Monthly Mentor

Noël “Bella” Merriam (September)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Merriam is the AT&T Director of Education, Diversity and Inclusion at the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the Museum Commissioner for the NAEA ED&I Commission. She is a member of the Smithsonian Latino Center’s Education Planning Team and a 2019 graduate of NAEA’s School for Art Leaders. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Friday 09.18.20

Modifying Museum Family Programs During A Pandemic

By Noël Bella Merriam

Our museum offers family days eight times a year.  These fun-filled Sundays are wonderful events, with bilingual family tours and local teaching artists leading five to six art activities.  Four of these family days are partnership family days with local school districts, and admission is free for all students and their families during those days.  We also feature pop-up exhibitions of the artwork created by students in our START school partnership program.  Two of the family days are completely free to the community. Museum admission is free on Sundays for the first two hours that we are open, making participation accessible to our community. 

Image 1 Blog Post 4A pop-up student exhibition of drawings at a pre-pandemic family day.

It was heartbreaking to cancel our Spring Break family day in mid-March just before we closed, but the pandemic was gaining strength and large crowds attend this annual event.  It did not seem responsible to put our staff, teaching artists, or visitors in this situation.  Our family days for May and July were cancelled also.

Image 2 Blog Post 4The delightful, creative chaos of painting during a typical family day.

While closed, we brainstormed ways to modify our family programs to touch free versions.  We knew from family day surveys that 42% of our families who attend family day are Latinx.  (San Antonio is 63% Latinx).  These surveys also let us know just how important the artmaking component of family day was. By August, we were ready to implement our new system.

Image 3 blog post 4 finalDistributing family day art kits from behind a plexi barrier.

Our solution has been to develop touch-free family days featuring free, individually packaged art kits containing materials and video demos for two art activities, along with self-directed scavenger hunts that use QR codes.  The new version of our Art Crawl program features free baby swag bags with touch materials and flash cards that parents use to explore the museum’s galleries on their own.  Our teaching artists help with materials prep as well as art kit and baby swag bag distribution.  We’ve done our best to create a new variation of family engagement that fits the parameters of the times we find ourselves living in.

Image 4 blog post 4Participating in a self-directed scavenger hunt during a modified, touch-free family day.

As we worked out logistics for these modified programs, it was important to review access to our family programs.  While we were losing the group interaction inherent in family days and Art Crawl, perhaps we could overcome the timeframes that were previously a barrier to participation for some in our community.   Art Crawl is facilitated on Thursday mornings, when many parents and caregivers are working.  Was there a silver lining here?

I posed these questions to my team: Who has traditionally had access to our family programs?  How can we increase access to family programs for our community, both during the pandemic and afterwards?  What are our new measures of success?

Image 5 blog post 4 finalDistributing Art Crawl baby swag bags during free hours on a Tuesday for increased community access.

To increase community accessibility, we added additional distribution times during our free hours on Tuesday evenings.  There is now an extra family day art kit distribution on the second Tuesday night of the month, and an extra Art Crawl swag bag distribution on the third Tuesday night of the month.  It is going well so far, with an entirely new group of families participating on these Tuesdays.

Image 6 blog post 4Baby swag bag pick up in the Great Hall of SAMA     

I hope that you have been able to transition some of your programs into new models that fit your museum’s protocols if your museum has reopened.  If your museum is still closed, I hope that you find inspiration for ways to keep your community engaged in the future, and to make everyone who is involved feel safe.


Thursday 09.10.20

Adapting Museum Community Outreach During A Pandemic

By Noël Bella Merriam

When our museum closed in mid-March, we quickly pivoted to a new way of staying connected with our community and launched into a world of digital engagement that was new for us. 

There is tremendous disparity in our community when it comes to technology and wifi access, but we were fortunate to have our local school districts distribute ipads or laptops to students and they also set up wifi hotspots in school parking lots.  While this did not completely close the digital divide, it helped substantially. 

