We polled dozens of teachers to ask the question – do you think teaching is an art, or a science? While teaching does involve science, teachers we polled overwhelmingly agreed: teaching is an art, NOT a science.
Educators gave us many great reasons to consider. Here are some of our favorites:
I once read that science is the knowledge and an art is the application of that knowledge. In a number of ways, college prepared me with the knowledge; it gave me the knowledge of the acronyms to survive an IEP meeting, it gave me the knowledge to discard bad questions from an assessment, and it gave me the knowledge to “never eat in the teacher’s lounge”. The art of teaching cannot be learned in college. The art of teaching is learned in the thick of 6th period on the worst Monday of your life when your lesson was horrible, and you have 5 minutes to completely overhaul it before your next group of 35 students walks in with administration trailing behind for an observation. The art of teaching comes from failing. The art of teaching is something that comes from inside a special type of person. – Alexandra Laffey
I have witnessed teachers that teach via script, programmed almost from a lesson plan, never deviating from the plan. This is not teaching. Teaching is an art because it takes skill, time, and patience. It’s an art form to know the right questions to ask, to know when to push and when to encourage, to know when to help and when to stand back. Teaching according to standards, according to checklists & observations may be a science. Teaching that actually happens in most classrooms is an art form. – Barb D. from Barb’s Bazaar
Having research-based practices and methods for teaching is critical. However, kids are not machines. They are spontaneous and ever-changing. The best teachers are the ones who think outside the box and are willing to be creative on the spot to meet the needs of their students. – Kris Scully from Pathway 2 Success
I think teaching is an art for many reasons. Students are like a blank canvas or a mound of clay and teachers strive to help them learn thus transforming them into a successful, beautiful, educated individual. Also, I have worked with many teachers throughout my 16-year career and many are simply “naturally talented” and there is simply no denying it. It is much like an artist who can turn that blank canvas into a beautiful and priceless piece of artwork ready to display in a formal gallery… Many of us simply don’t have an artistic bone in our bodies. You would never in a MILLION YEARS see a painting of mine in a gallery. Nobody wants to see that! Ha! I believe that despite the fact I have zero artistic talent, I was gifted the ART of TEACHING. All four administrators I worked under told me I was a natural and I felt it! To me, Science is more black and white… something that can be learned… whereas a form of art is pure talent and skill. 😉 – Karen Busch from Kinder Teamwork
For me to be at my most effective as a math teacher — or any type of teacher — I need to respond and react to my students’ needs, emotional and physical conditions, the environment around them (personal and physical), my own emotional and physical sense, the needs of my students’ parents, and the needs of the school administration and other people of interest. This profession is definitely NOT a science. If education were to be compared with music, it’s much more like improvisational jazz, with structure embedded but not patently obvious. And like some jazz, the periods of silence are as important as the periods where sound occurs. Music still happens in the absence of sound. And education can sometimes happen after our students leave our room as the music of our lessons still echoes inside of them. – Frank Schorn from Pi UnSquared
Although there is definitely a lot of science and research involved in teaching, teaching is really a big “show”. It is finding that magic piece of the puzzle to connect with your students, utilize their passions, and lead them on the path of learning. You have to be friendly and open (but not too much so that you are more friend than leader), and you have to be able to connect with them. Anyone can memorize the theories and best practices of teaching – but being able to “live” those theories and best practices is a whole different ball game. – Elyse Doerflinger from Elementary Elyse
It is about the procedure, but often I have to change what I’m doing mid-stream, in a lesson or even during the day. It might be because of behavior, or a concept that needs revisiting, or a tragedy (personal, local, regional, state, national, international – they all count). It might be simply because the students are excited over an upcoming holiday. There is no science or prescription to teaching humans, although those form a solid base. To really teach, one must embrace the moment. That, in all ways, makes teaching an art. – Janet Montgomery
I believe that teaching is an art. As an educator, I studied the different tips and techniques required to be the leader of my very own classroom. However, those were just advice pieces offered up to support the growing mind. From experience, I can honestly say I have incorporated a few of those beliefs into my work but also placed my own little twist on what I do. I believe teaching to the young requires a certain method of fun and pizzazz. I certainly believe that using songs, colors, smells, etc., enhance the students learning. Engaging in artful learning can be life-changing. – Rachel Jamison from Fifth is my JAM
Teaching is totally a performing art!! (And I’m a science teacher.) The best lessons I’ve ever done were like putting on a show. I did a lesson (a sample lesson for a teaching job) where I had props to demonstrate the history of the discovery of DNA as the genetic material. I got a student volunteer, dressed him in a lab coat, funny dollar store lab goggles, had him “inject” wind-up mice with “bacteria” (using a dollar store kid medical kit syringe), and the class loved it (and I got the job!). To make it memorable, teaching has to employ lots of different aspects of performing arts to keep students engaged and help them really cement what they are learning into their brains. If a teacher really has the knowledge down himself/herself, the teacher can use improv techniques to connect with the audience and keep students on task during class. I look back at my college experience and actually regret I never took acting classes! – Bethany Lau from Science and Math with Mrs. Lau
Teaching is the sum of every discipline, but more than any other, it is art. We work with people. The common thread that runs through every grade level is meeting our students where they are, by learning who they are, and helping them grow into the best versions of themselves as is possible. There is no class, philosophy, or discipline that can take credit for what our students become, but the synthesis of their work, and of our work, is by all accounts an artform. – Adam DeSimone from The DeSimone Store
Being a teacher means thinking on your feet and making changes to a lesson based on the particular group of students. There isn’t a “one method fits all” lesson plan, and what worked one year might not work the same way the next. You have to really get to know your students to implement lessons in ways they’ll be most engaged in and retain information the longest. Science typically requires completing steps in a certain order to obtain a specific result, but art allows for more flexibility and the chance to respond to the work of art (student light bulbs turning on) as it is in process. – Stephanie from Stephanie’s History Store
Teaching is an art. The best lessons evolve from creative ideas. Teachers are artists who use a variety of mediums to engage learners. In my classroom we use art pieces to inspire our writing. We also create artistic images of what we visualize during reading. We write artistic songs to help with difficult math concepts. My classroom runs on artistic thinking and I would not want it any other way! – Jeanine Schneider from Think Grow Giggle
We want to thank all of the teachers who contributed to this post. YOU making teaching a true art, no matter the subject area or grade level. Thank you for all you do!
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