No One Told The Art Teacher…When Kids Miss Art

Here’s the scenario. You are sitting in your classroom before students are scheduled to enter, patting yourself on the back because for once, you were actually ready for your class. You are all set up, supplies are out, and you even had minute to take a deep breath and think about how you will present your lesson and hook up the projector– You are feeling like a rockstar! The class is a few minutes late, and you begin to wonder. Five minus pass.. Nothing…

So you begin to wander down the hallway to the office or teachers lounge, asking around, only to find out that class went on a field trip, had a college visit today, or is out at an assembly.

No one told the art teacher! 

You sneak back to your classroom. You are frustrated no one failed to communicate with you, sad the students lost their art time and secretly happy that you have an extra 30 minutes to get something done…. (Can I say that?) Does anyone know what I am talking about?

Only an art teacher can understand how it feels to be in this situation.

Even if the event at hand was on the school schedule and you missed it (I’ve had this happen a few times), I always liked the common courtesy of my colleagues to let me know what was going on during the day. More often than not, we can be forgotten as an integral part of a student’s day at school, and when we aren’t treated as such it can make us feel as though our subject isn’t valued.

So, what can you do about it?

The best solution is to be very proactive and advocate. If you notice something on the schedule, contact the appropriate parties and ask more questions to find out how art class will be impacted. Sometimes administration also doesn’t think about things like assemblies always being a on a Friday so the same kids miss their special, or the same kid missing half of art for a band lesson every single Wednesday, etc… We must be our own biggest advocate to really help others realize how detrimental it can be when students miss art class and to make the objectives you must cover and report out on very clear to everyone. We aren’t just making potholders here, people! Report cards are coming up and students have artwork to complete and assessments need to be completed. Sometimes just this reminder takes people by surprise and they feel instantly bad. Sadly, so many teachers FORGET that art is even graded. Don’t let them forget that ART MATTERS!

What sticky scheduling situations have you been involved in? How do you handle it?

We’d love to hear from the secondary teachers as well? Do students leave early for sports or college visits? 

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.


  • Vicky Siegel

    You are NOT alone!  This happens all the time.  Over time, our secretaries have helped out, too!  When they notice a field trip, they will forward us e-mails.  Usually- since art is the longest special time, teachers schedule AROUND art!  They don’t want to miss their prep time!  One problem we are having, is 4th grade teachers, for example, will switch who is coming when due to testing, field trips, etc.  Although, at times they do not tell us, and then I already have certain class name tags cut, or some classes are already “off” in different parts of lessons due to assemblies, etc.  It’s just a case of others not  “walking in other’s shoes.” 

  • 7th and 8th graders leave early for sporting events. Our schedule is set up so we have RTI during 7th period, so they don’t miss out on core or exploratory classes. When we didn’t have RTI 7th period, wehad 6th grade during 7th period and they don’t leave early, so it didn’t affect
    my classes. Luckily this hasn’t been an issue as far as sporting events go, but
    it does come into play when it comes to music practice and career day.

    When students practice for music concerts,
    they miss my class for the day. If I’m lucky, all students will be in
    rehearsal, but yesterday I had one student who wasn’t going to the concert, so
    she stayed in my classroom and worked. It wasn’t a big deal, but I would almost
    prefer all or none.  (Ideally I would prefer
    them all to be in my class!)

    When I taught elementary school there were
    many more issues with missing and switching exploratory times. I definitely
    found myself in your position sitting there waiting for them to show up and
    wondering to myself what was happening!

  • Emily Ann Bakke

    My district has an early dismissal once a month on a Wednesday. So my last class of the day is the same every Wednesday and they miss art once a month because of it. I try to give the teacher a chance to reschedule with me when I have extra planning time on Mondays. But it’s not always possible.

    Last year in another district, sometimes we wouldn’t have enough substitutes. I found out the hard way that when this happens, the class without a sub is divided up and small groups of students are placed in other classes. This meant the class didn’t come to art and several of my classes throughout the day had an extra 3-5 students of a completely different age. And of course no one ever told me.

    • Emily,
      That is an odd situation with splitting up the classes, but I have seen it done in very rare circumstances. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Kmason

      The spliting of classes has happened to me a lot. I f the kids are older they become helpers, if they are younger they usually have time to work on one of my emergency sub plan lessons.

    • n cahill

      We do the splitting of classes at my school when there is no sub for an absent teacher or special circumstances. Fortunately, our morning announcements always list a ‘welcome’ for the ‘guest’ teachers of the day while at the same time reporting if a class is split. If a class IS split, those extra kids that may show up can help themselves to one of the extra activities I always have available for my early-finishers (scrap paper with markers, etc. or non-hardening clay or building materials like Legos or K’nex). If that split class was scheduled for Art that day, their art session with me is canceled which can be a blessing or a curse depending on where we are in the grading period and project completion.
      How about a conversation with your admin about how this affects your curriculum, how it takes away from instruction time (which we never have enough of…)  with your students when you have to scramble to take care of an extra handful of kids that show up unexpectedly?  About 2 years ago, I had a conversation with my principal when TEN extra 5th graders showed up with the assigned class – I didn’t even have enough chairs for everyone! It hasn’t happened since…Good luck!

  • NancieKay

    This is an occasional problem for us but we have become strong advocates for our programs here. It really helps to have the support of your administrators! In our teacher handbook it is stated that classroom teachers can not change their special area schedules WITHOUT the permission of the MAP (Music, Art or PE) teacher which helps tremendously.  I like to keep my teachers happy so they know I will go out of my way to help re-schedule IF they give me enough notice. Our email system at school has a calendar feature so I can keep up with field trip schedules.
    Another frequent pain for us was scheduling assemblies during our class times. After frequent ‘complaining’ (professionally done, of course) we changed our master schedule so there is a block of time for each grade level for assemblies that does not interfere with our classes.
    It’s a process, you have to be persistent, you have to be an advocate for your kids and what they need – time with you!!