My team created bilingual video storytimes and art activities using simple materials found around the house for social media.  One of our favorites is inspired by a project from our START school partnership program, Museum in a Box.  When facilitated at the museum, this project involves students critically exploring all aspects of two galleries and then curating their own miniature museum gallery complete with lights, exit signs, and works of art – all in a box.  Our Family Programs Manager Michelle Trevino adapted this project for home use with whatever children might have around the house, and after posting it on our museum’s Facebook page, Parent magazine featured it online, found here

We did this quickly, but there were definitely growing pains.  My Docent Program Manager, Tripp Cardiff, volunteered to edit our videos and we quickly realized how time consuming this was.  We are also limited by the number of hi-res images we have of our collection.  While we have over 30,000 objects in our collection, we have only recently embarked on digitizing our collection as a resource.  I’m grateful to my entire team for the endless hours they devoted to developing social media content while we were closed.

We reopened our doors in late May, and scaled back social media content in order to devote time to modifying our family, educator, and school programs for the upcoming school year.  While our public programs will remain online through the end of the year, we’ve begun to explore how to reconnect with our community in safe and meaningful ways. 

Image 1 Blog Post 3Two of our teaching artists pack art kits for Haven for Hope.

Prior to the pandemic, our teaching artists taught art workshops twice a month for women and children at Haven for Hope, a homeless facility in our city.  These workshops were paused in March when our city’s quarantine began.  In May, we determined the safest way to continue this program was to pack individual art kits for participants with instructions containing links to demo videos.  Our teaching artists pack the art kits and create the videos, and the art kits are dropped off twice a month. 

Image 2 Blog Post 3A sample art kit for Haven for Hope’s children.

Along the way, my team has been reflecting:  How do we continue to support our community and teaching artists by providing safe, interactive experiences with our collection during this pandemic?  What aspects of our new online programs and social media content will we keep in place as we move forward?  Which of these resources are the most meaningful for our community?  How do we stay connected with our community partners in a way that feels safe for everyone involved?

I’d love to hear how your museum has adapted your social media content and community outreach in the comments below.  What have your challenges and successes been?


Wednesday 09. 2.20

Holding Space for the Processing the Changes We’ve Experienced, Part 2

By Noël Bella Merriam

When contemplating the environment which museum and art educators find ourselves in nearly six months after the pandemic first changed our lives, I find myself sometimes grieving pre-pandemic work life.  Somehow I miss the little things the most – the laughter and camaraderie during education team meetings as we sat around our old wooden table, or popping into museum staffers’ offices for a quick chat, hearing a group of 120 excited students crowding through the entrance of our museum as they arrived for a tour, and the sight of children gathered around my teaching artists and museum educators during a family day or toddler art program.  I know I have been fortunate on many levels during this pandemic, yet I’m also continually processing that some things may never be the same, or that it will be quite some time before things are somewhat similar to what they were before.  I am grateful to have myself and my team employed in museum education at a time when many museum educators and front line staff have seen their positions eliminated – a crisis that our field has not reckoned with yet, and one that will have lasting ramifications.

One of the good things to emerge out of my quarantine time has been connecting more deeply with a group of talented and highly creative friends I have the good fortune to know.  We’ve met many times since April via zoom to share our writing and how we are processing the pandemic’s impact on our lives.  One night, a member of our group, Joyous Windrider Jiménez, asked us three times how we would change our lives moving forward.  It was an insightful moment for all of us connected via zoom in that moment.   

In this blog post, I interview the multi-faceted and talented Joy about why she asked us that question three times, her interdisciplinary arts practice, social justice in the classroom, and how she’s feeling about arts education and the pandemic as the school year begins.

NBM: You approach life with such kindness and generous energy.  Can you share a bit about your arts teaching philosophy with me?  It seems to me that you teach from a place of tremendous compassion for your students.

JWJ: First, I try to acknowledge basic realities in our daily practice of artmaking.  The basic realities include “times are tough.” I know that our current collective trauma is a reality that I can’t overlook in the classroom. I personally carry trauma in my body memory, and art is a tool for my own processing.

Art is how I act upon my environment, and how I articulate the mysteries of my own experience. When I’m in learning spaces, I stay focused on my main goal of practicing this same empowerment with those in the room.

I believe that acknowledging the whole person in our creative approach – including our needs for safety, community, connection, and acceptance – is the best way to support the practice of empowered creative action and to encourage student investment and motivation in the classroom. I know that the safer and more connected the class feels, the bolder we’ll be in our creative choices and determination to take the creative risks necessary to effectively articulate our unique perspectives and experiences.

