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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Saturday 12.29.18

Is anyone out there?

By Shelly Breaux

Just when I feel like I am getting the hang of this whole blogging thing, my month is almost up. Over the past month, I have been making list on top of list of topics I could possibly blog about. It was easy to share my space, my experiences and a few of my favorite lessons. All along wondering if anyone was reading these? Is anyone out there?

I guess it is time to get into the not so fun topic. The topic without pictures. Curriculum. If you are reading this, I have questions for you.

I want to know what your curriculum looks like. Who wrote it? Does it connect to the National Standards? What is your Scope and Sequence? Do you have one that your school district follows? Do you write your own? What does all this look like for you?

We have recently started revisiting our curriculum in our parish. (I am from Louisiana, we have parishes like you have counties.) We had several reasons as to why this all started for us. I won’t go into that as that may just bore you. When a group of us got together to tackle this task, our first question was were do we start? What are others doing?

The more we got into this, I started thinking if others in my state are doing the same thing. We should really be doing this on a state level. In the state of Louisiana, this has been neglected for decades. It is time for a facelift. At our state conference, I reached out to others and was excited to learn that others have been having the same conversations.

So here I am wondering what are others in our nation doing? How is this handled in your state? How is this handled in your district?  Can we start this conversation?

- SB

Wednesday 12.19.18

Do you ask for permission or forgiveness?

By Shelly Breaux

As you walk around your campus, do the colors in the halls remind you of the dentist office?  Are the bathroom stalls tones of red or blue? Do the display cases have dust growing on the items that are possibly older than the children that attend your school? Do you walk the halls thinking of a million ways you can help make your campus more visually pleasing?

I am very fortunate that my campus is barely 20 years old, with some portions of the building being only 2 years old.  Even in a space not built in the 60s, I still find ways to spruce things up.

Last year I noticed our front flower beds were in desperate need of some love. These flower beds line the walkway to enter our school. This is our guest's first impression of our campus. Students would walk straight through the flower beds not even realizing they are there. I don’t have a green thumb, but kept thinking if someone could replant this, I can line it with a design of colored rocks. My problem was rocks are expensive.

I knew that our school has an account with funds just for campus beautification. I also knew that going ask admin for $500 for rocks would seem absurd. I have learned a long time ago to show my principal what I am asking for. Give him a visual.  


I done this at my house so I had a few bags of rocks left over. With the help of a few students, I was able to get a sample of what I was thinking to show admin. Immediately they loved it and didn’t think twice when I asked them to fund this project giving them a quote of how much it would cost.

During final exams, I got an email to go see my Principal. He informed me that a Parent Group would be redoing the entire front flower bed and he added rocks to their list of supplies. We are set to go!

Here is where I messed up.

At the end of the school year parents, students, and teachers spent days redoing our flower beds. (Including lining them with rocks) The hard work paid off as the front of our school looked amazing.

Upon returning this year, with my project in mind, one of the first things I thought of was how was I going to get ALL THOSE ROCKS IN TO MY CLASSROOM? Why didn’t I have them give me the rocks first? Why did I let them put them down only to be dug up?

So after our first week of policy, procedures and assessing where my students were in their art ability, we started digging up rocks. It took a few days of 200 students, a bunch of buckets and one wagon to haul these rocks in to my room.

We then started our color theory lesson! See what I did there. I made us painting rocks part of my curriculum. Secondary Tuesday!  Primary Thursday! Complementary Friday!

I really thought we would be able to paint the rocks within a few weeks. Boy was I wrong. Here we are December and we are just starting to look like we are putting a dent in the rock pile.




Obviously we haven’t been painting rocks since school started. I had to move on with lessons. Since, I have made this a school wide community project inviting everyone in to help get this done. Over our Christmas break I need to think of new ways to get people involved so we can finish this project. Most students are “over painting rocks.” What I thought would only take a few weeks is now taking the entire school year.


Friday 12.14.18

Peace Dove

By Shelly Breaux

Ever go through Starbucks drive through and pay for the car behind you? I am not one to frequent the coffee shop but each time I go I try to make it a habit to treat the next car.  I especially do this around the holidays. In fact, I go more often during the holidays just for this reason.

How do you teach your students to give back through art? How do you teach them to give of their time and talent? How do you lead them to be givers? I want to share with you one of the projects I have done with my students in the past that focused on just this!

Peace Doves

This project started with me wanting to show students how you can get others attention through art and how you can send positive messages through art. I did this project several years ago between the Thanksgiving and Christmas break.


It is not uncommon for my students to be seen on campus laying on the floor, standing on tables or stealing rocks out of the front flower bed. (I may need to explain this in another blog, TBC)

When my students are in the halls around campus others don’t pay much attention to what they are doing. This makes it easy for us to camouflage the doves into our surroundings.

