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Dr. Patty Bode (July)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Patty Bode just wrapped up her second year as interim principal of Amherst Regional Middle School in Amherst, MA. She is an art educator, researcher, lecturer, and activist. Bode’s research, teaching, and community collaboration focus on advancing student and teacher voices in art curriculum reinvention and transformation—opening borders and questioning what counts as knowledge. Throughout her work, she consistently asserts critical multicultural perspectives and teaches racial literacy through imaginative practices in art education. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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September 11, 2017

Getting to know who’s in your art room

From: Kristin Vanderlip Taylor

The first weeks of school are always so hectic. Everyone just wants to start making art - including me! But part of starting the year off right means getting to know who’s in the art room. Whether I’m working with young students or university adults, establishing time to learn about each other is one of the most important things I’ve learned. Everyone has something going on - something good to share, something that’s bothering them, something they want to ask.

With younger students, we spend twenty minutes of our first class together checking in and catching up. Everyone gets a chance to share something on their minds. In middle school and in college, my students complete surveys with questions helping me get to know them better - about their interests, their families, responsibilities outside of school, access to technology/art media. This year, I hand wrote notes in response to each middle school students’ survey so they knew how valuable their thoughts are to me. For my university students, the surveys help me understand the other demands they are juggling, which reminds me to be cognizant and respectful of their time. It also gives them an opportunity to share things that are important to them that I otherwise might not know – some are reluctant to speak up in class because of language barriers, some have had negative art experiences before, and others just want to connect more personally, which is always welcomed!

Sharing information is definitely a two-way street; our students are just as curious about us as we are them. I try to make my teaching environments as welcoming as possible by letting my students know that they can ask me anything; if they’re too shy, they can write notes and I’ll write back. I may not answer EVERYTHING (why do middle school kids always want to know our age?!?), but I try to be as encouraging as possible so they get to know me well, too.

Sometimes students share information that they might not have, had we not worked on relationship-building from the start. I’ve learned who’s shy, who misses loved ones, who has family issues that may interfere with their work. I’ve also learned when to provide support and advice to students, as well as knowing when to ease up on assignments because things are just too busy. I know we are all eager to get going, but this small act can make all the difference in how the rest of your year turns out!

-KVT

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