NBM:  That night we were sharing about how the pandemic has changed our priorities, you asked us the same question three times – “What will you change?”  Why did you do that? Can you explain a bit more about that practice and how that can be helpful?

JWJ: I’m a big fan of bringing centering, purposeful questions to ourselves so that our body can provide us its intuitive wisdom. Repeating the question and listening for the answers that bubble up from within allows us to go deeper into the answers that already exist within us.

In the context of this pandemic, there are unfamiliar challenges and new parameters for us to consider about our “place” in the world. How do we want to rise up to meet this new world and affect change? On that particular night, this was the question that arose.  But there are many questions that you can ask yourself.  

A great question to ask yourself is “Why is it important?” that you do what you do. You are the only one who can truly answer that question. I credit acting coach Jo Kelly for this practice.  Asking a question about your life’s purpose, then going deeper and deeper into it is a wonderful way to discover things you may have forgotten or haven’t consciously recognized yet.

NBM: What are some ways that you incorporate social justice into your classroom?

JWJ: I work in Title I schools, so over 90% of the population is below poverty. 95% of the students are POC, and I am POC. One of the most mind-blowing realizations for me when I first became a teaching artist was that we practice social justice every time we practice empowerment of our brown and black voices and wield our creative decision-making power to create original works that are presented to the public. Our stories are important. They are medicine to ourselves and our communities.

The main purpose of my classroom facilitation is for my students to find a space where their voice and ideas are met with interest and joy, their vision and creativity is met with support, and their creative leadership is met with trust and celebration. My students deserve to feel this empowerment in their whole system, as often and as deeply as possible. We do it in small ways every day, that build up into a final result they can be proud of.

For instance, when I teach theatre we produce original shows created, designed, and performed by the group for their communities. Their experiences, ideas, language, creativity, and leadership are all validated through the creative process, and that validation is cemented with the final audience feedback when the show is presented to the public.  Watching their transformation after a year of being leaders in their own creative process - from inception to reception - is one of my favorite things to behold.

I further incorporate social justice by remembering to step back and make room for the young creative voices at the table, and by elevating and supporting those voices so that they will be empowered to affect their communities through their art.

NBM: You are a multi-disciplinary artist who practices theatre, poetry, and visual art.  How did you bring these arts disciplines together?  In what ways do the combination of these three art forms benefit your practice and the students you teach, especially in an online or hybrid learning environment?

JWJ: I personally use more than one art form because I am always looking for the most immediate and accessible way for me to work through my own trauma and understanding of my world. Where I live, we have a term near to our hearts - rasquache. This was once a derogatory (Spanish) term for the practice of using whatever you had on hand to create something useful or decorative. This term has since been reclaimed to celebrate resourcefulness and creativity.  

I think it’s important for students to understand that all of the art forms are accessible to them – that art is not only what is hung in a museum (not knocking museums!), theatre is not only on Broadway, and poetry is not just “printed words from dead writers.” I want to students to discover the art that is everywhere – that is spoken, sung, drawn, crafted by their relatives and community members – and is vital and relevant to their life experience.

Now that we are in this hybrid learning situation, we are all getting a taste of what it means to use whatever is on hand. How do we tell a story with these new parameters? What tools are available to us? How do we adjust our usual modalities and explore these new frontiers?

I believe a multi-disciplinary approach in collaborative projects allows a chance to integrate more into our bodies as we make personal choices and explorations with different media and avenues to articulate our personal experiences.

NBM:  Your centering and self-awareness work is so powerful.  What is a technique you’ve been using with your students this year? 

JWJ: Since we are just beginning the year and I’m meeting my students for the first time via online meetings, I’ve spent this first couple of weeks building a simple ritual of quick self-reflections, so that we can move into longer practices once they trust me to facilitate that.

We’ve been starting each online session with “quick draw” check-ins. I’ll call out emotions or specific reflective questions for them to quick draw a response to. This gives a chance for the student to check-in with their bodies and the emotions that may be going on in that moment. When we’re done, we place our quick draw in the camera and make sure to view everyone else’s. We’ve used this method to share our highlights and bummers, explore big emotions that we’ve all experienced, and to just take a few moments to calm down and re-center.

