Doubling Up: Why Allderdice Art Teachers are Tasked with Instructing Two Different Classes at Once

The Allderdice Art Gallery, filled with art created by students past and present, created and organized by Ms. Mager.

(Zoe Obenza-Bridges)

The Allderdice Art Gallery, filled with art created by students past and present, created and organized by Ms. Mager.

For the past two years (including the year and a half of online instruction) Ms. Moyer and Ms. Mager, art teachers at Allderdice, have been tasked with instructing two separate classes at the same time (including an AP class). Evidently, this situation has prompted many challenges and hurdles for both staff and students. In past years, Ms. Mager has been tasked with teaching Visual Arts 2 and 3 at the same time, but this is her first year doubling up classes with an AP. In Mager’s timeslot two, her AP Studio Art class students sit on one side of the room, and her Visual Art 3 class students sit on the other. This keeps the dynamic of the double classroom easier to manage. 

“It’s not easy. I feel like I’m being pulled in two different directions… And the needs [of different students] are different in both parts. It’s really like teaching two different subjects at the same time, which can be challenging. To my knowledge, if we didn’t have teachers instructing two classes at once, the AP classes are at risk of being eliminated. Not enough students are signing up.” Says Ms.Mager.

Ms. Mager is not alone. Ms. Moyer finds herself in a similar situation, instructing AP 3-D Studio Art and Jewelry 3 during the same time slot: “The AP class is very involved. Throughout the year they work on a sustained investigation, working with 3-D mediums. Each day I have two different agendas, for the two separate classes.” 

Moyer has taught Jewelry 3 and 4 at the same time in past years. She continued, “It was still challenging in the fact that I was teaching each class a different material to work with.” 

Moyer believes that art classes are forced to share classrooms because “As far as I’m aware it’s about numbers, lack of students that are signing up, and ultimately I think there’s a lot of scheduling issues at play.”

Mica Seigler took AP Studio Art last year when Pittsburgh Public Schools was virtual for nearly the whole year. “We were completely virtual for [AP] studio [Art class], so we would just get on a Microsoft Teams call and usually just have time to work on our pieces.  For me personally, a small amount of guidance from Ms. Mager was incredibly helpful as each individual piece was so time-consuming. The class is definitely demanding, so going into it without help from a teacher would have been really difficult.”

Joey Davis, a current AP Studio Art student added, “I don’t think it’s really fair to Ms. Mager. Teaching two classes at once is hard.”

The difficulties of instructing two classes at once affect both the teacher and students. Teachers and staff members already have a lot on their plates this year, from adjusting to “in person” learning, to dealing with the ongoing pandemic and the unpredictability of our time in school, teaching single classes can already be overwhelming as it is.

So why is this happening? The counselors in charge of scheduling at Allderdice referred The Foreword to Principal Dr. James McCoy. McCoy says, “What it really comes down to, is that we can’t have small classes. Another department we often combine classes with is the language department. We will often combine a French 4 and French 5 class, for example. Potentially having smaller classes would also affect how budgeting from the district works. If they see we have a certain amount of classes with less than 15 students, it would ultimately decrease our overall budget since there are fewer students in some classes. Courses are generally driven by student interests, if no one is signing up for a particular class, we’ll try to combine it with another class or we have to eliminate it, unfortunately.”

Despite these hurdles, the art teachers of Allderdice remain hopeful about the fate of their classes, always trying their best to make classes welcoming, inclusive, and exciting for the students that are interested.