Artist-Teachers

A nice article from Jenny Tiefel Art Ed asks a great question: Do practicing artists make better teachers?

Yellow Transitions by Heather Dilatush, art teacher
Yellow Transitions by Heather Dilatush, art teacher

You might think that I believe they do. After all, I have shared articles about our own Artist Teacher Exhibition, an event designed to celebrate practicing artist-teachers in my school system. Also, if you haven’t noticed, any article of mine that doesn’t have another associated image usually includes an artwork by one of my practicing art teacher colleagues (like the one above).

So yes, I do believe being a practicing artist can make you a better teacher. Why? Well, being a practicing artist has the potential to improve your content knowledge and skills. A teacher’s knowledge of the field is incredibly important and can greatly enrich the instruction. (There have been a few times recently when I have felt like this little detail has been overlooked, but that’s an issue for another time.)

Please note, however, that I am being very careful with my words.

I said, “I do believe being a practicing artist can make you a better teacher,” and I said, “being a practicing artist has the potential to improve your content knowledge and skills.”

I did not say, “practicing artists make better teachers,” or that “practicing artists have better content knowledge and skills.”

The fact is, these latter statements are just not true. I interview a lot of art teacher candidates, and I have seen many practicing artists who wouldn’t know how to teach if you gave them a script. I have also seen candidates who were artists, and never taken an education class in their life, who were natural teachers.

Likewise, I have met (way too many) folks who have completed an art teacher preparation program and still have no idea what they are doing in a classroom.

What makes a good teacher is good teaching. Good teachings involves content knowledge and skills, but it also involves pedagogy and the ability to develop effective teacher-student  relationships. Some practicing artists are naturals, and other teachers, whether practicing artists or not, work very hard to study and master their craft. We should all take a lesson from the latter.  We can always become better.

Make sure to go check out the original article: Do practicing artists make better teachers?

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