We’ve also been focusing on the art of doodling these first couple of weeks. I adore doodling because it’s a practice of letting go and allowing the pen or the line to guide you. I want my students to tap into that ability and develop their own lexicon of doodles while reflecting upon experiences and emotions. My aim is that they’ll organically hone their ability to read and visually articulate the specifics of their own emotional landscape through the basic elements of line and shape.

The most powerful language is the one that already resides within us. I love finding ways to tap into that.

NBM: What has been a surprise or challenge as you’ve begun teaching this fall?

JWJ: Moving to online last spring was challenging but at that point we were encouraged to be as gentle and lenient as possible, because we were in the middle of a national crisis and the upheaval was stressful and challenging.

This fall expectations on both student and educators are much more stringent, and what has surprised me the most is the amount of technical prowess and database management skills I’m required to have to do my job as a teaching artist.  These new technical demands are taxing to my whole human system, since that is not a strength of mine. Also, the looming prospect of returning to a physical classroom in the middle of a pandemic without medical insurance is a heavy burden to carry.

Then I look at my students. We are at the beginning of the school year and they already show signs of exhaustion, especially the younger ones, and it worries me. At the end of the first week of school I noticed how tired they looked, so we ended class with an extended check-in (a sharing of highlights and bummers). The conversation moved quickly to the deaths they’ve experienced this year. They shared their losses and then began to ask questions like “Miss, is it okay to to smile when someone has passed?” We ended the conversation by considering how to honor the loved ones they’ve lost this year through their current art project. As we said goodbye, I noticed renewed energy in their faces and bodies. 

Taking time for this sort of communal discussion is a centering practice of connection with self and others. It’s needed more than ever right now and it’s worth the extra time required to address this need.

NBM: Your interdisciplinary practice also informs your personal art and writing.  What can you share about the pieces linked here?

 Quarantine is a Dragon:

JWJ: I wrote this story in May for our end-of-year virtual poetry event. We had been working on a video poem in class around our quarantine experiences. It made me ask myself what kind of houseguest quarantine would embody, and I came to this image of an inconveniently present, almost overbearing, yet solidly protective dragon. The illustrations and time-lapse video were created later as an element for an online writing lesson. I googled dragon images and grabbed what was near me, puro rasquache: printer paper, colored pencils, an open window for light, and a milk crate to prop my phone and tripod. It was my first time sketching a dragon, but oh well! The video landed a spot in San Francisco’s Roxie Theater Film Festival, “Mixtape-In-Place.”

For Isaac: 

JWJ: I was asked to create a workshop around my video poem process, and I made a couple more videos to ensure I understood my own process. For this piece I created the video before I knew what words would be laid over the top. I once again gathered what I had on hand to express my current processing, including an unclaimed teddy bear and various “life debris.” The gloved hands working on the teddy bear represent a younger me that had vowed to keep herself safe by swiftly and methodically repairing any occurring emotional breaches in my system. The bear’s new insides represent my internalized experiences. When I overlaid the audio, the spontaneous words were an experiment, a raw message to a loved one who knew me as a child and declared he still knew me at my current age. The juxtaposition of those three layers really works for me. I feel empowered and seen when I replay this video poem, especially when others view and respond to it.

I want this feeling for the young creatives in my classroom.

NBM: Thank you, Joy, for sharing about your practice and work.  Your creativity is always inspirational!

Readers, as you begin to envision your post-pandemic life or your new priorities in the present, ask yourself what you will change – and ask the same question of yourself three times.  This is a unique opportunity to reimagine our futures and reorder our priorities.  I wish you all the best in the upcoming school year.


Tuesday 09. 1.20

Holding Space for Processing the Changes We’ve Experienced, Part 1

By Noël Bella Merriam

As the 2020 school year begins, I find myself reflecting on the two decades I spent as a K-8 art instructor and teaching artist-poet in Texas schools.  I transitioned into museum education six years ago, and from time to time, I become nostalgic for those days of joyful creativity with art students – usually when boxes of art supplies are unpacked at the museum or when I recall setting up my classroom for the beginning of school.  However, as the summer of 2020 unfolded and the pandemic continued, I’ve watched art educators I know in San Antonio and across the country become increasingly anxious as they tried to prepare for the uncertainty of the upcoming school year. 

