Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Friday 07.22.11

Developing Expertise, Part II: Practice What You Teach with Creative Endeavors

Last week I talked about nurturing professionalism through professional interactions at the school/district, regional, and state/national levels.

Among the things, I noted were expanding your knowledge base as an art education professional, focusing on the development of those knowledge and skills of communication, preparation, and implementation of the art curriculum as well as developing skills as a member of the general educational community.

Another area for developing expertise is in the area of artistic practice. The effective artist-educator develops expertise by engaging in personal artmaking and modeling the artistic process to students. When appropriate, let students see your work and give them opportunities to talk with you about your ideas and process of working. Students need to know that their teacher practices what she teaches.

Incorporate into your instructional plans knowledge and skills that will enable and guide students to think and work as young artists. Design student art problems to be open-ended so students have choices in what they do. Challenge students to practice artistic habits of mind by structuring studio experiences to mirror the artistic process. Lead by example and prepare prototypes and process visuals that support and illustrate the artistic process. Create a classroom environment of collaboration and community where students develop skills in looking at, critiquing and reflecting on their own and each others’ work.

A useful framework to use in modeling the artistic process is found in the book Studio Thinking (by Hetland, Winner, Veenema, and Sheridan, 2007). The authors identify eight Studio Habits of Mind that are critical elements of artistic thinking: develop craft, engage and persist, envision, express, observe, reflect, stretch and explore, and understand art world. They discuss studio structures to facilitate development of these habits of mind through careful sequencing of activities: students at work, demonstration-lecture, and critique. Classroom experiences that immerse students in hands-on work, supported by demonstration/lecture when needed, and ongoing reflection/critiques of their own and others’ work will enable students to practice these behaviors on a daily basis and help them develop deeper understandings of the artistic process.

The expertise of a practicing artist-educator has major impact on students’ future beliefs about their own creativity and the value they place on the arts. Let’s work to create a society filled with creative thinkers. As the summer nears its end, I hope you will find these ideas helpful as you work toward developing greater expertise and grow your art program.

-Daisy McTighe

Wednesday 07.13.11

Developing Expertise: Seeking Ways to Improve Knowledge and Skills

“Probably nothing in a school has more impact on students in terms of skills development, self-confidence, or classroom behavior than the personal and professional growth of their teachers.” (Barth 1990)

How does one grow and develop expertise as a teacher? One important route is through professional interactions. Regardless of whether one is the only art teacher in the school or a member of an art department, it is important to actively seek out and become part of the teaching and learning community.

Here are three areas within which your professional growth can be nurtured. The first area is within the school. During the school day, what professional activities and interactions do you engage in when you’re not meeting with students? Because your primary responsibility is teaching art, a major part of your non-teaching time should be devoted to working on program development: writing instructional plans, researching and preparing resource materials, creating visuals to support instruction, and setting up displays of student work. A secondary responsibility is to work with your colleagues to advance the school’s mission and curricular goals. You can develop professional relationships and become an active and contributing member of the school community through such activities as:

Green_bullet interdisciplinary/cross-curricular/co-curricular planning
Green_bullet participating on school committees to plan mission focused, curriculum-based professional development activities
Green_bullet working with colleagues to address school-wide issues and concerns such as establishing a school-wide behavior policy or planning educational events for the community, etc.
Green_bullet sharing instructional strategies and techniques with colleagues

The second area for professional growth is working with your art peers. Conduct professional activities by networking with your feeder school colleagues, look for opportunities to work with other art teachers at the system/district level (consider planning an educational exhibit of K-12 work or sharing and looking at each others’ student work to discuss ways to assess and improve student work), or look into teacher workshops sponsored by your local state art education association, museums and arts organizations. If your interest is to develop greater expertise in a particular area, consider pursuing a Masters or Doctoral program where you can immerse yourself in intense studies related to artmaking and art education.

Joining the greater educational community is the third area for professional growth: extend your learning by attending regional, national and international art conferences (e.g. 2012 NAEA National Convention March 1-4 in New York City and/or your state art education association annual conference) and other conferences or workshops sponsored by general educational organizations (e.g. ASCD Annual Conference 2012, March 24-26 in Philadelphia) to see what professional learning opportunities they offer. Browse the NAEA website for other professional growth opportunities. Increase your professional skills by being open to a variety of experiences that focus not only on your specific content area, but on educational issues and ideas in general.

A basic tenet of excellence in teaching is continuous improvement and collaboration. The expert art teacher is a professional who is a proactive, creative, and resourceful manager of the material and human resources available to him/her.  


-Daisy McTighe

Wednesday 07. 6.11

Enhancing your Art Program

Successful art programs are not characterized by the individuals who make them; rather, they are characterized by individuals who believe that working together toward a common goal, sharing knowledge and expertise, and striving for continual improvement, are the routes to success.

