Monthly Mentor

Holly Houston (March)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Houston is the Visual and Performing Arts Learning Area Leader at Yarmouth High School in Yarmouth, Maine. A National Board Certified Teacher, she loves to get her hands messy with her own art and is truly passionate about instilling a love of making art in her students. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Wednesday 03.20.19

Building a Better Classroom Community: Lessons from the NAEA Convention

By Holly Houston

As Kimberly D/Adamo and Lois Hetland emphasized in last Thursday’s “Emotional Security” session, students will create better work if they feel safer in the classroom. I also think if I can encourage experimentation and permission to create something that might not “work” in the interest of learning from mistakes, being better informed, and personal happiness, then I am heading in the right direction.

On Friday, Nicole Brisco spoke about advertising her art program to grow numbers and I think students’ emotional security plays into this.  Why would students sign up for, or advertise to their peers, classes in which they are insecure? I hope to create art experiences that are challenging and develop critical thinking and technical skills, yet also nurture positive feelings about art-making. I like Nicole’s ideas about collages and additive use of materials--these are great ways to have students work together to problem solve and think spontaneously and not necessarily have grades as consequences for their work.  

Last fall I tried to emphasize classroom culture with each of my classes. We did “ice breaker” exercises in every section.  However, the months have passed and I haven’t found time to think much about students’ emotions. I was reminded by these two sessions that I need to do culture check-ins with my classes throughout the semester.  My AP students have been together all year, yet as they dive yet deeper into their sustained investigations, they could use some time to step back, relax, and work on a collaborative piece, perhaps one in which there are some rules, yet also freedom to explore and cut loose a bit.  It is easy to get caught up in all the work that needs to be done during class time and lose sight of taking stock of the productivity level. If Kimberly and Lois are right, and I suspect they are, my students will work more efficiently, produce stronger work, and generally be happier if I pay more attention to their emotional needs.


Saturday 03.16.19

Can Cannolis Console Tired Feet?

By Holly Houston

I can finally relax.  All twenty-two art students and three chaperones are on the final bus leg back to Maine after being in New York City for a weekend.  This is the eighth year I have done this trip, always on this first weekend in March.

Is it worth it?  I always say yes.  The up-front work is heavy with communication to students, parents, and the hotel. There are fund-raisers to organize, money to manage.  Paperwork to fill out. Schedules to plan.

But then there is the group’s increasing excitement about the trip as the date draws near. Planning clothes and snacks. Making lists of places to possibly visit. 

I hope this trip is not just about the art and I know it is not.  It is about experiencing a weekend in the city that might be different from past experiences. We focus on art in Chelsea, MoMA, and the MET, in cathedrals and other architectural wonders, and on building walls.  Art is everywhere in the city.  We stop at all sorts of fun food places I’ve stumbled upon and tried over the years. We also spend the weekend navigating the subway, asking strangers for directions, giving up seats for older adults, donating to street performers, not being on phones at meals, and bringing a scarf—just in case. These are important things to experience.

What I am perhaps most grateful for are the conversations I have with students as we stand on the subway, walk through Central Park, look at art. We talk about travel experiences, both in NYC and away.  I check in on plans for next year—art school? Gap year? Undetermined? And talk about my own path to my current place in my life.  I ask questions, they ask questions.  I put in a plug for happiness.  We talk about art with mutual excitement: seeing a researched work of art in person, not just online, is equally thrilling to all of us.

It is a very busy weekend and everyone works to curb their complaints about aching feet and develop a bit of tolerance for rerouted trains and extra stops for coffee and leg resting.  At the end of the day, there are always cannolis to be found and savored, and tired feet feel just a little less tired.

I am pretty sure I know where I’ll be early next March—taking another group of Yarmouth, Maine high school art students to New York City for the weekend.  I just hope they don’t run out of cannolis!



Tuesday 03. 5.19

Keynote Address for Youth Art Month Celebration at PMA - March 2019

By Holly Houston

Good Evening. Thank you to all who have made this amazing event possible. I am honored to be speaking to you tonight. I’d like to frame my remarks around five quotes that ring clear to me as an artist and art educator:

“Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best.” Henry Van Dyke

You have to start somewhere. You all CLEARLY have something to say and you say it so well (or your art would probably not be on the museum wall right now). Remember that if you are ever feeling that you aren’t the best artist and others have so much more talent, that you, too, have talent and if we all waited for only the very best to make art, there would be very little new art to enjoy. We ALL must contribute to the absolutely essential and varied world of art to see it continue to grow and flourish.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
Art makes people FEEL. It gives messages of hope, sadness, happiness, anger, and so much more. It has the power to describe SO MUCH--from how you feel about your new puppy to your frustration about the amount of plastic in our oceans to a personal journey you have experienced.