I am overwhelmed with admiration for the Herculean efforts each educator I know is putting into the safety and creative art instruction of their students in these difficult circumstances.  As it became evident that we would be dealing with the pandemic well into the new school year, I knew the art educators in my community would be returning to very challenging environments that still incorporated online learning.  I collaborated with our museum’s Teacher and School Programs Manager, Carrie Avery, to develop our first online Summer Teacher Institute, The Importance of Art: Creating Community and Culture During Covid-19. 

Our goal was to provide art educators in our community with tool kits for online teaching through sessions on building virtual bitmoji art rooms and making step-by-step art demo videos.  We had keynotes speakers address the role of art in our communities during COVID-19 and the importance of this summer’s protests and focus on the Black Lives Matter movement.  We knew these were essential conversations to have with each other.

One of the most valuable components of our online Summer Teacher Institute was lunchtime, when we made space for processing and sharing what art educators were experiencing. Participation was optional, and everyone could spend as much or as little time in this space as they wanted. These open-ended sharing sessions validated what participating art educators were feeling in that moment.  Each day, I saw the supportive community and dialogue that I had feared might be missing from an online Summer Teacher Institute blossom.  At the end of the week, our attendees felt centered, more prepared for the upcoming year, and connected with each other. 

I’d like to share two self-care exercises for you and your students from SAMA’s 2020 Summer Teacher Institute facilitator Joyous Windrider Jiménez.  I’ll be interviewing Joy in my next blog post.

Centering Our Awareness:

1. Awareness of Breath:Become aware of what is happening to your breath (Are you breathing?). Instead of trying to control it, let it adjust naturally.

2. Awareness of Body:Become aware of your body in space. Where does it touch other objects (chair, floor, clothes, hand on leg, etc)? Do you feel tension anywhere? Can you choose to relax those places?

3. Orienting to Environment:Turn your head to whichever side and find a spot in the room your head/eyes naturally want to rest on. Move your gaze naturally through the room. Use your eyes like a finger, caressing the lines and shapes of your environment. Take your time with this. (Orienting to our environment is something we naturally do in nature.)

Calming our Anxiety:

1. Containment: Dominant hand under arm, non-dominant hand on upper arm.
2. Tenderness: Hand over heart, feel tenderness flowing from hand to heart.
3. Safe Place: Where is your safe place? Use your imagination to visualize and connect.

I wish you all a safe and creative school year, filled with moments of self-care for you and those in your life.  Be gentle with yourself and your students as we move forward together into the future.


Sunday 08.30.20


By Glenda Lubiner

As we start to get a bit older (at least chronologically) most of us start to make a bucket list. One thing on my bucket list is to visit Greece, as looks beautiful and a great place to do some watercolor paintings. But, do any of you have an art bucket list? Is there art or architecture you want to see, or even art techniques you’d like to learn. When I started art school I was hooked on printmaking. And then, the inevitable happened.  I moved from Montreal to California and the university that excepted all my credits offered every class but printmaking! Over the years, I’ve been a printmaker, a painter, a weaver, an art therapist, and an art teacher. So, what does all this have to do with my bucket list, you ask? There are so many things I’d like to see and learn that relate to art.

First, I’d love to learn how to do encaustic paintings…the old-fashioned way, the way it was done during the Greco-Roman period. Those paintings look so realistic, especially for that time-period (the women wore fabulous jewelry so that of course adds to the paintings). I’d also like to learn how to do glass blowing. When I attended San Jose State, so many amazing art classes were offered, but I did not take advantage of taking the glass blowing class. And last, but not least, I’d love to become a great illustrator.

I would like to go back to China and see the Terra Cotta Warriors and the beautiful mountains that are represented on so many Chinese scrolls. The Taj Mahal and India’s Sanchi Stupa, along with all the other ancient temples in India are also on that list. Not only do I want to visit Spain to see the ancient city of Toledo, as I am in love with El Greco’s rendering of the city, but I want to see ALL the architecture by Gaudi.

If you haven’t made you art bucket list yet, it’s time to start!

