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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Tuesday 05.26.15

Changing Jobs: Be Patient with Yourself

From: Tracy Fortune

I started a new job this past fall. After 10 years at middle school, I moved to one of the high schools in my school district. While I had taught high school before, it had been a number of years since I had worked with older students. I am not sure why I was surprised, but it was definitely more of a transition than I expected. The change meant a new building with new staff, new daily schedule including starting an hour earlier, and planning for new courses. I was surprised not to have a printer in my room and to have limited access to photocopying. I have a great and helpful arts department, but it still took a while to figure procedures and expectations for the day to day and special events of a different school.

This school year started earlier than usual for us and although I worked hard at the end of the summer it was a big job to set up my new room. I realized once the school year started, I had to be more patient with myself. I worked for ten years at the same school (we did move into a new building in year 8) and over that time frame I made hundreds of changes to improve the flow and look of the space, to plan units and assessments, manage materials and equipment, and learn the ins and outs of a school building and its staff. It was unrealistic to get to get everything figured out in a few weeks or even a few months.

Now that the school year is almost over, I can look back and see how far I have come. Overall the year went well and the second semester was so much easier than the first. I loved working with the older students and enjoyed conversations and inspiring students to create amazing art. Our school’s year end art show called Artasia showcased the hard work and creativity of our students and the dedication and guidance of our arts department.

I am looking forward to summer break, but am already excited for next year. I found out I will be teaching AP Art next year, so I will have new but fun challenge on my plate. If you have a new job next year, take my advice and Be Patient With Yourself! You don’t have to be perfect and remember it takes time to create a learning environment and curriculum to suit you and your students.

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Monday 05.18.15

Share Your Ideas with Fellow Art Teachers

From: Tracy Fortune

Part of being a great art teacher is contributing to the art education field. I know I love finding great unit ideas, new techniques, technical and organizational tips, and helpful teaching resources. I appreciate that other teachers share their ideas, so realized sharing my best lessons and resources could help others.  Need ideas on how to share your work? Here are a few ideas.

1. National Magazines: One exciting way to share your unit plans with fellow art teachers is to submit articles to great art education magazines such as Arts and Activities and School Arts magazine. I remember how excited I was when my first article “Oaxacan Folk Animal” article came out. How do you go about getting an article published. The first step is find out the magazines specification for the article and accompanying photographs.
2. State Publications: My state has a new quarterly publication called Splatter magazine that is also looking for interesting articles. The Splatter editor wanted some regular features and I now coordinate one call “Organized Splatter” with tips for the artroom. If you don’t live in Washington, consider checking to see if your state has a publication.
3. Other Publishing Companies: The NAEA convention is a great way to network. I talked to Amy Woodworth at Crystal Publications at the San Diego conference and this year in New Orleans, I had a teaching resource “Speaking About Art” for sale at the exhibit hall and is also available online.
4. Artsonia: I recommend sharing student work and lesson plans on Artsonia. I love looking at the inspiring artwork on this site, as well as submitting student work.
5. NAEA Lesson Plans: I haven’t done it yet, but one of my next steps is to submit a unit plan to NAEA.

If you haven’t done it yet, or it has been a long time, consider taking the first step to Share Your Ideas with Fellow Art Teachers.


Monday 05.11.15

Go on an Inspiration Adventure

From: Tracy Fortune

While going to state and national conferences are fabulous forms of professional development, there are other ways to get ideas to improve your teaching practice, get inspiration for innovative projects, and learn new techniques. My most recent discovery was a week ago.  I ventured on a 2.5 hour drive with a retired art teacher friend to the Oregon Potter’s Association’s annual Ceramic Showcase 2015 in Portland.  We didn’t know what to expect, but the description of the event featuring nearly 200 ceramic artists sounded promising.

Wow, we were amazed.  The Ceramic Showcase included a gallery exhibit and rows of booths with work by a huge number of artisans. The sculptural and functional pieces on display varied immensely in technique, function, size, theme and style. Each booth was wonderfully presented and we enjoyed spending several hours looking at the ceramic work and talking to the artists. Everyone was really friendly, willing to share ideas and all I asked allowed me to take photographs. In an adjacent part of the venue, there was an impressive high school ceramics exhibit, creative work by international ceramics artists from Japan, a demonstration area and a place to learn wheel pottery taught by professional potters. There was even live music.

As we headed home my mind was buzzing with ideas and I couldn’t wait to get back to my classroom. My friend who is a practicing artist also loved seeing the work and found it very inspiring. I usually say attending an event or taking a class is worthwhile if it gives you one great idea. I came home with numerous ideas, so attending the Ceramic Showcase was definitely worth it. Perhaps this will inspire you to …Go on an Inspiration Adventure.

Friday 05. 1.15

Leadership: Take That First Step…Who Knows Where It Will Lead

From: Tracy Fortune

I was excited to be asked to be a NAEA Monthly Mentor for the month of May, after being selected as the Washington State Art Educator of the Year this past fall. Reflecting on my journey to this point, one influential choice I made was taking on the challenge of earning my National Board Certification. While working on Entry 4: Professional Contributions I realized I was not doing much to be a leader in the art education community. Attending my state’s fall art conference seemed like a natural starting place. The conference was held in the Tri–Cities area four hours away from my home in Tacoma, Washington. I didn’t really know what to expect, but ventured there alone. I don’t remember the details, but somehow I arranged to share a room with another art teacher who I had never met. The WAEA conference was inspiring and I enjoyed getting to know my roommate a fun, fellow art teacher Mari Atkinson.

That following spring the NAEA conference was in Baltimore. WOW…A five day event with thousands of other art educators, hundreds and hundreds of inspiring presentations, and an exhibition hall full of exciting vendors. I was hooked. Becoming a presenter at our state conference and at Arts Time, a regional art conference, was the logical next step. I considered my best units and presented a couple of them with great reviews. When Seattle hosted the NAEA National Convention I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of a round robin style hands-on presentation with some teachers from my state. That led to presenting at more national and state conferences. As I got to know those in leadership Washington, they encouraged me to come to monthly board meetings. As the lone art teacher in my building, I was thrilled to meet and get to know other art teachers. I am now on the board serving as secretary. I am part of an amazing team that includes that roommate Mari who is one of the co-presidents.

If you are not involved or have not done much to connect with other art teachers, I highly recommend you take that first step. Attend a conference. Invite a fellow art teacher to a conference. Look into attending a board meeting. Submit a proposal to present at a conference. If you get involved you will probably make some great new friends and undoubtedly be a more inspired art teacher. I know that is what happened to me.

Feel free to check out the spring issue of WAEA’s Splatter publication on the theme of leadership.