Have you ever stood in front of a piece of art, either by a classmate or in a museum or gallery, and gotten lost in how it makes you feel? It is an amazing sensation! What I think is so very wonderful is that different pieces of art make me feel differently, and the experience I feel when I stand in front of a certain piece of art is likely to be different than what you experience. It might be similarly powerful, but different.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Be open to learning new things.
Surround yourself with people who can teach you new things.
Take chances. Try something new. That can be scary. Sometimes you’ll create a mess. But sometimes you’ll make a masterpiece. Isn’t that worth trying for?

“Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered.” Michelle Obama

There are a lot of things that fill your days. You are responsible for other classes, not just art. You play sports, like to read, have chores and jobs. If art is something you love to do, make it happen. Your artwork’s presence on the wall outside this room is evidence that you are a creative thinker who cares about making your mark. Let this empower you to continue to do so.

“Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else.” Fred Rogers

I feel very certain that your having your art hanging here in this month, in this year, is not going to be the end of your art career. This is the beginning. Let this be the fuel for your creative flame. Let this be your connection to museums and galleries for the rest of your life. YOU have your art hanging at THE PORTLAND MUSEUM of ART. That is very cool! You make us proud to be your art teachers, your friends, and your family. THIS is just the beginning. Please continue to sing with your art so that the woods of our lives will not be silent.

Thank you.


Sunday 03. 3.19

Ashtrays and Assumptions

By Holly Houston

One beginning ceramic project that was worked on while I was fulfilling my civic duty as a potential juror was the making of pinch pots. Upon inspection when I returned, I found many fabulous, very well-formed and unique pots. Students were asked to have refined, even sides and bases, use texture on at least two of their pots, utilize sprigs on at least one other, and leave smooth spaces for decals on one other. There were multiple examples left in the room as references. Two different students made these pinch pots.


When I saw them an inner voice shouted in my head, “ASHTRAYS??!!!” As fate would have it, the day of their next class was a snow day and the following class found them both on a field trip. This was most likely to their advantage, as it gave me some time to think about the origins of these pieces. I called on a young substitute from the classroom across the hall; she is a former art student of mine. I asked her what she thought these were. She looked puzzled, then tentatively volunteered, “Pinch pots?” When I asked her if she had ever seen an ashtray, she said no. We discussed the relevance of ashtrays as a current-day household item, and determined it unlikely a teenage student at our school would think to make one, if s/he even knew what one was. Our students are more likely to vape (a whole other issue) than smoke cigarettes, and I have certainly never heard any student refer to ashtrays or ashtray use. It is more likely one student thought of altering the edge of the pot and the other student followed suit.

This made me consider the assumptions we make as teachers and the need to stay relevant to our students. I think by showing students we have an interest and at least a general understanding of what is trending in their lives, we are showing we care. As an example, after taking a state-designed and mandated survey on technology use, an Advisee shook his head and said he would have put more effort into it if he hadn’t been asked such irrelevant questions such as how often he accessed Facebook. “We don’t use Facebook,” he scornfully said.

Despite feeling fairly certain these pinch pots are not destined to hold ashes, it is hard to let go of thinking about the viewing of them in the display cases by people my age and wonder if they, too, will see ashtrays. I will have to be doubly sure to post the project criteria nearby!


Friday 03. 1.19

Jury Duty? Me?

By Holly Houston

At some point last summer I received a notice that I would be called upon to for Jury Duty within the year; I was asked to send back my most convenient windows of time. I found this request very generous, yet also almost comical to respond to, given the nature of teaching. Classes were just getting up and running in September and October, I had a visiting artist arriving for the month of November, when he departed I would be frantically trying to pack in all that had been pushed aside in November before we reached the end of the semester in mid-January. March held an annual trip to NYC with advanced art students, as well as the National Conference in Boston. April held an already planned vacation week in a very warm spot, and May and June involved the final push for AP students and wrapping up the year for all others. I wrote back that February would be best.

Sure enough, a letter arrived in January, detailing my duties. In both preparation and as a firm believer in asking questions, I called the number on my formal and slightly intimidating yellow paper (that told me it was a crime to not show up at jury duty) and explained that my job as an art educator included, among many other technical skills, teaching students how to throw on the wheel and how to properly use an expensive etching press--things that were nearly impossible to find a substitute to teach. The clerk kindly yet briskly told me that while I certainly was NOT excused, she could minimize my time. I felt a deep curiosity and sense of civic duty, yet also an inner frustration over creating lessons that would lead to having a sub for an undetermined period of time.