Have a great school year everyone!!

Artfully yours,

- GL

Thursday 08.27.20

Staring at That Blank Page?

By Glenda Lubiner

What inspires you as an artist? Is it your students? A trip you took? A dream? Whatever it is that inspires you to create, has it been happening during these unprecedented times? I know that for many people, staying home has given them the opportunity to make more art. My inspiration usually come from art and architecture that I have visited on summer vacations. This summer, I haven’t even left my county!

Thinking of inspiration, how do you think our students are being inspired? They have been cooped up in their houses all summer, sitting around playing video games, and not being able to hang out with their friends. Now is the time to reel them in and get those creative juices flowing. I always start the year with a non-threatening small art project. This way everyone is successful, especially the kids who do not have a choice of electives.

Last year I started doing a data-based selfie based on the work of designer Giorgia Lupi. I found her selfie information somewhere online and have modified it to fit my needs. It’s really cool and the kids love it. When I tell them they are going to draw a selfie, they kind of freak at first, but when I tell them that they won’t have to draw their face, the mood changes. Because I work at an IB middle school, I make sure to add in the IB Learner profile traits. A few examples of what I do are: If you are open-minded draw a light green zig-zag line; if you are principled draw a pink triangle, etc. Lupi asks all kind of things like age, where are you from, pets, introvert or extrovert. It’s a good chance to have the kids do a little reflection as well. Once the selfie is done we do a class critique that is based on design, not their information.  You can google Giogia Lupi - how to draw your own selfie and you will find this great project.

Have fun with it!

Artfully yours,


Monday 08.24.20

Please Mute!

By Glenda Lubiner

School has started for most of us and I know that if you are teaching remotely the new buzz words for this year are “Please mute and turn your camera on!” It translates to in the classroom sayings of “Please sit down and pay attention!”  Although I keep telling my students that if I can’t see them, they will be marked absent, they don’t seem to care or maybe they are muting me!! Overall, I will say that with almost 200 students, the majority are doing a great job! Respect must now be to be taught to the others in the household. I understand that everyone is home, but if the students are not muted, and at times they will not be, the others in the house need to turn the TV off and not talk on the phone. Not only is it distracting to the student, but to the rest of the class as well.  And, please remind your parents that if they are to be in view of the monitor, they must be dressed appropriately. So far, I personally have not had this problem. Thank goodness.

We are on block schedule this year so my classes are 75 minutes. Even though the classes are long, we do take a few minutes for a brain break to stretch and have a joke or two of the day. It is so important to build relationships with the kids especially because we were so used to seeing them around the school, in the courtyard/playground and in the cafeteria. Even if we didn’t teach them, we started to bond with so many of the kids. Online teaching is not like that at all. So, get to know your kids well. I’ve been doing an ice breaker with them every day, just so that I can get to know them, and so that they will feel more comfortable in the class with me, especially since this semester I have all sixth graders. Have fun with them and let them see you’re human too!

Artfully yours,

- GL

Wednesday 08.19.20

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Find Out What It Means to Me!

By Glenda Lubiner

As I get ready to start my “new” school year teaching remotely, I’ve been thinking about rules in the online classroom. Last March when we all went online in “crisis” mode teaching we didn’t even think about rules in the classroom, all I thought about was recording lessons, posting them to my Google Classroom and hoped that my 200 or so students would go online, do the assignments, and submit them. The majority did and about 40% of them did a fabulous job. But now as we start teaching remotely again, and we will be live all day, we must have rules, just like we do in brick and mortar. The thing I worry about most is how tech savvy these kids are and that they know things I will never comprehend……I’m still try to figure out FAX machines! All kidding aside, these students will find a way to loop themselves doing work, privately (or not so privately) chat when they’re supposed to, and who knows what else. With that said, I think we might need some rules too.

Being respectful is the most important rule for both the teachers and the students. As I begin my 25th year teaching, I have learned that there must be mutual respect between teacher and student, and teacher and parents. We must remember that whether we are in person or online others will be affected by the words we say and write. We must remember to also respect the opinion of others and agree to disagree.

