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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June 28, 2018

Connecting Your Art Classroom to Your Student’s World

From: Renna Moore

 “Why do I have to take Art? I am not going to major in it.”  “My teacher said I could come back to his/her classroom during your class, since it is just Art.” “Why doesn’t my child have an A in your class? It’s Art.”  I know we have all heard these things at least once from students, fellow teachers, and parents. Its statements like these that can suck the joy out of teaching Art. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a fellow Art teacher post about something like this in one of the many Art teacher Facebook groups.

Each teacher has their own way of dealing with these comments. When it comes to my students, instead of waiting for the whining about being in my classroom, I try to deal with it head-on on the first day of class. After going over all of the usual information, I divide my classes into groups and do the usual teambuilding problem solving icebreaker. I try to change it up each year. Last year we did the balloon tower challenge.

Image 1 june 28th

After the class has finished, I sit everyone down and ask everyone to tell me what they think the point of that was. I get a lot of answers about how it was to get to know their classmates and how it was fun. I tell them I agree with them, then I ask them why we would be doing that in an Art room. Sometimes I have students get it right away, others not. But as a class we have a discussion about how the challenge was Problem-solving and an opportunity to be creative. I then tell them, even if you have no plans on pursuing art as a career, you do need to be able to solve problems. That is what my art class is for, to help you come up with creative solutions to whatever “problem” or “challenge” I give you. This usually opens up the conversation about how Art relates back to whatever is their other interests.

Image 2 june 28th

To help with the idea of how Art connects to other areas, I made this set of posters for my hallway.  The Info on each poster deals with how other subjects are found in Art. I found this on the incredible art website in an article written by Tina Farrell called “Why Teach Art?” I was so inspired by it, I had to use it.  I attached the link below.

Finally I have found that when it comes to other teachers, principals, and parents having a list of facts, ready to be quoted at any point and time, shuts down the naysayers.  My personal favorite has to do with medical schools, such as Harvard, Yale, and Penn, requiring art classes for their students (links below).

I would also make sure you have read over the NAEA Advocacy page. They have an Advocacy Toolkit that has great information to use.

Find whatever facts or data you find interesting and have those ready to go whenever you have someone question Why Art is Important?




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