What to tell a prospective art teacher

My housekeeper’s daughter, now working as a nanny and closing in on her BA in art, plans to become an art teacher. Her bilingual skills should give her an edge in finding a job. She also knows computer graphics. But I wonder if this is a viable plan. Educated, English-speaking nannies make very good money around here.  Art teachers are the first to go when school budgets get tight. Teachers, what would you advise?

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  1. If she can find a private school job, maybe, but otherwise, choose something else.

    In my district we heavily reduced music last year, and I’m almost positive the art teacher will be shown the door this year.

  2. I don’t know where “around here” is, but in Florida there is NO money for extras now. Stick with nannying and teach private or group art classes part time. One of my friends quit her public school art job in Miami and did just this. She is very happy and no longer has to worry about the whims of state money.

  3. wahoofive says:

    You only get one life. Why spend it settling for whatever pays money, rather than what you love to do? When you’re 90 years old, do you want to look back at your life and say “I didn’t do anything I liked, but it was worth it because I got money”?

  4. Mike Curtis says:

    Change your Major. Do something with your life before deciding to become a teacher.

  5. A good friend of mine got a job recently as an art teacher in Monterey and she feels like she’s in heaven.

    A good thing nobody told her to take another path.

  6. Margo/Mom says:

    I tend to go with the follow your heart people. As someone mostly outside of “education,” I suggest she answer the question, does she want to teach art, or does she want to be a “teacher?” If the draw is to the classroom as we all have known it, it doesn’t hurt to broaden the possibilities some (perhaps with an additional certification). But, if the goal really is teaching art, then there are possibilities outside the classroom. Parks and recreation departments often hire art teachers for more community-oriented teaching, as do settlement houses and other community oirganizations. I cannot recommend the pay scale in comparison to that of teaching–but I have known many artists who appreciated the regularity of a pay check while they developed their own art–gradually working towards exhibiting, sales, and in one case teaching at the college level.

  7. My sister-in-law has taught elementary art for nearly 20 years. She teaches in a affluent suburb of NYC (Long Island). My Mother-in-law taught K and first grade for 40 years in the same district. Based upon my sister-in-laws experience, as long as she can get a job in an affluent district/region of the country – Go for it. She enjoys her job, is well compensated, has generous benefits, plenty of vacation time, and, of course, tenure.

  8. She should teach – if she gets laid off in a couple of years, she can always go back to nannying.

  9. I’m not a teacher, but a parent in a fairly affluent district in California. Some of my friends who went into teaching recently and chose to go teach in poorer districts have lost their jobs, while our district has avoided layoffs due to the private money that comes in from parents. So, in affluent districts like my own, education foundations and parent club money will often support the art and music programs even if the district doesn’t have the money to pay for such “extras”. So my advice is to find a job in a wealthier district if possible, particularly if the program is supported by foundation money.

  10. I say go for it. Maybe see how hard it would be to add an additional certification in teaching her second language or ESL, just to make herself more marketable. And/or be willing to move to where the jobs are. We still have art & music taechers here- they provide contract-protected planning time for classroom teachers.

  11. tim-10-ber says:

    As a parent, I, too, say go for it. She has something else to fall back on. I agree with the additional certification. In spite of all the challenges facing my district every time the district threatens to cut the art, music and pe teachers the parents get up in arms. So far…we still have these teachers in all three tiers of our schools.

    She can always start a “private” practice on the side.

    Best of luck!!

  12. I agree with Peter W–she can always fall back on nannying.

  13. As a longtime resident of “here” I think she be may be able to get a job. I would recommend getting dual credentials; multiple subject bilingual and visual art. While some districts are cutting back on art, charters and privates are not. ‘Here’s’ top ranked Bullis Charter School, has an outstanding Art’s program.

  14. Nannies make decent money, but they don’t get the kind of cushy benefits teachers in government-run schools do like guaranteed annual pensions, health insurance including after retirement, etc. Once you factor in the value of those, the pay may be fairly comparable.

  15. Nannying is not a profession she can “fall back on”. It’s something that young women can do whether degreed or not; the wages earned will never be high, and in most places, barely mid range; the chances of working legitimately on the books and getting health insurance from your employer are practially nil. It’s not a job with a future.

    After 30, she won’t be a marketable nanny; younger women who earn less will be more desirable.

    She needs to decide what the goal is: is it to be an artist? Is it to be an art teacher who isn’t an artist? Is she considering teaching because she doesn’t know what else to do with an art degree?

    If it’s the latter, she needs to think more. There are graphic arts firms, design firms, advertising firms, tv/film/theatre production companies.

    If she’s considering teaching because she wants to teach art and the only thing she wants to teach is art, then she should get an MFA and teach in an art school.

  16. Bill Leonard says:

    I line up on the side of those who question whether she wants to teach art, or be a “teacher”. If the latter, then she should broaden her scope and her prospects. If not, then get serious about a job in the myriad areas of commercial art. Or, do something else. The most successful person I ever met who had an art history degree was in fact a general contractor.

  17. If she really wants to be an art teacher, well, that’s what she’s gotta do. If she’s an artist looking to make a living, she ought to get a backup certification in another subject she likes. I’d argue that literature is art, though I understand teaching it won’t appeal to everyone.

    I started out as an English teacher, and ended up teaching ESL. Tell your friend that’s absolutely the best thing to teach. Not everyone in art class really wants to learn art, but almost everyone who comes from another country really wants to learn English. You can really see remarkable progress if you teach ESL.

  18. Art works here in California because it is required to get into a CSU; also a high school graduation requirement. The art teachers were very savvy in getting their classes saved a few years back. Our art department has grown by leaps and bounds while the business department where I teach (nothing that we teach is required) is half of what it used to be.

  19. I’d ask her to examine why she wants to teach. I think a lot of people go into traditional teaching because they haven’t explored the options — and if you talk to teachers today, many will say they’d prefer to be elsewhere because the teaching climate is so difficult. No Child Left Behind! Our attempts to lock-step our children are resulting in incredible dropout rates – and except for the comments here from California, there are few opportunities for an art teacher. But there ARE other options for artists to be teachers – outside the school system. I’d suggest looking for those.

  20. To your housekeeper’s daughter:

    Dual certification is the way to go. (1) It helps in the hiring process, because the Superintendent knows that the flexibility could be useful some years down the road. (2) It helps if you want to change your mind or broaden your horizons some years down the road. (3) It’s also relatively easy to do at the Master’s level.

    The question then becomes what to be dual certified in? One commenter suggested ESL. Might I suggest Special Ed? There is a fascinating overlap between special ed conditions the the art those students create. A well-trained artist/psychologist can perform diagnoses that others can’t, so I expect that using art to deal with/help educate special ed kids would prove very useful.

    The first job can be anywhere to gain experience, while the second jog should be the place where you want to remain forever. (Ideally, that should be the goal of the first job too, but you may not have that luxury.)


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