Professional Practice

Confessions of a Not-So-Perfect Art Teacher

I learn so much from my online community of art educators. I don’t think I would have the same amount of passion or joy for my job without them. Their blog posts, tweets and Instagram pictures inspire me. They understand and share the uniqueness that is teaching art.

But I have a confession… There are times when I see all the amazing things other art teachers are doing and I feel completely inferior. Sometimes it feels like everyone else is making beautiful artwork, crafting amazing clothing, cooking gourmet meals, running marathons and teaching award-winning lessons in perfect, clean classrooms while I am struggling to keep everything from crashing down around me.

To keep things honest, today I am going to share some of the “not so perfect” truths about my life.


I have been known to shove all the stuff off my kitchen counter and into a laundry basket just to make my house “seem organized.”

I have accidentally ruined students’ artwork. Once there was a clay dragon I dropped while walking towards the student and then there was a painting I cut in half because I didn’t realize it was on the paper cutter.

Sometimes when I get home from work I say that I am going to use the bathroom, but really, I just lock myself in the quietest room of the house and embrace the silence.

There have been times when I have promised a student that I would look something up or that we could do a certain type of art project and then I forget. (This really stinks when they remind you about it during the last week of school.)

There are times when I just vacuum up my kids LEGOs, hair ties and/or Barbie shoes because I don’t want to pick them up.

I have put the wrong name on a project that I sent to an art show.

I buy fancy sugar cookies for my kids to take to school for their birthday treats so that they have cute snacks even when I don’t have time to make them.

When I was pregnant with my last child, my maternity pants split open 2 class periods before the end of the school day. Thank goodness for maternity shirts and an art smock.

I once asked a 6th-grade student, “What orgasm are your writing your report on?” (Never was I happier to be teaching 6th grade and not 12th.)

A few of the other writers for AOE were awesome enough to share a few truths of their own.

“At the beginning of the year, I failed to remember that I hadn’t taught the kindergartners how to clean up. I dismissed them and watched the dreaded “full sponge squeeze” happen over every table while paper towels went flying off the roll and kids painted on their arms.”

“I had an entire 4th-grade clay project crumble to pieces because I gave them clay that was too dry.”

“I let my kids go to their lockers, the bathroom, etc., without a pass. Not terrible by itself, I suppose, but I also give them the explicit direction, ‘If you get caught, tell them you’re from (insert other teacher’s name)’s class.'”

“Sometimes if I’m sick of hearing myself talk, or if I didn’t get completely prepped, I have my youngest grades rotate through art centers.”

“I throw away students’ artwork. Not their current projects, but those little pieces of art they made at home. I keep it for a while and then it goes into the recycling bin.”

Maybe this article isn’t the juicy exposé you were hoping for, but hopefully, it is a reminder that so often when we share stuff online we are sharing the best. In real life, everyone has those “not perfect” moments.  Even Jessica, the founder of AOE, isn’t perfect.  Here is what she had to share: “While I was in Arizona giving a keynote speech, I sent a quick 5:00am text to my husband that said, ‘Don’t forget the day care bag.’  However, I actually sent it to the Vice President of the Arizona Art Education Association and not my husband”.

What’s your “not so perfect” truth?

How do you handle those moments when you feel less than perfect?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jennifer Carlisle

Jennifer Carlisle, a middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She loves exploring and teaching art through both traditional and digital art mediums.

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