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Everyday Art Room is back for episode two, and Cassie tackles the topic of art room rules. Whether you just need a quick refresh on simple rules or a guide to dealing with chaotic students, this episode covers it all! Listen as she talks about what students need from you when you start the year (3:30), the only 3 rules needed in the art room (11:30), and the best way to handle disruptions and interruptions from your kids (17:00). Full episode transcript below.
I have been teaching art for close to 20 years and what that means is that I have had close to 20 first days of school. Let me just tell you, they never get any easier. Now, there is one first day of school that I remember like it was yesterday and I bet you can guess which one that is. That’s right, the very first, first day of school. Let me paint a little picture for you. I was hired to teach kindergarten through second grade children in Nashville, Tennessee. I moved from Indiana. I moved not knowing a single soul and never having taught children under the age of 10. Something I may have failed to mention in the interview.
Oh, but speaking of the interview. When I was sitting in that interview the vice principal kept painting this glorious picture of this amazing space that I was going to have to teach in. He kept referring to it as something called a portable. I didn’t know what a portable was, but he acted like it was the best thing ever. A word to the wise, newbies or people going out for an interview, always make sure that you ask to see that teaching space before accepting the job unlike yours truly.
When I saw my space, I was like, “Y’all call that a portable, because where I’m from that’s a straight up trailer.” Now, I will say this it was a very nice trailer and, excuse me, portable. When I saw the inside of the space it was clean. It was nice, but it was very institutional. I thought, “In less than 24 hours before my students get here, I need to transform this space into an exciting place where they will want to come and create.”
Taking a little break from that, I decided to walk up and down the halls of the school and just casually pop my head in the classrooms to see, what does an elementary classroom look like. Here’s what I saw. I saw rooms filled with big bold posters that had words on them like, rules and consequences. On the rules’ poster there were these big happy faced children doing the right thing, raising their hand and being kind to one another. On the consequences’ poster, well I think you can imagine the things that I saw. Those faces on the children, they were not happy. I thought, “That’s what I need. I need rules and consequences posters.”
I immediately went back to my apartment and that night I stayed up until 3:00 AM drawing Vincent Van Gogh’s art room rules, poster after poster after poster. The next day, I shared those rules and consequences with my students and let me just tell you, it did not go over well. They weren’t receptive, because they didn’t understand what it was that I was talking about. The thing is, I didn’t understand what I was talking about either. Here’s what your students need from you on those first days of school. They need you. They need you and your actions and your excitement and love for teaching art to set the tone, which will then help establish the rules in your art room. This is Everyday Art Room and I’m Cassie Stephens.
In the last episode of Everyday Art Room, we were chatting about the eight art room routines that will help you establish a really successful school year. Now, I did mention that when you’re coming up with your own eight art room routines, you need to think of the three S’s. Consider your setup, your situation, and your students. Simply because it works well in my art room with my setup and situation and students, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Now, that being said, during that episode, I bet some of you were wondering, “Wait a minute. On the first day of school, she goes over her routines, but what about rules? You’re supposed to cover that on the first day of school.” I have a feeling might, myself included, accidentally confuse rules and routines. They’re two totally different things. Let’s talk about that difference.
Think of your art room as a masterpiece, a big beautiful painting. When an artist approaches a painting he/she first lays down big broad brushstrokes. I like to think of those big broad brushstrokes as the rules in my art room. The routines, well those are the finer details in a painting and depending on your situation, your setup, and your students you might have a finally detailed masterpiece that’s your art room. If you’re anything like me, a little bit loosey goosey/hot mess express, well then your painting and the routine/finer details might cause it to look a little bit more impressionistic/occasionally attacked by Jackson Pollock. Each one of those is different and unique. Just like the art teacher that each one of us are.
Today, we are going to talk about those rules and we’re going to talk about the top three rules, the only ones that you’ll ever need for your setup, your situation, and your students. Before diving in, let’s really dig deep about what rules do. What do rules do? They set the tone. They set the tone for your art room and your students creative space. That masterpiece where the artist is laying down those big broad brushstrokes, he/she is setting the tone with the colors chosen, the lines and shapes put into place. That’s going to be the tone for the entire painting. Think of the tone that you want to establish in your art room.
Now, with that in mind, I want you to listen to this. I did a little bit of googling and just out of curiosity I googled “elementary classroom rules” just to see what our fellow teacher and buddies were up to in their teaching spaces. I came across pretty much what you’d expect and a lot of rules I’ve used in my art room before. Let me go over the top three.
