This message is for you, burnt-out art teacher.

This message is for you, burnt-out art teacher. I know who you are: The year is winding down. You are starting to dream about lazy mornings with coffee and crosswords (no? is that just me?) The smell of tempera paint is making you gag. If you have to identify the owner of a nameless Angry Birds drawing again, you might just rethink your career choice. Did these kids get anything you taught them this year!?

I am here to tell you, they absolutely did! You have had an real impact on your students this year and I know it. Can you feel it? I can relate if you can’t quite get there at this point, when you are still finding pencil shavings in alarming places on your person. But know this, frazzled art teacher, someone out there knows how hard you’ve worked this year. I know how many hours you spent putting up that art show. I know how late you stayed that night a kiln bomb took out every third-grader’s coil pot. I know how much you care for your kiddoes and how much you want them to succeed through art.


As my last week of school came to a close, I handed back artwork to all of my students, including my favorite lesson: a self portrait from the beginning of the year mounted with one from the year’s end. My first grade friend Yassin lent his to me just for this article. It reminded me that despite the spills, the insanity, the failures, the victories, and the artiness of it all, my students learned something. I hope his portrait reminds you of the same thing. Happy Summertime, teach!

What is one growth or success story you would like to share?

How did you make a difference this year?


Sarah Dougherty

My name is Sarah Dougherty, and I teach elementary art in a large urban district in central Iowa. I love working with our diverse population of K-5 students to bring art to their homes, communities, and everyday lives.


  • Jennifer

    Thanks so much for focusing our attention on what is important and the important things we accomplish.

    • Jennifer, you are quite welcome! You are appreciated, sometimes it just needs to be said to be felt.

  • Great reflection for the end of the year!

  • Maria J Godzisz

    I love that self-portrait! I have done that for 14 years with my 1st graders. It is always so much fun to see how they have grown in their skills and HAVE learned!!! Wonderful article! :)

    • Thanks, Maria. It is one of my favorites too!

  • Love the self-portrait lesson! What a great idea! Thanks for the wonderful article :)

  • Amy

    We’ve still got 5 more days to go, but I’m already looking forward to the lazy mornings with coffee too! But, you totally inspired me with this post! Look what I discovered today:

    • Holy cow! Thanks, Amy. You can do it, you can do it, you can do it!

  • Annemarie

    I am ending the year on a different note.The last 2 weeks of school students are making group (each student takes 4 pages to illustrate) of ABC books for schools in Uganda. We watched the video “Invisible children” also. It is a nice way of ending the school year.

    • Wow, powerful stuff, Annemarie. I am definitely filing this one away to use next year. Great ideas here!