    • NancieKay- The common email program with scheduling makes perfect sense. I wonder why more schools aren’t moving to this- The rest of the world uses this to keep schedules on sync! 

  • Artsurf6

    The Art teacher is often over looked, and yes we must be proactive. I removed the monthly Friday assembly miss by swapping that class with my Thursday prep. That worked out as my best solution and it works most of the time.
    I also had the field trip without notice senario this week. I was so impressed with myself! I had all the paint prepped on the palettes, the brushes and water were even set, but no 6th grade. I waited another few minutes, then went down the hall and head to the third building, no one was in slight. They had gone on the field trip WITH the 4th grade. Surprise!
    Uh, paints dry out, mmm I saw a 7th & 8th grade teacher and asked if I could kidnap her class, their science teacher was on the fiend trip. Voila! Problem solved, these students never came to art any more, just media, so they loved painting with me! Win, win!

  • Twinstar1212

    I think you have described the scenario brilliantly!  If the field trip is on the schedule, you can contact the classroom teacher to find out if they will be coming back to school in time for art or if the session can be re-scheduled.  I teach in a small school and you would think that we’d all know what was happening each week with each class, but that is not the case.  Something that bothers me is when we suddenly have a visiting student to provide for….many times class is structured around a two-session process so this kid doesn’t have the beginning of his project to complete.  It is awkward and I almost always find out as they are walking in the door and then have to scramble around and quickly find a way to use my example for him/her – sometimes another child will be absent and we can “complete” that project for the absentee child. It is rare for us to have kids out though.  They seem to be of a very tough variety!   

    • Don’t you just hate the feeling of scrambling? I will also get a new student show up and have to find a spot for them in the seating chart, catch them up on the project, and make them feel welcome: all while trying to run the rest of the class. Thanks for sharing the story- We need to continue to be proactive, as you said. 

  • Sarah

    I teach high school. My Art I is 4th block, and it seems my kids are always getting pulled for something dealing with “core” classes – Friday, they had to finish a math test AND there was an assembly for the last half hour. Entire day, gone.

    I’ve learned to accept that it doesn’t really matter…art is important, but test scores are more important to the school. Part of my job is to support the students in their other classes as well as teach them art. I usually don’t lose more than one day two weeks or so…it’ll be okay, I keep telling myself.

    • Great perspective, Sarah! In the end, we just need to stay lighthearted, flexible and continue educating others on the importance of the arts.

  • Rebecca C.

    My specials team meet with our admin. about pull outs,no shows, and switching without notice a few years ago. They heard our concerns and developed a working plan. We now have a master calendar online with all planned testing dates and when kids will miss. Any teachers can add and delete from the calendar. This has made our campus communication much better. If grade levels want to switch their time or will miss then grade level teachers submit a least a weeks notice. We’ve been using this system for 2 years now. It has really made a huge difference. We have begun to implement a curriculum calendar as well so we can look to see what core content area they are learning in each grade level and make fine arts connections. Working together for the common growth and development of a well rounded child ROCKS!

  • Kati Walsh

    I am very proud of my solution I just did last week! I will be doing this every year from now on.

    The end of the year is when the lack of communication really shows. I created a Google Doc with each class, the weeks left of school (last two months) what they are doing and how many classes each class have left. This way, classroom teachers see the inequity between classes of how many art classes they really get a year. AND they see what students are missing and what we have to restructure when we have to replan when we are not told about field trips. AND teachers are able to write in their field trips themselves!

    I have been searching for a respectful way to handle this situation and the teachers really like the Google Doc.

  • Ms. P

    I know this is an old post but it was linked today and had to share!

    My biggest scheduling headache, aside from the normal miscommunications about events and subs and things, is the fact that I have a population of 1015 and there’s just me! We work on a 10 day rotation schedule where I have 5 – 60 minute classes a day, and I never see the same group of kids twice in a two week span. It is so difficult! I feel like I never see them, it’s impossible to learn names, and kids never remember anything from one day to the next because it was one hour of their day two weeks ago. It also is a difficult school to work in. Our kids are 100% low income, come from really hard home situations, and it leads to a lot of drama in our school day. Art is sometimes the only moment in their two weeks that they have a moment to vent their own frustrations. :(

    I hope maybe someone else will see this and have some insight. Right now I just try to take deep breaths and do the best I can with what I have. I’m lucky enough to have a small classroom, so I’m not on a cart! But my room mildly looks like a hoarders because of boxes of art being stored during the year.

    • Donna Lubin

      I seaway many list students and you put all of my students are military dependents. We have a lot of stress and trauma going on too. I admire the fact that you do have such a horrible schedule and are still positive about it. I try to remember that art may be the only fun time of the day for the kids so even though I am trying to teach them grade art skills and gradual release I do try to remember keep it fun keep it fun keep it fun. One material that I could suggest are those new Insta collar play color temperature sticks. There are tempered paint in a row lipstick that dries within a couple of minutes the kids love them and it makes beautiful pieces of artwork.

    • Donna Lubin

      I admire you for having so many students and trying to keep so positive. I work at a school that is all military students and they are transient. We have a lot of stress and trauma and our day too. One thing I try to remember is Art is probably the only place or one of the only places that they can relax and have fun so I try to remember in my mind keep it fun keep it fun keep it fun and still trig to teach some good art skills and gradual release. My new favorite products are those play plot instant tempera sticks. It’s a rollup paint in a stick that makes beautiful artwork and dries in about two minutes Unlike oil pastels.