When a Principal Wants to Dump Your Program.

Special areas such as PE, music or art, are often targets by principals to be removed so they can bring in science, math or reading programs, when they want to bring up scores. They displace programs in order to put in more mumbo jumbo programs to boost score. Generally, the reverse occurs, as students become so saturated they really lose focus. 

Below is a series of emails in which at least 1 principal plans to dump a program, and one an art teacher.


From: Hernandez, Tiffany

Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2013 7:24 AM

Subject: Class size norm?

I’m new to the arts this year and during my largest class rotation I have 36 first graders in my little portable. Is this the norm? Anyone else in the same boat? I asked for behavior support and was told to alter my lesson and just have them color instead of trying to do anything else. Any secret tips for large classes full of tiny hyper bodies?

Tiffany Hernandez, Visual Arts

Living Oak Elementary

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”  –Pablo Picasso


From: Valley, Bree D.

Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2013 7:30 AM


First thing:  How do gifted students come to you classes for specials, or do they come at all? Ours come with varying grade levels and it is only if their art special falls on gifted day. Then they are in a whole different level, primary versus intermediate, AND seeing on part of a two part lesson and never seeing the second part of the lesson they may have already started with their homeroom. Aggravating and frustrating.

Here is another scenario which can cause some disruption to the class period. We have a few students per grade level who are either homeschooled or go to a private school with no gifted program. On the days they are here for gifted, the gifted teacher allows them choose a special to show up in. Of course I have no forewarning. My problem with this is that the students sees what the main group has already started and repeated asks/begs to get a personal lesson which started the day before. I try to get them to be content with an independent activity but am not always too successful.

Any guidance would be appreciated.



Bree D. Valley, Art Teacher

Birdland Elementary


From: Calabresa, Rosemarie J.

Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2013 7:38 AM


Subject: RE: gifted and specials + non-enrolled students and specials

We  also have an endorsed teacher per grade level this year. Last year they went away once a week or so to another school for gifted program

Rosemarie Calabresa

Sand Castle Elementary, Art Teacher


From: Ho, Barbara

Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2013 7:40 PM


Subject: RE: gifted and specials + non-enrolled students and specials

Wish someone could speak on your behalf, Bree.

Not only you have soooooo many students on your shoulder, you have the craziest combination and student population, and strange schedule. Feel for you. Wonder should the superintendent, or someone else in the admin. Be involved in this? How does your music teacher feel?

Ms. Barbara Ho

Unicorn Elementary School

“To complicate things in new ways, that is really very easy; but to see things in new ways, that is difficult and that is why genius is so rare.”  (Gertrude Stein)


From: Anderson, Laura H.

Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2013 3:50 PM


Curious? How large are your classes this year?


PS – Gifted students attend with their class.

Pam Smith-Johnson

Land near Lakes Elementary


RE: 36 first graders

Ho, Barbara

Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2013 5:25 PM


Any chance you can get some parent helpers or even high school or UCF/ Rollins Art Ed. Student helpers?

Don’t get discouraged by the comments your admin made. You are an important part of your students’ education. We made a difference in their days and how they like school. We open their minds and inspire them, excite them to be better persons. We are not baby sitter and art is not just coloring pages.

Ed Emberly has several drawing books that are simple and easy to do. You can use that to teach shapes and lines. After they have practiced a few times, they can paint, cut paper collages and add marker lines to complete the picture.

I bought a fun book called the Usborne Big Doodling Book that shows how kids can add patterns to simple shapes of owls, flowers, houses, eggs, blankets, etc. You may want to consider making a few of those shape templates or just have the kids free draw the shapes, then add designs. You can do crayon resist with the patterns and then add a wash over. It will be like magic to them.

Look at how you organize your lesson, how you set up your classroom, and think through the procedures for such a large group. You don’t need to complete a picture in one lesson. Break it down to manageable chunks to keep your sanity. Fill the rest of the class with stories, games, and reward good behavior with stickers, etc. Bribery works!

Ms. Barbara Ho

Unicorn Elementary School

“To complicate things in new ways, that is really very easy; but to see things in new ways, that is difficult and that is why genius is so rare.”  (Gertrude Stein)