I recently wrote a post about my first week teaching art, and I not only mentioned but emphasised how important it is to plan everything. But what I didn’t mention was that it is totally ok when things don’t go to plan and that changing your plans part way through the year or even during the project itself is fine too. It’s part of the teaching process, a process of teaching your students and teaching yourself. There are many reasons why things don’t go according to your well thought out, detailed plans and preparations. But life happens and we have to be flexible enough to bend around the plan.
For instance, just yesterday I literally changed my mind as soon as I was about to start the lesson. I planned to do a Year 1 painting project, nothing major just painting some red poppies for Remembrance Day. But after observing the class situation and student behaviour I quickly changed it to a collage project instead because I felt the kids would be better engaged and their behaviour had a chance to calm down. They get so excited with paint that they just lose the plot completely sometimes, so I had to shift their energy to
the concentration it takes to cut, stick, and colour with pencil. Plus they can handle the cleanup themselves which helps in my transition to my next class.
I start the year with an overall plan of the topics, projects, and artists I want to cover. Year scope plans are essential for a number of reasons: Ordering materials, holiday themes, any cross curricular learning and to ensure your Head Teacher and staff know what shenanigans the kids will be up to.
However, I like to discover new project ideas almost every day, so I always leave some wiggle room to add or take away projects that might be better suited for the students. Wiggle room is necessary. And if you’re a brand art new teacher leave lots. I don’t make detailed plans because a number of things can pop up and throw you off course at any time.
Most common reasons why your plans might go off track:
Random days off
Sickness, extreme weather, building faults, injuries, emergencies, all have a chance of showing up during the school year which can really derail your To-Do Lists. Leave wiggle room.
Trips and guest appearances planed by other teachers
Every teacher has a plan and you won’t always be aware of what it is. Oftentimes the year will include some sort of field trip or a few, taking hoards of your students away. Or maybe there is a guest coming to talk to some kids about traffic safety, or bullying. Whatever it may be, I don’t always know, but it will happen. Just take some time to ask around and get an idea of anything coming up that’s not in your own schedule.
Students work faster/slower than you expected
The fast finisher or the ones that are slower than a snail. You’ll have them both in your class. I try to give the fast finishers an afterwork task like helping others, cleaning up, or one of my time filler activities. The slower ones always need extra time somewhere, so it may be helpful to put them together at a table while they finish and allow the others to move on. Or postpone the unfinished projects and allocate a “finishing day” for the end of term or holidays.
Sometimes your ideas just don’t work. Your students are all crying and they can’t get their head around what you’re saying or doing, and they have no confidence in their abilities to start it, let alone finish. This is a great time to simplify your project or scrap it all together. Just this week I started a lesson on Picasso portraits, I had full confidence they could do this particular drawing if I helped them step by step. Four people ended up in tears actually, and most of the drawings were terrible, and not representative of their previous craftsmanship. So for the second group, I simplified it about 2 notches, and it was stellar!
Last minute requests from other teachers
In the last 6 weeks I’ve had a few last minute requests of mini art projects to squeeze into my schedule. Whether it’s painting poppies with the whole school class for remembrance day, or entering a christmas card competition in the middle of September with Year 4 & 5. I’ll happily oblige as it gives me new projects to document, but it definitely can shift things out or order.
Lack off materials
Maybe your school has a very limited budget, and you can’t go off ordering a bunch of supplies for one off projects, so your plans might change from what you saw on Pinterest. Or perhaps you saw something you didn’t actually see sitting in the art cupboard and you have a project that includes having lots of yellow yarn and you actually have only blue yarn or no yarn at all and you have to improvise using tissue paper… (see my portraiture project)
Adapting to your environment and readjusting your schedule will inevitably happen while teaching art to your students. The sooner you can be ok with letting go of your tightly stringed plans, the breezier your life will be. Have a goal, but don’t worry too much about when you’ll get there.