Walk in the classroom. Okay, walking’s important. We don’t need to be running anywhere except outside and in PE. I can go along with that. Second one, raise your hand to talk. I have most definitely had that as a rule in my art room. Be kind to your classmates. I love that rule. I mean that’s like a life mantra. That’s not just a rule. So, those, of course, are setting a tone. Here are some other rules that I came across, which also set a tone. I’m going to read these to you twice. I’m going to read them to you once and then I’m going to read them to you again with the tone that I think they were written in.
Here’s the first one. Listen and follow directions the first time you are asked! In my mind, here’s the tone with which I heard that rule. Listen and follow directions the first time you are asked! Here’s another one. Do not get out of your seat unless you have permission! Here’s the tone. Do not get out of your seat unless you have permission! The last one. Raise your hand before speaking. Do not shout out! Raise your hand before speaking. Do not shout out! The funny thing about that rule, I feel like that rule is shouting out.
All right, do you understand where I’m going with this? The tone that those three rules set, imagine being a student in that classroom. Imagine the tone and the climate in that classroom. Imagine that being your learning space for an entire year. So, when you’re coming up with your rules really think clearly about that tone. Read your rules out loud and make sure they are going to help you establish that creative, exciting, and wonderful space that you have.
Many people also have a tendency, like I said earlier, and myself included, to confuse rules with routines. They end up with a list of rules that entirely too long. The one about walking into the classroom. I feel that’s more of a routine. You need to show students how you want them to walk into your classroom. This is our routine for walking in. This is our routine for walking to gather supplies. This is our routine for walking to exit. That’s not a rule.
Let me share with you the top three rules. The only ones for your setup, situation, and students that you’ll need. When I was coming up with these I decided to think of it more, not as a rule or a set of rules, but as a life mantra. I want these to be life rules. Rules of life to live by. When I was coming up with these I thought of the KISS method, Keep It Simple Stupid. So, here’s the acronym I thought of using the word ART, of course. A for ART is for Aim. The R in ART is for Respect. The T for ART is Trust. My three rules, Aim, Respect, Trust.
Now, let’s go over what I mean by each one of those three words and three rules. I’ll do this with my student. Let’s talk about the A, which I said is Aim. I want all of my student to aim, to try their best and aim to do the right thing. I can’t ask more of them than to try their best and to do the right thing. The R is for Respect. I want my students to respect themselves, their artwork, their classmates, and the art room. It’s one thing I know about people and students, they cannot have respect for others or what they’ve created or art supplies or space unless they first have a respect and a love for themselves. So, establishing that self confidence and that respect for themselves comes first in that R of respect.
Let’s talk about trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in your ability to learn. I’m currently reading a couple of books on growth mindsets. I feel it’s got a solid connection to what we do in our art room. We want our students to know that they can grow and they can learn. Things aren’t always going to come easily. They never will always come easily in life, but if they trust in themselves, in their ability to learn, then they will be able to grow.
Those are my three art room rules. Ones that I feel like, regardless of your setup, your situation, and your students these would work well in your room. They might be shown or displayed a little differently from room-to-room, but they will most definitely set a tone. A tone that we want our students to create and live and learn within. Thank you so much for letting me share my top three art room rules with you.
Tim: Hello, this is Tim Bogatz, the host of Art Ed Radio. Thank you for tuning back into the second episode of Everyday Art Room with Cassie Stephens. As we told you new episodes will be arriving every Thursday so make sure you subscribe iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you love the show, please submit a rating and a review on iTunes, because this helps other art teachers find the show.
Also, make sure you check out Everyday Art Room on the Art of Ed website under the podcasts tab. You’ll find the full transcript of this show links to Cassie’s blog, AOE articles, and resources that can help your teaching. It’s all of the artofed.com under the podcasts tab. You can also sign up to receive weekly emails whenever a new episode is released. Now, let’s get you back to Cassie, as she opens up the mailbag.
Cassie: Now it’s time to dip into the mailbag. All right, this first question ties in pretty well with what we’ve been chatting about. It says this, “Cassie, you talk a lot about your art room, but you don’t talk very much about kids misbehaving in your art room. Do you not have kids that misbehave? If so, how do you make that happen?” Oh friend, I could only dream of an art room where all the children were perfect angels sent from above, but let’s be honest, that’s not the case. Each and every art teacher struggles with students. It’s just how it is, but it’s all about how each and every art teacher handles that student that’s causing disruptions in the art room. Let’s talk about that.