I was slightly dismayed by what became the standard adult response when they heard I had Jury Duty: picture a sad face accompanying the words, “I’m so sorry; what a pain!,” to which I responded that I hoped people like me were in the jury if I was on trial! I was somewhat buoyed by the standard student response, which was generally open curiosity. I frontloaded class information to students so that they would be prepared for my possible extended absence and also explained to them all I knew about the jury duty process so that they might one day be prepared to accept this civic duty.

The day arrived when I was required to be at the courthouse by 8am. Sitting shoulder to shoulder in a courtroom, we potential jurors watched a video about being a juror, yet then I was able to leave, and I promptly returned to my classroom. At my next appointed time to appear, oddly at 11am, I found a line of people signing in to prove they had shown up, then we were all allowed to leave as there were no cases scheduled! Thus ended my civic duties, which was both a relief and a letdown, and I headed back to class. I didn’t find out what it was like to participate in an entire trial and I wasn’t called upon to make any judgement calls. I did, however, experience the stress of not knowing what serving on jury duty would truly look like for me and my students. I overprepared all of us. I was able to sit in a courtroom for a few hours, people watch, and study the portraits on the walls and the incredibly ornate ceiling and chandeliers--truly impressive. My students, of course, sailed through my absences, kept creating artwork, and welcomed my return. The bottom line is I am relieved this experience is over and also feel happy that the experienced educated not only me, but also my students, on this civic duty to which we have relatively little control, yet need to take seriously.


Thursday 02.28.19

The Art Lab

By Sandra Cress

I wear a lab coat in my art room.

I wear it most days, maybe I should only wear it on days that I plan activities that are more experimental types of activities, but I really believe that the kids make some mental connection with it that helps them respect art and science more. They associate my lab coat/smock with a “mad scientist” or a doctor. Both, of which they like or hold to high values.

I also add lots of science into the art projects, and I believe the lab coat has cut back greatly on doubtful questioning of “is this art class or science class?!”

The lab coat was originally pure white, and it has a pocket on each side. It is now covered with designs that have been accentuated with Sharpies. This idea came to life after a student got a paint smudge on the coat as I walked by them. Instead of being mortified by the pure white coats new look, I accentuated the blob by carefully outlining it with a bold black Sharpie. Now each time a new blob appears on the coat, it gets outlined and added to with Sharpie making it part of the evolving decoration of the lab coat. The lab coat experimenting Mad Scientists lab coat itself, is itself an experiment. It’s an experiment of creative flexibility, and an experiment to make more flexible young artists.

So far, no students have intentionally painted me so they can see what their blob becomes, but they have asked to do so!

The kids enjoy watching the coats design grow. They are inquisitive about how the new blob got there, and it is so popular with the kids that it is now a reward for 4 students per semester to get to create the outline and often extension of the blob.

The action of accentuating and extending the accidental painting has become a teaching tool and ever-present reminder on how to handle an accident. The first time paint got onto it the student who accidentally touched me with their brush was very apologetic. I reminded them that accidents happen even when we are being very careful and that after all, we are in an art room where the chances of getting paint in unplanned places is likely, and that the with the blob we now have an opportunity to turn my coat into a creative playground that will continue to grow when the inevitable accident happens again and again.

I continue to wear the lab coat in the classroom. This article of clothing is a tool to protect my clothing as well as a tool that reminds my students that:

  • art and science often overlap
  • an accident can become a creative and fun decoration and
  • that even pencil shavings can become experiments for art making materials (follow up on this in the following section)


Beyond the Lab Coat, But in the Lab

I would like to share some of the re-create-ive activities that happen in the Art Lab, many of which are completely spontaneous and end up filling the room with energetic expressions of “Woah! That’s cool”. This is immediately followed by “and what if…”and we could also”, and, and, and!...

 This is one that we started last year and is ongoing.

It started out with just collecting the color from the dried out “dead” markers to use as watercolor paints. This activity has evolved through the excitement and creativity of the students and I.

This has come to be known as a “blood extraction” area.


When another questioning class/grade saw this “device” they were very inquisitive. So I explained it, and they felt it necessary to repurpose one of my already repurposed containers as a “grave” where the dead markers lay in wait of their turn to have their blood sucked out and to be parted out. They also felt that they needed to have a proper epitaph and gravestone. (The box was already shaped for it.)


