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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Wednesday 02.27.13

Future Leaders in Visual Art

A great leader once stated in his opening speech at the NAEA conference that we must “hand our leaders forward.” Barry Shauck, the current past-president of the NAEA, gave a powerful speech that day about leadership and the importance of cultivating future generations of visual art leaders. In my county, I am always looking for teachers who want to step forward and take on a leadership role. I encourage teachers to run afterschool workshops, lead countywide cluster meetings, or present at a monthly resource teacher meeting. Barry was right though, leaders don’t always just e-mail you out of the blue and say “I want to be a leader, let me know what you need.” They often have to be asked. It takes a leader to spot a leader and I’ve been fortunate enough that I was spotted as a leader early on in my career.

We need you to be involved. Below are some examples of ways to become involved in the future of art education.
•    Join your state art organization.
•    Present at a state or national conference.
•    Attend a state board meeting (email the president and ask for the board meeting schedule).
•    Volunteer to be on a state committee (e.g., professional development, recruitment, conferences, statewide art exhibits)
•    Host an afterschool workshop and invite people from your district or neighboring districts to attend.

There is a multitude of ways to take on leadership roles locally and nationally. Please think about getting involved even if it is only on a small level. The more voices we have out there speaking about the power of art education, the more impact we will have. I want to thank NAEA again for giving me this opportunity to voice my thoughts and opinions this month and to thank you all for reading my posts.
Take Action: What are some of your strengths others have identified and shared with you? How might you use or share those strengths to help others become stronger teachers?

-Lisa Stuart

Wednesday 02.20.13

Classroom Management

At last year’s NAEA conference in NY, I co-presented a workshop called Classroom Management 101: A Positive Approach. I began this workshop in my county two years ago out of a necessity to help our art teachers decrease the amount of time they were spending on management issues.

Often, when I visit new teachers during the first few months of school, I observe teachers verbally repeating behavior expectations multiple times with out enforcing any consequences and eventually teachers become frustrated. One of the suggestions I have for them is the collaborative creation of rules and consequences. Having students help to create the rules and consequences builds student buy-in. I encourage teachers to make two posters (Rules and Consequences) hang the posters in the room, referring to them every time a student breaks a rule.

For example, if one of your rules is, “stay in your seats” (always state rules in the positive), and little Suzy gets out of her seat:

1. She gets a warning. “Suzy, the rule in art is to stay in your seat, this is your warning. If you get out of your seat again, I will be moving you over to the side table to get your work done.”
2. If Suzy gets out of her seat again, “Suzy, the rule in art is you need to stay in your seat. Now, you need to move your work over to the side table. If you get out of your seat again you will need to go work in Mrs. Smith’s room for five minutes.”

Each time the rule is broken, refer to the posters, stating the rule and what will happen if he/she breaks the rule. The two most important pieces to this system are, remain calm and be consistent. If you do this for one student, you should do it for all.

While this is only one example from our workshop, I assure you it is one of the most effective.  If you put in the work upfront, eventually you will notice that you will spend less time on classroom management issues and can spend more time on teaching.  What is your biggest classroom management issue?

-Lisa Stuart

Friday 02.15.13

Multiple Schools/Art On A Cart

One very important part of my job is recruiting, interviewing, and training all of the teachers new to our county. During the last six years, I have worked hard to increase my level of support to new teachers, especially at the elementary level, where they are often singletons. Last week, I asked my new elementary teachers: “What has been your biggest teaching challenge so far?” Many of them answered that being on a cart in multiple schools is their biggest challenge. In my district, we try to place teachers at no more than three different schools but recently, placement at four and five schools has become more common. Imagine having to learn three to five sets of procedures, three to five different school cultures, and receiving three to five times as many e-mails per week. Not to mention the fact that in most cases, these teachers are on a cart and have to deal with 25 different teaching environments per week that usually never stay the same from week to week. Exhausting!

This year, I offered an “art on a cart” workshop to all teachers. I asked teachers from all over the county to send images of their carts (see images). At the workshop, we discussed the pros and cons of each setup and created a “tip sheet.” I certainly don’t have any giant words of wisdom here or a way to make this all better. While we didn’t come up with a solution to art on a cart, we were able to focus on ways to make it workable for teachers. I think the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is appropriate here. There is one good thing that comes from being the part-time teacher in our large school system. Usually there is a full-time teacher at those schools and for a new elementary art teacher to have three to five full-time teachers to learn from and collaborate with is pretty helpful.

What has been your experience on the cart? Do you have any tips to share?
Download Art on a Cart Tips

-Lisa Stuart

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Ms. Riccardelli’s “Cadillac” 

Tuesday 02.12.13

Art Budgets

Every year I receive e-mails from our art teachers about their budget.  In our district, the budgets are distributed to each school and the administration decides how much to allocate to each grade level and subject area. In some of our schools, the administration asks the teachers to provide a list of things they need and then they decide if they can afford what is on the list. In other schools, the administration gives an allocated amount of money to use. In our middle schools and high schools, fees may be charged for any item that becomes the student’s property and the rest of the supplies need to be ordered through school funds.

Many years ago we used to have a “per pupil” allocation, but that is no longer the case. My general rule of thumb is that if you are getting around $2 per child or more at the elementary level, you are in good shape. Most of our elementary schools have around 500 students (on average) so this would be around a $1,000 budget. Certain classes at the middle school and high school have higher supply costs. Darkroom Photography and Ceramics are probably two of the most expensive classes to run.

