Art Room Confessions

So often at AOE we share new ideas and aim to inspire teachers to try something new in the art room.

But, we all have our weaknesses, our failed attempts,  and our embarrassing moments.

Today I want to confess mine to you: I am horrible at washing brushes!  Horrible!


I didn’t realize how awful I was at washing brushes until I had to share a room with another art teacher.  She, rightfully fed up with my paint crusted brushes, finally had to bring it to my attention.  We got along flawlessly, so this wasn’t a point of contention, but I was embarrassed because it is so utterly true.  I had been using her clean brushes and leaving her grimy ones to use with her students!

At my home or in the classroom, this is one thing that I really, really need to work on.  It isn’t that I don’t know how to correctly wash out brushes, it is just honestly not very high on my “things to-do” list, so they get pushed to the side and when I remember them, sadly, it is often too late.  So, moving forward, I have set a goal for myself to do a better job washing out my brushes, lengthening their lifespans, and saving me some money in the long run.

Honestly, it feels pretty good to get that out in the open.  You should try it!


Go ahead and confess: What is one thing that you secretly stink at when it comes to art room tasks?

Heather Crockett

Heather is AOE’s Project Manager and an expert in differentiation, curriculum development, and assessment. She is a veteran teacher in the art room and at the graduate level.


  • Kristyrolig

    Reading this just made me realize all the sticky brushes and paint cups I left out last night.  Latex paint!  Oops.  Usually I am good and getting kids to clean up that stuff, but I left it out because some things were unfinished with the project we were working on –Louise Nevelson relief.  Well that should be fun to clean this morning!  

    • Vicky Siegel

      And I HAD to leave a bucket of brushes (just tempera paint) soaking in water to clean later today, as I had duty right after school, then a late staff meeting, and I start my day today at a different school!  Ughh- the joys of an art teacher! :)

    •  We’ve all been there :)

  • Kimberly Butts

    I talk way too much.  I need to find a way to make my instructions understandable and complete without talking half the hour.  I guess I’m afraid that if I don’t give them every last bit of information something will go terribly wrong and the project or tools will be ruined.  Got any guidance for a chatter box?

    • Jorena

      I used to do this to.  Something I found that really helps me is I will type up the instructions ahead of time and project them on the board.  It gives me a firm guideline to follow so I don’t chatter and it gives the students something to refer back to as they work.

      •  I like to project my clean-up directions for this reason. I sometimes even post photos along with the text. It works wonders.

        • Dartist25

           What a great idea! I think a weakness of mine is assuming the kids ‘know’ how to clean up-and it gets so busy I don’t catch the details they lovingly leave behind!

    •  I like Jorena’s idea.  If it is on the board or projected where students can see it you don’t have to repeat yourself as much either.  It transfers some responsibility to the students.  Another idea would be to break your lesson down into smaller chunks.  Give the directions that are needed to begin, let students get to work and then give the next batch of directions half way through class.  This would help students retain specific directions, although you might have to train them to stop and listen.

  • Christina Papanikolaou Erb

    I make piles of artwork and leave them all around the room….then I can find a kid’s work because it got lost in another pile.  I wish I was more organized, but because I work at 2 schools, I have hardly enough time to travel between them so I lack in the organization field when it comes to it.  I also have the messiest desk because I never sit at the desk.  So, I pile junk on it….junk mail, kids drawings that are gifts to me, classwork…its a monstrosity. 

    • Jorena

      This is my weakness that I haven’t fixed.

    •  It’s extremely challenging to be an organized traveling teacher.  My heart goes out to you.  What helped me was having a designated space for each class.  Something as simple as a box flat with the class name on it or as fancy as an entire drawer will work.  This way, I could quickly stick all that class work in that specific location on my way out the door and at least I knew it was all together. 

    • Ronni DiGioia

      I use those under the bed storage boxes to keep kids work in. I have 1 per class and they are clearly marked with the teacher’s name. I nest them and put a lid with the day of the week on it. Each child has a portfolio. Since I no longer have an art room, this is about the only way I can keep things straight. I can also use the boxes to put in materials I need for that class. Before I had the under the bed storage boxes I used large cardboard tomato flats I got at the local farmers’ market.

  • It seems like I never leave enough time for clean-up. I want to let my students work as long as possible, because I only see them once per week, but it’s always at the expense of a rushed clean-up. Just once I’d like to have time for a short review activity or game at the end! 

    • CherriR

      This year I have my Macintosh connected to a projector and speakers. I found an alarm program that I can pick out music to play for the alarm and I have alarms set-up for the whole day. I have a short part of “Mission Impossible” playing when it is time for a class come in. I use “Taking Care of Business” for clean-up. The song is almost 5 minutes, so it works out well. The students are to be back in their seats when the song is over. I love no longer watching the clock and not being the bad guy for announcing that time is up.

      • Jorena

        What alarm program is this?  I am really interested.