We “harvest” everything from the dead markers including the cap, the filter, the tip, (the guts), and the body.

There are no bodies (the outer tube) in the photo because a 3rd grade class begged me to let them have a homework Creative Challenge. And I work hard to make sure to say YES to an offer to expand ones’ creative ingenuity, even when it costs me quite a bit more time and effort.

They took them home to turn the body into something else. Then they brought them back to share with the class. (Unfortunately, I cannot find the photos of them.)


Another experiment we have going it to dehydrate the pigment to turn it into a dry form. We are doing this for two purposes:

1) they are easier to transport, less messy when in a cake style, and

 2) I once saw someone who had watercolor sheets, which are watercolor paint squares lined up on paper, that can be wetted with a paintbrush and used to paint with. We are experimenting with making our own. Stay tuned to see what papers or fabrics we end up settling on.

Here’s a photo of our drying trays. You may recognize the pop-outs from watercolor trays. We are experimenting with refilling those as well. Using a pipette, we drip some “blood” into the wells, let them dry, then repeat.


During the few days it took to get this article put together I took a quick moment to share an idea of a new art medium to a 3rd and a 4th grade class.

I have been saving the pencil shavings from the electric sharpener and have collected 2 gallons of them. After showing the bin full they shouted “Woah! That’s cool” then their crazy creative brains started rapid firing ideas and the room was full of “we could…!” and “what if…!”and “we could also”.

So far we have added glue to it and are experimenting with using it as a clay like material that dries hard, like wood, by molding it around flexible plastic that allows it to be removed easily once dried, and molded as clay.

Do you have more ideas or suggestions for classroom generated trash reuse? Or suggestions or ideas for the dead markers and pencil shavings? My students would love to hear them.

- SC

Wednesday 02.20.19

Limerick Painted

By Sandra Cress

Although my first blog was a limerick, I am NOT a poet. The limerick was a cold-challenge to myself to make an introduction to this group of creative, open-minded thinkers.

In the event my novice poetry isn't as successful as I thought it was when I posted it, I will explain it.


She’s an art teacher named Sandy Cress

This line is not just a statement that Captain Obvious might make, it’s also there to let you know that I am not a poet; that I don’t even rank as a novice poet.


She has a small classroom that’s quite a mess.
She teaches K- Eight
It must be her fate
for it slathers her palette with happiness.

With these lines, I wanted to let you know that, no matter how much I struggle with trying to make it otherwise, my space is perpetually cluttered and messy with an ever-evolving inventory of my own and other peoples trash.

My yogurt cups are a staple receptacle used for paint, crayons, pencil sharpener shavings, dead marker body parts, and approximately, 1,083 other items.

Eighty percent of my art supplies were trash in their recently departed previous life. And it sometimes gets mistaken for what it was in its previous life by other staff, substitute custodians, and new students!

My mess issue is caused by a perpetual battle between my intellect and conscience. Although my intellect loudly disagrees my conscience feels that it must help solve the worlds waste problem by reusing or reinventing the trash of every single human and business that I come in contact with.

It’s kind of like this common issue that many of us have had. You know when you tell someone that you like something like:

hats or

matchbooks or

shot glasses or

things with chickens printed on it

or real chickens

and then everyone who knows and loves you, including your students and colleagues, starts collecting these items (or animals) for you and you aren’t able to tell them that you do like them but you really don’t want anymore.  And you waited too long and if you tell them now you are afraid they will feel bad. Then your house is so engorged with the items (or animals) that your house is the “poster child” for a reality show called “People Who Only Look Like Hoarders, But Just Have Lots of Wonderful Friends Who Like to Give.”

Yes. It’s like that, except:

  1. It’s your art room, not your house.
  2. At school your donor base is exponentially multiplied because they include your colleagues and students and all of their parents, friend’s grandparents, friends, and friends of friends of each who are within driving distance.
  3. This is trash, not trinkets and you refuse to let it go into the landfill without taking heroic measures to divert it from that “ending”.


Cross-Curricular Addition:

We shall explain HOW X, which EQUALS A Classroom That's Quite A Mess, came to be:

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 9.27.59 PM

Although, I am only in my second year of teaching K-8, I have never felt so at home as I do with these students and the team that I work with.

I don’t know if it is fate, luck, destiny, chance, good timing or consequence. It may be all of those, but only “fate” rhymes with “eight”, so fate does it make.


