Monthly Mentor

Shelly Breaux (December)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Shelly Breaux established the Art Program at David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy in Lafayette, LA. In her classroom, Breaux focuses on inquiry-based learning, problem solving, collaboration, conceptual thinking, and constructive criticism. She believes in using art as an educational tool, and that art provides her students with a voice and an outlet. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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September 09, 2010

What Really Matters to Students?

The first art teacher that I remember having was Mrs. Page, when I was in the 5th grade. I remember that she had an open door policy. We could visit her classroom before and after school any day of the week. I don’t ever remember her turning us away. She was always very kind, honest, firm when she needed to be, very knowledgeable about art, and presented us with exciting art activities.  What I most remember is that I felt that I could genuinely “trust” her.  Being able to trust a teacher is so important in establishing an effective rapport with students.
I asked several teachers how they were able to earn their students’ trust.  Here’s what they had to say.
“Children don’t care how many degrees you have or what you know until they know that you care.”  They are able to determine if you genuinely care about them.  I believe that as educators, we must find out who our students are, examine their interests and begin to incorporate relevant activities for them.”  (elementary art teacher,  for 24 years)

“Students respect teachers who are consistent with their ideas.  On a daily basis I try to show them that I care.  I support them in other areas too.  For example, when they are involved in extracurricular activities, I attend those events.”  (middle school music teacher,  for 20 years)

“I tell them personal stories about myself when I was their age so we can better relate to one another.  I pick different students to respond to questions and acknowledge and praise them when they think of something that I didn’t think of.”  (elementary dance teacher,  for 5 years)

“Follow through with promises--this includes consequences and praises.  Strive to lead by example by showing good character in all situations.”  (art teacher, for 10 years)

“You must display a sincere concern for them.  Sometimes it is sharing your life with them.  Maybe if it is an unexpected act of kindness that you shower on them.”  (theatre teacher, for 12 years)

“I taught elementary (K-5) for about 33 years.  I learned that the trust of students is essential in the creative process. I found that it helped to be consistent in the art room with behavior expectations and with classroom routines to build a level of comfort for students.  They knew what to expect from me in the way of daily clean-ups and in the normal "hum" of the art making.  I think that freed them to be more expressive in other areas. Another level of trust is in the building of the art program.

 I built the curriculum sequentially so that students could build on
skill levels and knowledge, giving them the confidence to trust their artistic growth.  I found it is difficult at first to get students to trust my opinion as an artist during classroom or individual critiques.  I learned quickly that just because I said something was good did not make it so good in their eyes.  (And that everything they make cannot be good.  They know that some art is better than others and will not believe you if you try to convince them otherwise.)  So I learned to be more specific with critiques and very honest too (in a kind way.)  More than once we would both agree that their artwork was in fact, terrible and worth a do-over.  Often we would save their first try, compare it to the second try and then pick the best one and continue.  Sometimes we could agree that everyone has a bad day and try again the next week.

 With some students you have to build a personal relationship, just spend some time listening to them.  Find out their interests and share yours!  I think art teaches are luck in that we can see the growth of our students from Kindergarten to the 5th grade and build trust over the years and get to know the students as individuals.   Finally, I began to use portfolio methods to collect and save artwork over time.  When students could see more than one of their artworks at a time they began to trust their growth as an artist. …..and what better way to instill trust in their own abilities!  I’ve also learned that it does not matter what age the students are these methods work….from Kindergarten to students in college!”  (elementary art teacher, taught 33 years, retired, now an adjunct professor at the university level)

How do you establish levels of trustworthiness within your students?   I would love to hear from you!

-Minuette Floyd


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