Monthly Mentor

Leslie Gates (May)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Leslie Gates, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Art Education at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she coordinates the undergraduate and graduate art education programs. She has taught visual art at the high school and elementary levels in both urban and rural contexts. Leslie's research interests are art educator's professional learning, assessment in the arts, and feminist and choice-based pedagogies. Her research, using participatory and feminist approaches, often means she is working alongside art educators to identify problems and work towards possible solutions. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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February 01, 2018

The Bumpy Beginning of a Young Teacher

From: Katherine Douglas

I would like to write about how I began, how my practice evolved, how it works today and the connections between teacher and student leadership.

Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB)

When I began art teaching in 1969 I was aware that much of the curricular material and discourse about the purposes of art education came from three areas: the many universities and art schools whose research and writings were shared nationwide, information from corporations offering projects, books and curricular suggestions for using the materials they created, and from professional groups like NAEA, which offered print materials and conferences at the state and national level. It never occurred to me that my voice had any importance in this conversation. My situation, as a new teacher, was in a tiny district with little encouragement to attend conferences and meetings. This isolation, along with difficult working conditions made it necessary to alter how I had been taught to teach! With 960 students per week, 35 minute classes, few supplies, a meager budget, no written curriculum, and an introduction by the principal to the staff as “the new babysitter” every class felt like a game of “whack-a-mole”. I frequently had to offer a second option because I didn’t have enough materials for an entire class. My students never finished my projects all at once, so books and crayon drawings and the chalk board (remember them?)


attracted the dread “early finishers”. The next year a colleague and I planned a mixed-age summer art camp with multiple media available in a studio setting. After this positive experience, I decided to offer something similar during the school year, which would also help address my working conditions. So, what began as a green teacher’s survival tactics began to look like a good idea. Noticing that my students showed much more investment in their own ideas, I began to offer very brief media introductions which left more time to use for them to use expanded choices such as watercolors, simple fibers, collage and 3D.


I was still stumbling along, doing some things well, most things badly, and trying to observe, respond and improve. Fortunately, my young students were enthusiastic and forgiving of my missteps.



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