        • Art Teacher

          Me too!

  • Here is my confession: I rush when cutting paper.I try to put too many sheets in the paper cutter and it ends up making the paper crooked. Some kindergartner who was supposed to have a perfect square to fold once told me “Mine can’t make a triangle because my square wasn’t perfect to start with” – Guilty as charged, especially when a Kindergartner even realizes it. I also don’t count as well as I should when cutting paper. 

    • Ronni DiGioia

      I was using the paper cutter once to cut newspaper for paper mache. Since accuracy was not an issue, I was speeding through and actually caught my thumb in one chop. Please don’t panic anyone, I still have my thumb. It was scraped and badly bruised but it was still very much attached.

  • I think I’m guilty of all of these. My brushes are a disgrace, my paper cutting skills are seriously lacking, I talk to much at the start of class (as evident by the number of kids who fall out of their chairs from boredom. Either that or I just have a lot of klutzy students this year), I tell kids I’ll help them and then forget to do it, I forget to fire the kiln, I never wash my tables (that’s what student helpers are for, right?)… Man, I’m an awful art teacher. How is it I have a job?

    •  Your post made me laugh out loud!  I fell off my chair in Chemistry class in high school.  To take a page from Sassy magazine, I was mortified, but I assure you it have everything to do with my lack of balance and nothing to do with my teacher.  :)

  • I am terrible at emptying the drying rack – which makes things way more difficult later when classes get mixed. It isn’t hard to unload the drying rack, but for some reason I never do it till I realize it’s full and my current class can’t put anything on it!!! 

    • Paige

       Haha I actually did that today when I noticed I still had one class’s projects from three weeks ago still in there!

  • Oh, I am also guilty of not always cleaning the brushes out as well as I should! I will get the color out of the brush but will many times leave tell tale signs of the colors we used on the handles, the ferrules… I usually give any brushes we are going to use a good rinse before hand knowing full well that I rush when I clean them! Its not that I don’t know how to wash them, its just that I rush to get it done between classes and at the end of the day!

    • Tracy

      I think I am going to try to leave a container for the brushes to soak. That way if I don’t get to them the paint etc. will not ruin them.

  • Msueteems

    I am terrible at posting grades in my digital grade book. I write them in my paper grade,book because I can walk around the room and grade. But, getting them posted is another matter. Before you know it, it is the end of the nine weeks and I have 16 classes of grades to post! Argh!

  • Koboldtroll

    Why are you cleaning the brushes? Why aren’t the students cleaning brushes since they used them?

    • Shuppi

      I understand this problem-I make my students wash their brushes but can still end up with messy brushes. I check them at the end of the day-or at lunch and do some extra rinsing. There are still casaulties!

      •  I completely agree.  Couldn’t have said it better myself!

      • Lmcroce

        My rule is, the classroom must be as neat as it did when everyone first came in, out of respect for the next class. I teach at a private school to prek3, prek4, K through 8th grade…so…everyone.

        I check the work of the brush washers and if its not up to par, I have them do it again, next class be dammed, and then warn everyone that because clean up took so long today, next week we are cleaning up five minutes earlier, therefore losing 5 minutes of art time. That gets the message across quickly. I also have a policy that every minute they make the next class wait, thats one minute for recess detention. That works wonders as well.

         What am I teaching my students if I allow them to do everything half way?

  • Susie Belzer

    haha I loved reading these comments!  and yes I’m guilty of most as well!  I’m glad I’m not the only one who sucks at washing brushes and rushes through using the paper cutter always trying to cut way more paper than possible.  My room is typically a disorganized mess that I cannot keep clean.  My hubby even helped me for a few hours over the weekend 2 weeks ago and I am ashamed to admit it’s back to it’s messy state.  I think time is a huge factor for all of us!  There’s never enough time it seems to get everything done right.

  • Loretta

    Remembering everything!  Like where did I put that file or having to many files and printing all the ideas I’d like to experiment with and not filing them or forgetting which label I used.  Teaching art and wanting to try everything is similar to so many books to read and not enough time!

    • Vivian

       Yes! Me too Loretta! That has been my thing this year! I have that somewhere… but…it’s not here, nor there… let me just locate it online again and print it out!  Going through my files is what I need to do this year in order to get better organized and to be on top of my game!

    • Vivian

       Yes! Me too Loretta! That has been my thing this year! I have that somewhere… but…it’s not here, nor there… let me just locate it online again and print it out!  Going through my files is what I need to do this year in order to get better organized and to be on top of my game!

  • Hirstm

    oh man! my confession is that I hate to grade and therefore I don’t keep up and enter grades as often as I should for “immediate feedback”. I spend too much time carefully using my rubrics for the projects so it takes me a long time, so then I avoid it. I am always stuck grading a ton of work at the end of every grading period.

    • Ronni DiGioia

      Me too. I HATE grading. I think it goes back to my college days.

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