What You Need To Know About Working As An Art Teacher
You want to make a living from your art – should you go into teaching?
Many people go into teaching their artform because it’s a clear way to make a living from it.
It’s a well-respected profession, which means that if you do tend to care what other people think about your job title, you’ll probably get enough gratification from saying, “I’m a music/art/performance studies teacher”, etc, to make it worthwhile despite the stress that can often come with the job.
However, giving private art lessons or teaching evening or weekend art classes is very, very different to becoming a teacher.
If you imagine teaching to be anything like wafting into a classroom and delivering an inspired monologue to a small crowd of adoring fans, you’ll be in for a prickly surprise.
The truth about teaching your creative discipline
If your aim is to work as an artist full-time, then teaching full-time will not help you reach that goal. Of course, it is possible to work full-time in teaching and maintain a creative practice, but it’s definitely not easy, and I state this having worked alongside art educators for several years.
I’ve often been tempted by the idea of teaching art. Yet I know that it would take up much more of my time and energy, even working the same part-time hours that I do right now, and would leave less time and energy for my art, my writing, my volunteer work and this blog – things that I enjoy.
I would also be taking on a profession with a remarkably high rate of stress.
An epidemic of stress
Teaching in the UK is a highly regulated and structured profession, with more bureaucracy, paperwork, targets and yes, stress, than most people realise.
An “epidemic of stress” has been reported as being behind one in 83 teachers being on long-term sick leave in recent years.
Teaching art is a very different thing from creating art. Your success will be measured in terms of your students’ success, and this will be measured by targets – often changeable targets – set by the government. You will have to think about keeping in line with the national curriculum, working towards qualifications, providing good exam results, lesson planning, marking, being periodically observed and inspected, and working some evenings and weekends.
Lecturers whose position is dependent on delivering results can be driven to the point of burnout (or of doing a large part of students’ work for them) in order to keep hold of their jobs.
The perks of teaching art
Of course, for artists, art means more than an academic discipline; it means something. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to share this with another person and see them take their work, combine it with your instruction, and grow as a creative individual.
I’ll never forget my own art teachers and the difference they made to my life, and the ability to be that positive influence in another’s life is an amazing privilege.
Not all institutions, methods of teaching or levels of study will be right for you.
Consider what age range you will feel most comfortable working with, and also what time commitment you are looking for – is it full-time, part-time or supply work that you want? It’s best to decide at this stage on what your priorities are as it is all too easy to allow the real need for a job/any job to pop you into a position that’s not right for you.