The teachers I hear from are the ones that get $200 to spend for the entire year. I always encourage teachers to go and talk to their administration and explain that $200 is barely enough to cover the supplies needed to teach one unit in our curriculum. Recently, one of our teachers created a chart that can be used to show administrators what is spent on each unit. (See Sarah Neubold’s Advocating for Resources Blog, November 2012)

Conversely, in a nearby county, the curriculum coordinator in central office distributes all the money allocations out to every teacher. This way, all schools receive the same amount of money. But, if our district went to a similar method, we may be cutting some budgets to equal out others. So my question to you is, What do you think is the appropriate amount to spend per pupil? How is your budget decided/distributed and what are the pros and cons of that system?

Lisa Stuart
Art Content Specialist
Montgomery County Public Schools

Friday 02. 8.13

Digital vs. Darkroom

One of the reasons I love my job is that I am asked to consult with the Division of Construction for my school system on new school buildings. Three years ago we were in the very beginning stages of planning to build a new high school. The Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Programs asked my supervisor and me if we still needed photography darkrooms built in high schools with the move toward digital photography. Since my background is not in photography, I set out to gather information to answer this question. I knew we wanted to keep darkrooms, but I needed to answer this with research.

I called several major universities (like RIT and Yale) and asked them if they are teaching darkroom, digital, or a combination of the two? All of them said that they were teaching both but that it was getting harder and more expensive to find the supplies for the darkroom. They all said they plan to keep their darkrooms as long as they possibly can and that they believe that the foundation of photography belongs in the darkroom.  I figure if a student is only going to have one photography experience in high school, then is should be digital.  If a student then becomes more interested in the fine art of photography, they can take darkroom as an advanced class. So I ask you, what are your thoughts and opinions around digital vs. darkroom? If you were asked to build a new school and had to give input on adding/removing a darkroom (that will be there for the next 50 years) do you keep it in? Why or why not?

Here are some websites you may want to read that discuss this issue:
* Freestyle Photographic Supplies
* Shutterbug

-Lisa Stuart

Monday 02. 4.13

Curriculum: Why does remediation mean “more of the same?”

In my school district, when we remediate students, we tend to give them more of the same. We often enroll students who are struggling in math, into a double period block.  We use programs such as Read 180 to boost their reading ability. What is missing here? The arts! Often times students who aren’t getting information that is presented to them one way, just need to be taught the information through a new lens. The arts are an ideal vehicle to do this. We should be creating new math classes called “The Art of Algebra” where an art content specialist, (such as myself) and a math content specialist write curriculum together. For example, we can use district or school data to determine which are the most difficult concepts for students in Algebra; then work together to create lessons using art to teach those concepts.

This is the concept behind my new book, Using Art to Teach Reading Comprehension Strategies: Lesson Book cover 2013Plans for Teachers. When I was an elementary art teacher, we had a school-wide focus on reading comprehension and my principal encouraged teams to work together to create integrated lessons that supported these important skills. I partnered with the reading specialist, staff development teacher, and grade level teachers at my school. We decided to teach the comprehension strategies using art (text-free), and then once they learned the skill, we moved them into the text environment. The results were amazing! Students that were previously struggling understood the concepts more easily. Since there are often times no right or wrong answers in looking at and talking about art, children were freer in their responses related to the strategy and more likely to retain the information.

While this type of remediation may not work for all students, it is an idea which is currently being overlooked. It is my hope that more school districts across the country see this as an alternative to the “more of the same” approach. So my questions to you are: How does your school district remediate students? Might they be willing to try a new approach? Who could you ask?

Lisa Stuart
Art Content Specialist
Montgomery County Public Schools, MD

Friday 02. 1.13

Does your administration/school district value the arts?

Thank you so much to NAEA for allowing me the opportunity to be the Monthly Mentor for February 2013. My name is Lisa Stuart and I am the art content specialist (K-12) for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. We are the largest school system in Maryland and 17th largest in the country. We have approximately 350 art teachers in our county. I was an elementary art teacher for 9 years before coming into this position. My main job responsibilities are to write curriculum, provide professional development, and support teachers with their instruction. I tell you all of this upfront because those three topics will mainly be the focus for this month’s posts.

I will start by sharing two recent Washington Post blog posts by Lisa Phillips author of, The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in an Increasingly Right Brain World. The first, Top 10 Skills Children Learn from the Arts provides “a list of skills that young people learn from studying the arts. They serve as a reminder that the arts — while important to study for their intrinsic value — also promote skills seen as important in academic and life success.” The second blog written by Lisa is called, Why we love Arts but not Arts Education which describes the “contradiction between America’s love of artists and its penchant to undervalue arts education.” Consider sending these two articles as well as information about Lisa’s book to administrators in your school district. In my county, our superintendent has a book club and I believe this book is in line with his current philosophies, so I plan to slip a copy on his desk. :-) Don’t forget to read the comments at the bottom on the blog articles, some of them are VERY interesting.

I plan to end each of my posts by posing a question to you. Please leave a comment at the bottom of this post. Does your administration/school district value the arts? How do you know?

Lisa Stuart
Content Specialist--Art, Theatre, and Dance (K-12)
Rockville, MD