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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July 01, 2015

“Thinking” in Class

From: Kirby Meng

I have found that students are sometimes stressed by some of the other classes that they take when they come to the Art room; it takes them a few minutes to decompress enough to be able to even determine where to begin. To encourage this, I have students come into the room and get their work out, get their supplies together, and get settled while I walk around and talk to them and take the pulse of the class. Once they are all seated, we review the current assignment and standards as well as what is expected from them and about where they should be in the process.  If there are no questions, then everyone starts work and I am available to help students individually.


At this point, I sometimes see students sitting and not really working.  When asked what they are doing, they are inevitably “thinking”. I began jokingly telling them that they need to “think” on their own time because they need all their time to work in class! I see this more in my upper level classes where they are usually working on projects of their own design with fewer set parameters; they start at different times, work in different mediums, on different grounds and in different sizes. Sometimes an idea doesn’t instantly occur to a student and “thinking” ensues. The problem is, I have found that leaving students to think alone is often not very productive, because they don’t know what to think about! If they knew what to think about, they would have an idea for the project and would have begun work. Something I have found to be more effective is to go and think with them! I ask the students questions about what their current interests are, how large they want to work, what medium they are considering, etc. and their responses usually lead to at least a direction for exploration and thumbnail sketches.


While I always tell students about assignments in advance so that they can begin thinking and researching  to start the assignment and there are always resources in the room to help them find their direction, I realize that busy lives sometimes get in the way, and students hit roadblocks even with resources present! Stepping in and helping them “think”, or even having students “think” with each other has worked for me. Do you have similar experiences? If so, what do you do? 


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