First of all, the most important thing to do when you have a student who’s interrupting your art room is to not take it personally. Remove yourself from the situation. Pretend that you are rising above being a little fly on the wall watching the madness happen, because regardless of the behavior, it’s not you. There’s something else going on. Your job is to first of all, stay extremely calm despite the fact that your blood pressure might be rising.
The second thing you need to do is remove yourself from the situation and just know that this anger or misbehavior, even though it might look as though it’s directed at you, there’s something else going on here and it’s not you. Your next action is really important, because all eyes, not just the eye of the child misbehaving, all eyes are on you. Whatever you do, however you decide to handle that situation, it’s important that you do it with extreme calm. Usually what I’ll do is I’ll lower my voice, I’ll talk very calmly. I might ask the student to go take a break. I have a time out area.
These are things that we will definitely be covering in next week’s episode when we chat about consequences. We talked about rules, but we haven’t yet talked about what to do when students break those rules. Don’t you worry, we’re getting there next time. Remember, keep yourself calm. Know that this behavior, this misbehavior is not geared towards you that there’s something else going on. We all have issues with students like this and the key is knowing how to handle that situation, which, like I said, we will be chatting more about next week.
All right, one more question from the mailbag and this question is one that I get quite a bit, which I think is really funny. Here we go. “Cassie, how do you have time to do all of the things that you do? You seem to get a lot of stuff accomplished in a short amount of time.” Oh, man, I take that as a big old compliment and I also take that to mean that I have all y’all fooled. I will let you know, I am a big time waster of time. In fact, that’s what my second grade teacher Mrs. Cheek wrote on my report card, “Cassie Stephens needs to work on her time management skills.” That’s how I read that even though Mrs. Cheek was a lovely teacher and never spoke like that. She had a teepee in her room y’all. A teepee.
I will tell you this, but I do, and I probably don’t even need to tell you this, I do consume a lot of caffeine. I don’t really believe in keeping clean house. It’s an artsy house. It’s got stuff everywhere. I ain’t got time to clean. I also don’t have children, that frees up quite a bit of time and we don’t have cable or a functioning television. Don’t get me started, but with those three things, or without some of those three things, I am able to get some things accomplished.
I will also let you in on a little secret. When I’m doing something, like creating a needle felted piece or painting a picture or sewing an outfit. I’m not doing it for just that reason alone. I usually have several layers to that project. If I’m sewing a dress, let’s say that has a Russo style print on it, that’s because I’m going to be teaching my students about Russo. If I’m coming up with lessons on Vincent van Gogh, we’ll just throw him out there, then I’m probably also coming up with something that I can wear in my hair or an outfit that I can create or a painting I can make from my room that will help reinforce what I’m teaching.
When I put together my passions, like sewing or creating, together with something like what my students will be learning about, then I’m able to do, I guess you could say double duty. Although my students refer to that as something else, but I digress. I hope that helps to clarify, but let me just say, I don’t have a magical time machine and I am a hot mess. So, there you have it. If you guys have any old questions, you feel free to send them my way. You can send them to email@example.com. Chat soon.
It’s been awesome chatting with you guys today about the top three rules, the only top three rules you’ll ever need for your setup, your situation, and your students. Remember, think of rules as being the tone. The tone that you want to set in your art room. Also, when coming up with those rules, remember there’s a difference between rules and routines. Rules are the big, broad, beautiful brushstrokes, kind of lay the foundation and set the tone for the masterpiece that’s your art room.
Routines, well those are those teeny tiny finer details and just how fine those details are, well that’s up to you and the tone you wish to set in your art room. My top three rules that I shared with you, A is for aim. Your students are aiming to be their best and to do the right thing. R, well that’s for respect. They first need to have a respect for themselves, before they can have a respect for their artwork, their classmates, the art room and the art supplies in the art room. Lastly, the T is for trust. Your students need to trust in themselves and their ability to learn. With those three rules in your art room you will set a wonderful tone for your students to not only flourish, but create. This has been Everyday Art Room and I’m Cassie Stephens.
You will leave this class full of inspiration for direct application into your art room. Even better, you will have dedicated time to explore the medium of watercolor and advance your own practice as an artist and as a teacher.