When teaching on line, you must be engaging. The students need to feel like they are an important part of your class. In the classroom, we get to know our students well. We must do the same when we are teaching remotely. As art teachers, some of us will have returning students whom we know well. Now is the time to give them leadership roles. Pair them up with a buddy, make them both feel like they respected and an integral part of the class.

To be continued…

Artfully yours,


Clear and concise – those dreaded words we heard when we are writing National Boards. But it’s true. Your students have different ways of learning, so you must be attentive to all of them and help them along the way. You do not need to tell a long story about every project you are doing. You might enjoy talking like I do, but the kids just want to work.

Rule #3 Relationships Are Key to Online Learning 

A positive relationship with students is critical to online learning. 

Moore stresses that online classes don’t work if they’re impersonal. Students must feel as though they’ve connected with a teacher who is invested in their success. 

Every day may feel like casual Friday in an online classroom where you don’t see anyone in person, but a certain level of formality is still expected in your communication with instructors. In addition to proper punctuation and spelling, it’s good netiquette to use respectful greetings and signatures, full sentences and even the same old “please” and “thank you” you use in real life.

Sunday 08.16.20

Mentoring is a Partnership

By Glenda Lubiner

Most teachers probably think that when they are assigned a mentor, if they are lucky enough to get one, the mentor is there to tell them everything. What they probably do not understand is that mentoring is a partnership. This might be hard to believe, but the mentor will learn as much as the mentee during the process. Mentors want to help guide and support the novice teacher, and in many circumstances, reflect upon their own practice before they mentor someone else.

When a mentoring program is governed efficiently, the mentor and mentee are paired by content area. Studies have shown that when a mentee is paired with a mentor in their grade level and or content area, the mentoring experience tends to be more positive. To achieve a positive mentor-mentee relationship, mentoring should continue outside of the mentoring relationship (Hudson, 2016).

There are several ways that mentoring can be defined; guiding and supporting new teachers, supervising a teacher during their first year, and helping a new teacher get accustomed to their new schools. No matter how mentoring is defined, there is evidence that mentoring has a positive affect and outcome in the effectiveness of beginning teachers.

In a study that I conducted for my dissertation, the participants all agreed that every new teacher should have a mentor. When asked about the skills a mentor should possess, they used the following adjectives: experienced, honest, organized, patient, communicator, leader, and good teacher. One participant put it very bluntly, “you really cannot mentor and give advice unless it’s in a general sense, unless you’ve lived it and walked it.”

So, the bottom line is that if you are going to be a mentor, which I hope you all are, be there for your mentee. You are there to help, support, guide, and lend an ear or a shoulder and maybe even a cup of coffee! And remember, you can always continue the relationship long after the mentorship is over!

Artfully yours,


Hudson, P. (2016). Forming the mentor-mentee relationship. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning. 24(1), 30-43. doi:10.1080/13611267.2016.1163637

Tuesday 08.11.20

Try to Remember the Kind of September…(that was a song a long time ago)

By Glenda Lubiner

Try to remember your first year as a teacher, when most of us started in September not in the middle of the summer. Today many new teachers are starting school with varied backgrounds, not always with an art education or fine arts degree. They are entering the work force with alternative certifications and those beginning teachers will need your help.

When I started teaching 25 years ago, I needed a lot of help. I had art skills and knew my art history, but I had no clue had to write a lesson plan, and I especially had no idea about classroom management. My mentor was the media specialist, a lovely lady who had worked at the school for 37 years and was getting ready to retire. The school had not had an art teacher in years and she had no idea how to help me. It wasn’t until I went to a local art teacher meeting and met veteran art teachers that I started to feel more comfortable. They helped me with lesson plans (and shared hundreds with me - no exaggeration there), leaning how to use the kiln, classroom management, and presenting a workshop at our yearly state conference. By year 3 I felt I was a pro. Okay, not really, I still feel I have a lot to learn, but I felt like an art teacher.

At the beginning of every school year, I thank those mentors that helped me along the way, and as the saying goes Pay it Forward. That, I have done. As I start my 25th year as an art educator I know how those new teachers are feeling, especially if they are the sole art teacher in the building. I urge you all to reach out to those new teachers, make a new friend, and help them whenever and however you can, even if it is only to have a zoom cup of coffee or a virtual happy hour with them. They WILL appreciate it!

To be continued….

- GL