Professional Practice

How to Fight the Winter Self-Doubt Blues


This time of year, it’s easy to doubt yourself as a teacher. Energy is low, the days are short, and the glow that comes with the beginning of the school year has long worn off.

The dreary month of March can make you start to second-guess yourself as a teacher. Am I doing enough? How the heck do those teachers on twitter/FB/Instagram stay so current? Am I failing my kiddos because I’m not (fill in the blank)?

I envy you if you’ve never felt this way. It seems like most teachers at one time or another have suffered from a bit of self-doubt. Teachers tend to be high achievers. We work hard and are perfectionists, which can lead to never quite feeling like we make the grade.

If you’re suffering from the same mid-winter self-doubt blues as I am, here are some tricks to reframe your thinking and give yourself a break.

Protect Yourself from Unfair Comparisons

 Self-doubt can rear its ugly head when we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. Keeping up with the latest in art education practice is part of being an outstanding educator. The secret is remembering that other art teachers aren’t perfect either.

The next time you log onto your favorite art teacher blog or social media page, remember these teachers have bad days, too. The posts that make it online are more often than not success stories, and very rarely embarrassing failures.


Indulge in Self-care

Wait? Isn’t the most logical response to feeling like a failure hunkering down and putting in more effort? It’s logical to think if you just tried harder, stayed later, and graded longer your feelings of self-doubt would fade with every finished task.

But in my experience, that’s rarely the case.

The reality is you can’t pour from an empty cup. When you’re feeling dulled, your art teacher shine can’t reach your students. Taking care of yourself and your needs is an important part of taking care for your students.

Make a list of things that nurture you. It could involve getting outside, being active, making art, catching up with a friend or just getting some alone time or rest. The next time you feel like you’re not doing enough, resist the urge to push harder and let yourself recharge.


Stay True To Who You Are

During a recent conversation with a trusted advisor, I lamented how my assessment game could use an update, and how grading was suffering in this way or that, or how my classroom cleanup had become a bit haphazard. He responded, “Is that why you became an art teacher? To have a really solid assessment game?”

I laughed out loud and smiled. No. Of course it wasn’t. I’m not here for the grades, the standardized tests, the district determined measures, or ratings or whatever it is that your school calls accountability measures. For me, accountability is showing up every day, being present, and teaching kids to love art. It’s important to remember why you became an art teacher in the first place and stay true to yourself.

At the end of the day, don’t forget how amazing you are. Your students are lucky to have an art teacher who cares about them enough to read articles about art education in their free time! Soon spring will come and summer will be just around the corner. We got this, guys.

 Are you suffering from winter self-doubt blues?

 What tricks do you have to through during this time of year?

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.


Kelly Phillips

Kelly Phillips is an elementary school art educator and a former AOEU Writer. They strive to create an environment where all students can become independent, self-directed risk-takers.

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