’s hard to loose that one day to practice cleaning up, but I have found it’s well worth that missed day rather than fighting and stressing about it ALL year.

    Some kids definitely need a village to help them learn and follow appropriate behaviors and expectations.  I am so glad to hear that the classroom teacher helped you out.  I often, like you, feel I need to take care of behavior in my room when it happens in my room — but sometimes there just isn’t time and the student needs to come back. 

    • Svnasiegs2

      All of the art, music, p.e., and library teachers hand teachers an “art report” and the like. Just a copied form-4 on a page. Awesome, good, ok, or poor are checked. There is also space to write down good/bad comments. Teachers love this and keep to reinforce to parents that we also see similar behaviors- not just classroom teachers. I wish they would tell us the same! For example, we don’t know when kids have been absent, gma dies, etc.

  • Tery

    I am lucky to work in a school where we all support each other.  At the end of every class I give the homeroom teacher a report of how the class went, I let her know if there was any problems and if anyone needs to stay in with me for recess or if I will talk to her/him later about an issue I do not want to discuss in front of the students. I also praise the class for their good behavior. Over the 24 years i have been teaching I have had plenty of classes that have seemed more like crowd control than a class! The key to working with a class like that is to talk with the other teachers that have those students. Chances are that you are not the only one seeing problems.  Find out if the homeroom teacher has a discilpine plan they are using in their room,could it be used in the art room also for that class or put together your own.  Communication with the other teachers is key though, when you communicate you can work together to help set boundaries and rules. If you see the class spiralling out of control stop the class and go over the class rules and expectations. . If needed stop the class for the day, clean up and have them sit quietly for the rest of art .  If the class knows that you mean what you say they will start to listen.  Eventually they will start to act like a class. I have several classes like that this year, they have good days and bad days but they also know that I mean what I say and will follow through with consequences for their inappropriate actions. 

  • Dale

    Fortunately the classroom teachers and I work well in communicating about certain behavior issues. It helps that the students know their teacher will know how they behaved. Our teachers have various positive consequences for those that behave and do their best. It has also helped those teachers that have one or more frequent fliers whose parents always say, ” Not my child” or want to blame the teacher for their child’s inappropriate behavior. It makes a difference when resource folks are able to put in their two cents. It really does take a village, and I am glad we have each other’s back at my school.

    • You are so right, Dale! Thanks for the words of encouargement.

  • Taskeels

    Last week I experienced the worst behavior from a third grade class. The room was chaotic and noisy. Stude t’s had wandered from their tables to somewhere else. Following directions was practically non existent, and the last straw was when a student knocked over a container of oil pastels, black, was told to pick them up, so they would not get stepped on. Class was winding down and as we were trying desparately to be ready, noise, and chaos continued. I happened upon the oil pastel spill, some of which was not cleaned up, there were black streaks all around the area. The classroom teacher arrived as I was saying, stop put everything down and line up. That is not how we usually do things. I asked if I could keep two responsible students to assist in the cleanup and we got to work. The classroom teacher proceeded to lecture her class, and instead of recess that day they wrote apology letters to me. I always feel a bit bad when students miss recess, but not that day, it was my lunch time that I had to spend cleaning up their mess.

    • I’ve had days like this, and they sure aren’t fun. But as you said it best, it’s lucky that is not the norm for you, and most days go much more smoothly.
      I find I forget to go back to basics with some things. Allow a few extra minutes for clean up, review the instructions many times, because kids sure get comfortable with us and just plain get immune to the sound of our voices! Thanks for sharing!

  • Mcbartos

    I also have my first grade classes at the end of the day. There is one that is difficult for all the special classes. We do have a school wide system of “referrals ” . In each teacher,s class the kids can pull up to four”cards”. In a day. First card is a warning, second card is 5 min. Off of recess, third card is all of recess, fourth card is a call home, and fifth is a trip to the principals office. In older grades I think there is a detention in their too. Kids can get referrals in any specials class, lunch time, library.. From any teacher, really. In my class if a student isn’t following directions I write their name on the board, if anything happens again during that art time they get a check mark by their name and I write a referral to give to their teacher.

    Now that you have that background, this system doesn’t seem to work for this group of first graders. They don’t seem to mind how many referrals they get. Well these past few weeks it has been getting worse and worse. I couldn’t even teach to the kids who wanted to learn. It was so frustrating. I thought what can I take away that is going to make a difference? What do they love that they will really be upset about. And it came to me like a bolt of thunder. The next class I told them that the first time they don,t follow the rules it’s their name on the board, second time it,s a referral, and the third time they,re art supplies will be removed and they won,t be able to participate, fourth time would be straight to the principals office. Since I’ve told them this the class has greatly improved behavior. I have not had to remove supplies from any student. I know it sounds really extreme. But this class is very extreme in addition to the end of the year behavior. I think I,ll save this system for the end of the year. It does seem to work when nothing else does.

    • It’s good to have some tricks up your sleeve for the times when nothing else seems to work (i.e.: right now at the end of the year in every classroom in America!). I am glad you found something that helps. Survival, I tell you! We aren’t allowed to remove materials or instruction from any student because it infringes with their allocated art time (same with math, reading, etc) but I’ve had students work on their art at a special spot or out in the hallway if necessary. That is never fun, either. Best of luck!

  • guest

    Oh yes! Love this post! Tomorrow I have THAT ONE class. Can you say a prayer for me! When you only have ONE class like THAT the entire week you start to think, hey maybe it’s not me! But on the other hand WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT!!! Especially because I have this class just a half hour a week right after lunch. My eye will be twitching as they run from the lunchroom to my room tomorrow, then I have to deal with the discipline. It is really unfair to the kids in the class and specials teachers in my opinion to let it get to this point. HERE’S WHAT I’m GOING TO DO ABOUT IT! I’m going to pull out the BIG rewards. Maybe some goldfish and drinks AND a movie. Of course only the quiet kids will have the goldfish coming. Just to get them settled down after lunch. I would never have to do this type of management in a district with more resources and placements for these off the wall behaviors. But I believe if the teacher doesn’t have a plan in place and we see them for less then an hour a week, we have to do the BEST we can with what we’ve got. Wish me luck. 

  • Lauren Wenk

    Great post. I hope since you’ve written this post that these students have continued to be on task and not get out of line…! 

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