She teaches K- Eight
It must be her fate
for it slathers her palette with happiness.

While long seeking out her career,
She tried electrician, welder and cashier
She’s older, wrinklier and wiser.
And now she’s lead creative advisor
on how to invent like Di Vinci and paint like Vermeer.


I was a first generation college student who went to college right out of high school for only one semester and dropped out. I never learned how to study and that made my core classes impossible to pass. I could have made it, but I never learned to ask for help.

In the 10 years between when I dropped out as a freshman and went back to college, I learned to do a lot of really cool things. I switched jobs a lot because once I felt like there was nothing more there for me to learn, my co-workers were hard to work with, or there was no advancement possible, I would seek out something new to learn.

I am nearly twice the age of some of my colleagues and they have the same amount of career time logged, and I also have a wiser approach to many life skills that help me to be an enriching teacher.


She’s good at collecting art materials
Like boxes that once were for cereals
With this the kids will innovate
While using said trash to create
A sculptural gadget that may grip, grind or peel.

Much science is used in her Art Lab
Where risks and mistakes are encouraged


My childhood of poverty caused me to become inventive and creative. Although, I do not claim to be near his realm of being genius, I can relate to his insatiable desire to learn, figure out, invent, and create.

My eco conscience and awareness of the impact of the ripple that I make drives me to practice and maintain the awareness of environmental, social, and emotional health. This practice becomes a part of my classroom environment and my lessons.

I have a child-like love of and excitement for learning and it shows in my teaching and wears off on my students.

I wear a white Lab coat because my art room feels like an art LAB. We are constantly having spontaneous opportunities experiment with trash. And even when are outcome isn’t one that we really wanted we still end with a positive outcome, because my students have embraced the consequences that come with taking a challenge.

She experimented with a professional bio        
With rhythm, cadence and rhymo.
It’s light and its fun, and it’s how she keeps her kids from being discouraged.


This unusual bio is me following a self-challenge to write a limerick as a bio. A limerick is fun, can be rhythmic, and quirky; they can deliver a heavy message, while creating a light. They can use the humor and fun to deliver and make a heavy message more bearable. And that is what I try to do in my classroom. I try to make learning happen while being enjoyable. Which causes kids to be drawn into the fun before they even realize that they are accomplishing things they didn’t think they could do.

Now that it is explained a critique is necessary.

Do you have a favorite critique format that you like to use? If so, try using it on the poem and share the results in the comments.


Monday 02. 4.19

She’s an art teacher...

By Sandra Cress

She’s an art teacher named Sandy Cress
She has a small classroom that’s quite a mess.
She teaches K- Eight
It must be her fate
for it slathers her palette with happiness.

While long seeking out her career,
She tried electrician, welder and cashier
She’s older, wrinklier and wiser.
And now she’s lead creative advisor
on how to invent like Di Vinci and paint like Vermeer.

She’s good at collecting art materials
Like boxes that once were for cereals
With this the kids will innovate
While using said trash to create
A sculptural gadget that may grip, grind or peel.

Much science is used in her Art Lab
Where risks and mistakes are encouraged
She experimented with a professional bio        
With rhythm, cadence and rhymo.
It’s light and its fun, and it’s how she keeps her kids from being discouraged.

- SC

Wednesday 01.30.19

Being Renewed in Play

By Brooke Hofsess

Thank you for the opportunity to share my inklings and imaginings with you this month as the NAEA Monthly Mentor. My gratitude extends to NAEA’s Web and Communications Design Manager
, Heather Rose, for working with me on all the logistics and details: Thanks, Heather! This will be my final post for the month, and where I dig into some of the politics that limit what we might imagine as renewal in our professional learning, and offer play as an alternative possibility.

Through my research, my attention has been pointed to many, many obstacles to renewal for artist-teachers: lack of resources, isolation, time constraints, a need for content-driven professional development that focuses on visual art, and the current focus on standardized outcomes in learning, and therefore, in professional learning (see, Conway, Hibbard, Albert, & Hourigan, 2005; Gates, 2010; Hourigan, 2011; Jeffers, 1996; Lind, 2012; Macintyre Latta & Kim, 2010; Mantas & Di Rezze, 2011; Sabol, 2006; Scheib, 2006; Thompson, 1986; Upitis, 2005). Other findings demonstrate that many art educators find it frustrating to apply high-quality professional learning in “a system that isolated them from other teachers; a system that didn’t allow them the time to think deeply about their practice or plan detailed lessons” (Lind, 2012, p. 15). 

