Monthly Mentor

Robin Schnur (January)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Robin Schnur is the Director of Youth and Family Programs at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she works with an amazing group of leaders and educators to design and produce programs, resources, learning spaces, and leadership opportunities for (and with) young people and multigenerational families. A deeply held belief in the value of art and of museums to contemporary life drives her teaching and the work she does to create spaces for people to author their own museum experiences.Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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December 11, 2008

Remember This When You are Teaching! (Guenter)

As it nears the end of the semester, I will soon have final lessons, papers, wikis, blogs, and assorted other projects to grade. Using rubrics with my authentic assignments has provided common focus and expectations for my students and me. I remember being a student myself and working on art projects, writing a paper, or constructing a project to fulfill a course requirement. It was serious time and energy on my part. I also remember very much appreciating the teachers who took the time to provide feedback that was more than a simple mark or simple phrase like, "good job." I wanted to know why so I could learn from my efforts.
When I began my own teaching career I carried those beliefs close to my heart and still do. I make the time to offer comments to my students. On artwork, I often use tracing paper to add my comments to honor my students' efforts by not changing the artwork itself and to offer a reference for continued learning from the feedback. Sometimes post-its work, but the tracing paper still allows the student to see the situation with the comments. With written work, I really try to offer positive comments that are concrete and reinforce specific skills or suggestions with an example that will hopefully help to improve a situation. Certainly speaking with a student at an appropriate time offers boost to the student.
Since I teach future teachers I believe that what I do is "fair game" for analysis by them. I need to model best practices. Does it take time? Yes. It is my job. Do I always do it well? I try. However, there are times when I am tired and I begin to write things like "Whoo Hoo!" or "Yippee!" Then I know it is time to stop and take a break.  
What I have realized over the years is that the acknowledgment of the effort, the reinforcement of something done well, and the supporting suggestions for something still unfolding are keys to strong instruction. The fact that time was taken to address any of these indicates they are valuable. A little of this goes a long way. One of my favorite things to write to a student when a particularly perceptive teaching point has been made or there is evidence of clearly understanding a particular concept is, "Remember this when you are teaching!"
What are the important things from your own learning experiences that you remember when you are teaching?


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