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12 Things I Learned Teaching Art For 12 Weeks

I write to you today from the comfort of my home...

So warm.

So cozy.

So many tissues...

I’m sick.

I’ve missed two days of work in a row and I feel guilty; guilty because although my brain still works, my body is just not having it. When you’re a substitute teacher, having to ask for help by way of asking for a substitute teacher, feels redundant.

So as I lay in bed mentally intact yet physically exhausted, I’ve had some time to reflect on my last twelve weeks as a substitute Art teacher.

Mind you, my primary subject is music. Not being New York State certified to teach my own subject, yet being allowed to teach long-term for a maternity leave placement in a private school system has me feeling all the feels. Here’s just a glimpse of what I have learned as I reflect upon the last twelve weeks…


What Humility Feels Like

What a way to begin a list...

Can’t say I didn’t try to teach the kiddos how to Art (verbs), but looking back, part of me feels as though I could have done more to enrich their Fine Arts experience. For those that may have been struggling, I look back and ask myself: where did it go wrong? How could I have helped greater in order to assist them in creating something amazing, thus ultimately receiving a passing grade?

Let Life Surprise You

This has slowly but surely turned into a mantra I have seamlessly reverted back to this entire year. If you told me a year ago that I would continue to teach at this school in several different fields – and love it – I would laugh in disbelief. This school has provided so many enriching experiences and I am forever indebted.

Speaking of enriching experiences…

Endless Learning

From firsthand experience, you never stop learning the older you get! Along with letting life surprise me, I have stepped out of my comfort zone in a multitude of ways. From re-teaching myself how to Computer Graphics (yep, I just made that a verb) since my Myspace photo editing days (yep, that was a thing) to getting creative with how to assemble a copper mobile project, and soon to be teaching English and getting middle schoolers situated with their midterm that corresponds with the Social Studies department…

I am learning and I am learning a lot and have I mentioned that I love what I do?

Music and Art are Brother & Sister

No, I am not typing all loopy while on medication… I’m serious!

This may go without saying, but it never resonated with me until having to teach the Nine Principles of Design how Music and Art go hand in hand. The concepts of movement, balance, rhythm, pattern, unity… and this is just scratching the surface! Is this band land or is this band land?

The Importance of Technology in the Classroom

Just when I thought I knew it all and was all caught up… WRONG!

This was my first (and certainly not last) experience using Office365. If I could go back and implement everything in OneDrive and OneNote, I would have been more selfish and continued asking for help on even the smallest tricks of the trade.

Love, Patience, and Understanding

If I were to write a letter to twenty-five year old me, it would begin as follows…

Dearest Elissa May:

Don’t be so uptight.


Your twenty-six year-old self <3

PS: Let the kiddos listen to music, chillax, have fun making their art, and enjoy being with their friends. This may be the student’s only chance during the entire day. You never know what each individual has going on outside of these halls. But sure enough, no matter how much they are chatting away, it may look like they’re not getting work done, but look away and look back two seconds later and BAM it’s done! I may have over-embellished on the “Shhhhh…” one too many unnecessary times. Loosen up, girl! It’ll be great!

PPS: LOOK AT THOSE SHOES! Get it, girl. Okay thank you, that’s all I had to get off my chest.