I was fortunate to have worked in a large school system that recognized these traits and enabled my colleagues and I to work in an environment of innovation and collegiality. In over 35 years in this school system, I watched the art program grow and improve as a result of continuous enhancements, earning respect and continued support from the School Board and community.

Many program enhancements were introduced and supported at the system level (e.g. Gifted and Talented art, art technology career completers, magnet schools, summer art programs, system-wide exhibits and partnerships with arts organizations, museums, and businesses) and are now institutionalized.

Others originated at schools, initiated by imaginative teachers. Encouraged to innovate, teachers created co-curricular activities that extended the art program beyond the classroom and into the community. These school-initiated enhancements were shared at professional meetings and spread to other schools in the system. A number of them have become a tradition.

For new and experienced teachers looking for ideas, I’d like to present some examples of school-based enhancements (Many are familiar while some may spark new ideas).

Highlight student achievements

o Educate the public by displaying student work in prominent areas of the school using signage to describe what students learned.

o Showcase student artist(s) of the month by displaying work and awarding certificates of recognition

o Set up a virtual gallery on your school website or other sites that host virtual galleries such as Artsonia Include a brief description to provide a context to what students learned

Extend the art program beyond the classroom

o Establish a National Art Honor Society or National Junior Art Honor Society to foster student leadership and service in art

o Conduct after school workshops (Ceramics, Digital Art, Studio Nights, etc.)

o Create an after-school Art Club


Engage the community

o  Set up an artist residency – check with your community or state Arts Councils for information about teaching artists and grant writing. Seek approval from your administration to organize a team of co-workers and the PTA to help you plan for the residency

o Organize a Youth Art Month exhibit; invite the community

o Develop partnerships with local community organizations to sponsor  exhibits at libraries, offices, community centers, etc.

o Encourage parents to volunteer and assist in the artroom; establish an Art Parent Advocacy Group

o Co-plan a feeder school exhibit to showcase the elementary-middle-high art programs in your community

o Plan theme-based exhibits such as “Edible Art,” “Family Mask Portraits,” “Our Community,” where the community is invited to submit their creations (make sure you establish criteria for participation in the exhibit)

o Schedule school-wide exhibits to coincide with events for the community such as music, drama, or dance performances


Supplement the art program budget through fundraising

o Work with your PTA and such fundraising organizations as Square 1, SilverGraphics, ArtStamps, Artsonia Fundraiser. These organizations can reproduce student art on various mementos (magnets, mugs, cards, mousepads, etc.).  Families and members of the community are invited to support the art program and school by purchasing an item with their student’s art on it. 

o Plan an art auction of student work – include the PTA and students in the planning, decision-making and selection of work to be auctioned

These are just a few ideas. I hope they will provide stimulus, motivation, and “jump start” or refine existing activities. Challenge yourself to “grow” your art program by starting a new tradition.

-Daisy McTighe

Friday 07. 1.11

Summertime: relax, reflect, and renew your commitment to art and education

It’s summer and the fun begins. However, before you enjoy a well-deserved break, build in time to reflect on this year and plan for the future. Early July is the best time for reflection because the old school year is still fresh in your mind and the new one is several weeks away. Consider ways to enhance your program, improve your practice, and promote art education.

Here are some reflection questions to consider: What were your most successful activities this past school year? …and the most challenging? What would you change next year? What would you like to do that you didn’t get to this year? What new thing(s) would you like to try? What did a colleague or someone you respect, do, that you would like to emulate or introduce next year? How might you become a better teacher and a more effective advocate for art education?

Taking time to reflect on these questions and others that come to mind will help you prepare for the new school year as well as set new goals for your art program.

After you’ve written your reflections, brainstorm ideas for the new year. Some of your ideas might start during the summer; some may have to wait until the beginning of the school year, and some may require attending a workshop or course. Whatever you decide, it’s important to make a commitment, pursue your objectives and develop them as goals you want to achieve.

To begin, if you don’t already do so, consider keeping a journal for recording ideas and reflections. While teachers often expect students to keep journals, they don’t always practice what they preach. The summer is a good time to begin this practice – consider devoting at least 15-30 minutes every few days - it will give you momentum to continue doing it during the school year. Create artistic pages that are visually pleasing, and have them serve two purposes: to record visual ideas and ideas for teaching. Include sketches, small paintings, collage, photographs, notes, and/or other materials you might want to use. If you’re adventurous and have the time to explore, consider keeping both a traditional and an electronic journal. Be creative and have fun with it!

Tchr notecard jrnl

Tchr jrnl
Tchr electronic jrnl entry

Intern jrnl entry

There is no better time to start than now. The best to you as you embark on this adventure of continued learning while seeking ways to become a more creative and effective artist- teacher/art advocate. 

-Daisy McTighe