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?


Jennifer Carlisle

Jen is a middle school art teacher from Norfolk, NE who loves exploring and teaching art through traditional and digital art mediums.


  • Vicky

    I SO RELATE to this article!!!

  • Teresa

    We can only do so much!

  • Darlene

    Nice to see Im not alone :)

  • Sarah

    LOL because Y E S I have done these things. I have a bag of junk mail, bills, etc, papers hiding under a table at home that I cleared back at Christmas and haven’t looked at since. I have a laundry couch. I consider Waffle Wednesday to count as a Meatless meal. The day after a holiday is always a sketchbook fun drawing day.

  • Wanda Holmgren

    I could’ve written this word for word! Thank goodness I’m not alone:) I have let many, many, many things go and have felt too guilty for it. I excel in many things, but not EVERYTHING!

  • Mrs.C

    You are not alone! :) I am guilty of all those things and more! My kitchen counters are beginning to look like an episode of “Hoarders” and yes, I too have found that putting all the stuff you don’t know what to do with in a laundry basket and hiding it in your room from guests is a great way of “quick” cleaning! ( only to trip over it for a couple of months ) I can stage a picture for Instagram or my blog to look any way I want and little do the viewers realize there are piles of dishes, laundry right next to me to be washed, folded and put away… I have been known to vacuum up tiny toys, hair ties, etc… because i don’t have the energy to pick them up! We are not perfect, our homes, our classrooms are not perfect and that’s okay :) I have a sign in my house that says, : Please excuse the mess, we actually live here.” Thanks for reminding us that no one is perfect :)

    • Jennifer Carlisle

      I love to “clean” my house with some quick photo editing. It is the easiest way.

  • Mr. Post

    I think that most Americans try to do way too much – this includes art teachers.

    If you have piles of stuff that you have not gotten too, it means you are trying to do too much. The key to life is balance – figure out what you can say ‘no’ to. Just because something is a good idea, doesn’t mean you have to do it. Saying no to one thing means saying ‘yes’ to something else. That yes might be having time to clean your house, read with your kids or just sit and read a book at lunch.

    I live close to my school so I go home every day for lunch. Sure I could work through lunch and load the kiln or do some other art task, but I have learned to do 99% of my teaching work while I am at work – much of it happens with the kids in the room.

    It’s about setting up a work flow so that you can have kids pass out materials and clean up. It’s about not trying to create 40 different projects during the school year each with different materials. It’s about not hanging up every single art work the kids in your class create. Balance is achieved by doing less, but really choosing the things you want to do. I don’t even hang art up at one of my schools – I know, sacrilegious right? But I take a quick snapshot of a kid with their artwork and post it on my website or on my twitter feed. Why spend hours putting up work onto cinderblock walls where it just falls down? I choose the things I am interested in and let the rest go. It’s how I survive as an art teacher and keep work at work. That way when I get home, I have time for me and my family.

    • anna nichols

      Wise words – thank you for this reminder to just let some things go. I am one of those teachers who wants to do 40 different projects per year!

  • Kelly Eggleston

    I have done most of these, too. I have also accidentally dropped a clay piece on the floor in the kiln room, but told the student it exploded in the kiln. I’m horrible. :(

  • Angela Rago

    Yes, I must admit, I am guilty of some of these and could add some more. Thank You for being so honest. We Art teachers have lots of physical stuff to manage. I am way better than I used to be, but all it takes is one day of not doing something and I am in a hole.

  • ms art

    I think this should be a regular feature of this blog…a space to confess our confessables! Anonymously, of course!

  • Janine

    So refreshing to read this as I sit down at 9:00 p.m. to plan for tomorrow’s lessons after making dinner, bringing my kids to karate, putting them to bed…

  • Sue Alexander

    …all these and more! Thanks for keeping it real.

  • Patricia Irons

    THANK YOU for sharing…!! :-) Can relate!

  • gladys lambert

    This article spoke to me…thank you!

  • Natoush

    So… This is a story about those huge classes that you only see every so often. I have a kid in a class like that who goes by a nickname, which I thought was his real name. Then I had what I thought was another kid who never turned in any work, and got many zeros. There are so many names that it has taken me half of the year to figure out they were the same person.. :'(

  • Humphrey

    Thank you for this post! John thanks for your comments, too.

  • Artemisacn

    I was told a child she had to wait to use the bathroom. She never reminded me and instead I got a call from her mother asking me why her child pee’d her pants. Needless to say ever since that any 1st grader that has to go goes.

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  • April

    So I am not the only one!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! for reminding us all that we are humans and that it’s OK.