8 New Elementary Art Teacher Tips

8 New Art Teacher Tips

These 8 new art teacher tips are what I wish I would have known when I started teaching art. I am still a newbie and I have a lot to learn. However,  I am still new enough to remember the hurdles I had to jump through.

I started teaching art in March of 2015 without ANY art experience what-so-ever. Although, I did have a lot of experience with craft projects, scrapbooking and decorating but no official art experience.

I was not prepared to be an art teacher, but thank goodness for Pinterest and the awesome art blogs that I found. The following 8 new art teacher tips are what got me through my first full year of teaching and helped me be prepared for my second year.

1. Get Real

Get real about your role in the art room and in the school. Expect respect for your time, supplies and your room. The subject of art is just as important as math, science or literature, maybe even more important.

When I first started I was a little intimidated by the “educated teachers” and I felt like I wasn’t as important or entitled to respect. I was so wrong, and the teachers at my school were so awesome and made me feel important. The teachers have always respected my room and my supplies, so I have been lucky.

Expect respect from your students as well. The art supplies in your room may belong to the school, but they are yours. I often tell my students that they wouldn’t want me to come in their room and break or steal their stuff.  So they shouldn’t break or steal my stuff either. They abuse it, they don’t get to use it.

2. Make Friends


Make friends with the secretaries, custodians and all the teachers. You are going to need their support more than you know.


The custodians at my school have been amazing! They are always willing to help and have been quick to help too. Give them the respect of their time by asking for help when its convenient for them.

Demanding help during lunch time would make any custodian very annoyed with you and less likely to help. If I need something, like degreaser spray for my tables during clay month, I make sure to ask early in the morning or late in the afternoon when their schedule is less strenuous.


Equally important is the secretaries in your school, I can’t tell you how many times they have helped me in a pinch. They have supplied me with tape, staples and tissues when I run out during a stressful art project. The secretaries are responsible for ordering my supplies and helping me find substitute teachers so I want to stay on their good side.

Just before school starts, when school is getting out and during lunch time is not a good time to ask for help, unless you are desperate. Respect their schedule and understand the demands that they have and you will be great friends!


Finally, get to know the teachers in your school and help them whenever you can! There are going to be students in EVERY class that will require the teachers intervention. If you are disrespectful or rude to the teachers, they are not going to back you up when their student misbehaves.

Classroom management works so much better when you work as a team and not as hierarchy. I have been asked to walk students to the bus for teachers when they couldn’t be there and I really don’t mind doing that because we are a team and ALL the children in that school are mine too!

3. Collect Donations

Start collecting donations now! I will link a list of donation ideas for you to send home with the school newsletter. I have 526 children that come in my art room every week and a budget of $2000 per year. That may seem like a lot of money and I am probably very lucky to get that much. However, that is around $3.80 per student for a full year. Imagine supplying your child a full year of art supplies on $3.80. You would probably get a glue stick, crayons and a pad of paper, on sale!

Fortunately art teachers can buy in bulk and eventually you can build up the non-consumable items like brushes. I was lucky to have a good supply when I took over the art room. There is still a lot that I really want in the art room though!


Parents want to donate, especially art supplies because they want their children to create! Our local Joann’s regularly donates supplies to our school (and our secretary makes sure I get the art supplies first, which makes me so happy! Imagine if she didn’t like me!).

Local Businesses

Our local Marriot also makes donations to our school, so make some contacts with local businesses and tell them you would love donations for your students!


In some school districts there are foundation grants that you can apply for. This year I applied for a foundation grant and got new Royal Langnickel brushes and texture plates. My school district has an arts program with a director over all the art specialists and music teachers. Sometimes they can get grants for your program.

Think outside the box when trying to stock up on art supplies. I will also have a post on some great fundraisers for art supplies coming soon!

Tissue paper relief made with rubbing plates.

4. Create a flexible schedule for the year

The last week of school last year I planned my entire year for 2016-2017. I kept track of art projects throughout the year that I really wanted to do and teach and then scheduled them. Having a list of the exact supplies I would need to order in July was a huge time saver. I didn’t want to wait on supplies in October and have my schedule thrown off.

However, I have also realized that I should have kept some budget money in reserve for the little things that come up, and they always do. In November, I realized that I really needed black sharpies and ended up using my last dime on 100 shiny new ones.

Then I seen Cassie Stephens valentine candy heart sculpture’s and I really  wanted to do them with my class! Alas I have no money so it will have to wait until next year. In the future I will order what I know we will need and keep half the budget for those ideas that come mid-year or things I run out of unexpectedly.

5. Plan for the art show in the spring

My first year I started in March so I didn’t have much to display for the district art night in April. There were a few projects left from the previous art teacher, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. It was all too overwhelming, so I just took notes on what the other art teachers displayed.



The following year, I forgot about the art show and sent art work home when I should have been saving it. I realized my mistake and began saving art work and had plenty to display. This year our art night will be at our own school and I will be responsible for setting up the whole even

Save your students art for the yearly art show

I will probably have a new story to tell the end of April, for now though I will have to rely on Pinterest and other art teacher bloggers to figure out a system.

6. Label Everything

An amazing Beverly Taylor Sorensen art teacher told me once that your students and anyone who comes in your class room should be able to read your room. Every door, drawer and shelf should be labeled so that anyone, especially substitutes can find anything quickly.


There has been on many occasion that I forgot to get something out for the sub and they had no idea where to find it. Luckily my sub has my number and can call me when she needs to. My room is now labeled and I am confident anyone can find what they need.

Name and teacher code

Students should also label ALL of their art with their name and teacher code. The teacher code is the teachers first letter and the number of their grade. Mrs. Hawkins would write Name and H3 on all art. There is many times that I find art in a random place and having a name and a teacher code helps me put it where it goes.


At the end of the year and after the art show it will come in handy to get all that art work back to the owner. Trust me, with thousands of art hung up all over the school, names and teacher codes will save you a lot of time and stress.

7. Storing Art

Storing large peices of art in the art room

I remember the long hours scouring Pinterest and art blogs looking for art storage solutions. A little cubby is not going to hold a years worth of art work and they are not big enough to hold those 12 x 18 projects. And then there is clay and other 3-D art that needs a place to sit until April. I am still searching for the perfect solution but for now I keep the large 2-D art in a cabinet separated by large paper clearly labeled with the teachers name.

Storing Children's art work in the classroom.

The 3-D art is stored in paper box lids in the corner labeled with the teachers name. Small art ( 9 x 12 or smaller) is kept in the cubby unless it gets too full. If it fills up I find a nice box with lid, labeled with teachers name and it goes under the table for storage. Its not always pretty, but its functional and organized. For ideas on organizing your art room go here.

Storing art projects in the classroom

8. Make Connections

In my district we have PLC meetings once per month with the other art teachers in the district. It has been very valuable to get ideas, lesson plans and advice from these ladies. They are my support group that I can relate to and rely on. Connecting with art teachers through Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram has been very helpful also. Find your group online and connect. There are many who are very kind and willing to give advice or ideas.

I found Patty Palmer from Deep Space Sparkle my first year and her art lessons were extremely valuable! She was teaching me as well as my students through her art videos, which saved my voice and my sanity. Repeating the same lesson 5 to 10 times per day is exhausting!



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