If you have reached the point in the year where you want to give up, remember that you are probably already doing the thing you feel that you "can't do."
I reached this point two weeks ago. I hit rock bottom and couldn't stop crying... until I remembered this:
If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, "I can't draw," I would be rich!
Every. single. time. a student says these words, I look down at an ACTUAL DRAWING they created and I am tempted to (and sometimes actually do) LAUGH. The truth is, everyone who has the mental capability and manual dexterity to write their name CAN draw. They are just believing a lie, that's all.
Don't believe for a second that you can't do this job.
...You are already doing it. You show up every day and teach.
You. Can. Do. This.
I started from scratch this year at a new school where I serve every grade level from PK-12th grade (after teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th grades for 13 years).
I am a first year teacher all over again; every day I teach a new lesson to any group other than middle school IT IS THE VERY FIRST TIME.
I wrote the following notes last year, and I am sharing them again because I need to focus on the truth... I hope these words encourage you.
The only art teacher your students have is YOU - you are there for a reason. Believe in what you are doing! Others may criticize you or they may say you are doing a wonderful job. What they think really doesn't matter. Nothing can change the fact that you have a unique opportunity to effect a student's life for the better. Nobody else can do the job you are doing; nobody else teaches like you do. Don't compare yourself to others! Your students may not show it all the time, but they admire you and the knowledge you have to share. ROCK THAT CLASSROOM, TEACH.
If you are feeling unappreciated right now, please know that the kids show you they care in so many ways! They don't have to say it out loud to communicate how they feel about you:
...When your students bring you a little piece of art they made, they are really saying how much they admire you. All these little gifts are acts of love, even the wrinkled, smudged, and slightly torn ones!
...When they offer to help sweep, or clean, or carry something for you, they are saying, "I love you!"
...When the kids who normally goof off in their regular academic classes listen and put forth a lot of effort in Art class, working to learn what YOU are trying to teach, they are saying, "You are a great teacher and I care about pleasing YOU!"
...When students come up to you during class to talk your ears off about the car they are restoring in the garage with stepdad, or about the amazing Youtube channel they found, etc., they are saying, "I want to spend time with you! You are an important person in my life and I love to share my thoughts with you!"
Teachers, you are amazing! You are doing one of the most important jobs on earth - serving and teaching our children, making a difference in the lives of future generations. Keep up the good work!
Here are a few other excellent resources:
From the video, "5 Ways You Are Making a Difference," by Patty Palmer:
"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU. Keep the channel open.” – Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille –
"Sometimes it’s hard to believe when you get on social media that these awesome art teachers that you follow might actually experience burnout, but they do. If they tell you they don’t, they be lying. Don’t believe them."
Everyday Art Room, Episode 9, Burnout, Cassie Stephens
My Name Is Tom. I've Been a Teacher For Nearly 10 Years and I still Get My Ass Kicked Nearly Every Day , by Tom Rademacher, educationpost.org
Finding your Inner Spirit Animal and Ultimately Yourself…, by Jennifer Pulbratek, NAEA Monthly Mentor article
Editor's note: A few days after this article was originally published, a reader challenged the attribution of this quote, "I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it," saying that Vincent Van Gogh actually is the one who should have been credited. I did a little research and found out that, sure enough, many sources mistakenly attribute this quote to Pablo Picasso. Thank you for the correction!