The art room has a distinct smell. Glue and paper, paint, and pencil sharpenings come together to form a smell I now relate as my second home.
I learned very quickly in my college observations that there is a level of chaos that each teacher needs to operate. One school may be filled with color-coded, organized, labeled containers of materials while others…well, are not.
Over the years, we all start out with ideas of what we want our classroom to be. Our high expectations never change, the way we reach those expectations do.
When I got to my current (and only) school 8 years ago, I couldn’t walk into the storage closet to the kiln room because it was so full of STUFF. The previous teacher had organized things in a manor unknown to me and I had to wade through the years of fabric and pillow stuffing to get to the kiln room. I was fresh out of college and wanted my classroom to be neat, clean and organized. I did not understand the boxes of buttons. I did not understand the cabinet filled with broken tiles. I spent a full week before school started making the room my own. I organized, I cleaned, I labeled and color coded. I carefully hung up and measured for posters. I took everything out of the storage closet and put it back piece by piece. I had my own keep, toss, and recycle piles. I thought I won a giant game of Janga… but then the kids came and I realized I had to get another game plan.
Over the years, I have become more and more relaxed with organization in the room and have started to embrace the need for organized chaos. I have been teaching for 8 years…and here are my tips that have either lasted, changed, or developed over time.
1) I label all the cabinets and drawers. If a kid needs glue, I just tell them to go to cabinet 4. Scissors? No problem… drawer 24.
2) Decorate the cabinet students use the most in a distinctive way. I have one cabinet that the crayons, color pencils, and markers live in. Behold…the bird cabinet. Really easy to find- and it cuts down on confusion and the "where are the.." questions.
3) I don't number EVERYTHING in the cabinets anymore...but I do have crayons, color pencils, and markers in numbered bins. I have enough for each table to have their own bin. If you sit at table 4 and used a color of blue from the cabinet yesterday you don’t have to look in all the bins to find the color you need… you just get number assigned to your table.
4) My turn-in cart is amazing! It rolls. Kids turn things in on it. What is there not to like? It sits in the corner of my room and it collects art. It is pretty much my 3rd arm.
5) I have a board in my room that I use to hang up nameless art. If the students notice they are missing a grade for a project, that is the first place they look.
I have let go of my original ideals of what an art room should be. I now have my have chaos (semi-organized) in the classroom. The mess is a part of the creative process and it makes the art room a better place to be.