In other words, for artist-teachers there is often little space in which to flow, become immersed, wonder, think deeply alone or with others, and engage with art and artmaking.

Given all of this, I have come to believe that to play as an artist-teacher is to resist standardization with fierce ontological traction-- meaning that when we play, we embody resistance to the challenges I named above.

Play is a powerful tool for our renewal-- a tool that has challenged me to try all kinds of new creative practices: handmade paper sculpture, letterpress printing, alternative photography, even performance art.

If you could choose one way to play, to be an explorer of something completely new to you-- what would it be?

Whatever comes to mind, I hope you might engage with it-- and that it brings you into renewal.

To close, I leave you with the words of one of the most inspiring scholars I have had the pleasure of learning from-- educational philosopher Maxine Greene (2001):

We see ourselves in partnership when we think of educational renewal, but our part has to do with mystery and possibility, with loving questions that are unanswerable, with probing depths that are no longer closed. Our contribution to reform may be a suggestion for catching more frequent glimpses of the half-moon, more frequent movements with flamenco dancers, more heart-stopping dialogue with those that find themselves on stage. It is immeasurable, but it may signify a necessary professional development; it may be named ‘possibility’. (p. 132)

- BH



Conway, C. M., Hibbard, S., Albert, D., & Hourigan, R. (2005). Professional development for arts teachers. Arts Education Policy Review, 107(1), 3-9.

Gates, L. (2010). Professional development through collaborative inquiry for an art education archipelago. Studies in Art Education, 52(1), 6-17.

Greene, M. (2001). Variations on a blue guitar: The Lincoln Center Institute lectures on aesthetic education. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Hourigan, R. (2011). Race to the top: Implications for professional development in arts education, Arts Education Policy Review, 112(2), 60-64.           

Jeffers, C. (1996). Professional development in art education today: A survey of Kansas art teachers, Studies in Art Education, 37(2), 101-114.

Lind, V. (2012). High quality professional development: An investigation of the supports for and barriers to professional development in arts education. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 8(2).

Macintyre Latta, M., & Kim, J. (2010). Narrative inquiry invites professional development: Educators claim the creative space of praxis. Journal of Educational Research, 103(2), 137-148.

Mantas, K., & Di Rezze, G. (2011). On becoming "wide-awake": Artful re-search and co-creative process as teacher development. International Journal of Education & The Arts, 12(SI 1.4).

Sabol, F. R. (2006). Professional development in art education: A study of needs, issues, and concerns of art educators. Reston, VA: The National Art Education Foundation.

Scheib, J. W. (2006). Policy implications for teacher retention: Meeting the needs of the dual identities of arts educators. Arts Education Policy Review, 107(6), 5-10.

Thompson, K. (1986). Teachers as Artists. Art Education, 39(6), 47-48.

Upitis, R. (2005). Experiences of artists and artist-teachers involved in teacher professional development programs. International Journal Of Education & The Arts, 6(8), 1-12.

Friday 01.25.19

Being Resourced in Our Renewal

By Brooke Hofsess

In this post, I share a profusion of resources because it is my belief that being resourced in our renewal includes constantly setting ourselves before new ideas, experiences, and perspectives. Here is a list of what I am taking in for renewal this month:

  • Michelle Obama’s incredibly moving memoir, Becoming.
  • A lively new take on a old theme to share with my daughter, The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken.
  • The philosophy and large-scale papermaking of Hong Hong.
  • My recent residency here and an upcoming residency here.
  • The encaustic works and journals of Erin Keane.
  • This podcast with Mahzarin Banaji who studies implicit bias and how social change becomes possible.
  • Anything written (or spoken) by Robin Wall Kimmerer, after loving her book Braiding Sweetgrass.


What would be on your list? At some point this month, consider taking an inventory of what feeds your intellect, imagination, curiosity, and renewal-- and make a plan to bring more of it into your days. Infuse your life with books, artwork, podcasts, and other fodder that ignites your questions and moves you to imagine yourself and the world otherwise. Fold it imperfectly, messily into your teaching, art making, and living. In the words of a mentor, “the work we do on ourselves is a gift to those we teach” (Vagle, 2011, p. 424). 

In my next and final post, I’ll dig into some of the politics that limit what we might imagine as renewal in our professional learning, and offer some alternative possibilities. As always, I look forward to your feedback and ideas. Feel free to leave suggestions or requests in the comments.

- BH


Vagle, M. (2011, April). An assaulting displacement of the social sciences. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.