Students are to pick areas that they want to hide the doves.  They must use what they know with color theory to be able to match the colors they need. They must make choices in which mediums would work best for the space they are working in.


We purposely make some doves more visible to get others attention.


Then the magic happens. My students start hearing others talking about the doves. Once people start to notice them (kids and adults) they start asking questions. Who made these? Why are they here? What does it mean? Look! I found another one! WAIT! Come see this one!


I encourage my students to just listen and not reveal that we put them there. During class, we share stories of what we are hearing in the halls. This can lead to class discussions on:

  1. How can art make an impact on others?
  2. How can art send a positive message to others?
  3. Now that we got their attention, what do we do?
  4. Do we leave them up or do something with them?
  5. What can these doves mean?

That year we decided to take them down and place them on large windows in the main hall of our campus with the world PEACE. Students decided the doves can represent diversity, peace, and love. That is when we titled them PEACE DOVES.


This was done 3 years ago, and do you know I still see doves left behind on campus. I have 3 still in my room. Every so often, a student will notice the doves in my room and inquire about it. They will even share other places they have seen them on campus.


This is not a project I do every year as I feel that it will lose its impact. Maybe it is time to revisit this project. With social media having such a huge impact on my students, it maybe a way to focus on something positive when we get back from our Christmas break.


Tuesday 12.11.18

We Are Life Long Learners

By Shelly Breaux

Today was a day of celebration. The day started with brunch celebrating Ben getting his first teaching job and ending with a shower for Trinity who is about to welcome her baby boy into this world. What does this have to do with Art Education?

In the state of Louisiana, students entering Education must complete an internship. Our local University reaches out to teachers asking us to mentor these students as they finish up their last semester of college. These students are about to become our colleagues. These students are taking our classrooms when we retire. These students share the same passion as we do.

Picture1Trinity did her student teaching with me in 2014.

Picture2Ben did his student teaching with me in 2017.

I became a mentor teacher my first-year teaching. You read that right! MY FIRST YEAR! When asked by “My Mentor” I immediately thought she had lost her mind. It’s my first year, I don’t know what I am doing, but I did it. I learned so much from that experience that I have had a student teacher every year since.

I have heard several reasons why others don’t want to have a student teacher.

Here are some reasons why you DO want to take in a Preservice Art Education Major.

Extra Eyes, Ears and Hands

My students benefit from me having extra help in the classroom. With two of us, we get to spend more one on one time with students. We can divide and conquer. I can focus on a task and not have to worry of taking my eyes off “little Johnny.

Reflecting on Your Own Practice

If I am going to be sharing my space, that means I am going to be sharing my thought process. Student teachers are the best “students”. They are eager to learn. As I am sharing my procedures, I am sharing my “why”. As I am sharing my lessons, I am sharing my “why”. Although we are highly reflecting professionals to begin with, this process really forces me to really think about my “why”.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

I treat my student teachers as my equal. I build them up to be ready to take on my classes solo by starting with us teaching together. Team teaching is a great way to get them in the front lines. Team teaching is a great way for my students to learn to go to them. Team teaching helps make sure they are getting a hands-on experience of what it is really like to be a teacher.

Giving Back

As I stated in a previous blog, we constantly have to defend our role in education. Opening our door to the “next” art teacher is another way of advocating for art education. If we are not being a part of preparing the “next” then we are not being a part of helping build the Art Education Community.

I often tell my students teachers, in this experience you will either learn things you want to take with you or things you will never do.  Either way, you are learning.

Till Next Time….Give Back!

- SB

Monday 12. 3.18

Why is ART important?

By Shelly Breaux

Why is ART important? The infamous question. The question we hear, and we politely smile while on the inside we are rolling our eyes. We hear it when parents are not pleased with their students’ progress. “Why does he/she have to take art? He/she can’t draw.” We hear it in faculty meetings “Just take them out of art.” We hear it from our coworkers. “Just get the art students to do it.” We have all been in the position of defending our role in education. How do you answer the question? How do you defend your position? How do you show the importance of art in our schools?

Hands on, time management, confidence, visual learning, decision making, invention are just a few words that come to mind. Let's talk invention. We know that art dates to prehistoric times. We can bore the “non-artsy” with the brilliance of Michelangelo. Most people know Leonardo for painting the Last Supper, we can surprise them with him as a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. Many have seen MC Escher’s “Hand with Reflecting Sphere” but can they talk about his mathematical genius? You see where I am going with this? As art educators we not only know the history behind art and artist, we understand the relationships not only to academics but in our day to day life.

I teach using art as an educational tool. I focus on inquiry-based learning, problem solving, collaboration, conceptual thinking and constructive criticism. I believe the future is looking for self -reliant learners. When we teach focusing on art as an educational tool, we are helping are students explore different ways of learning, take ownership of their work and gain confidence.

It is important for us think of “our answer” when questioned on arts importance. It is up to us to educate those who don’t see it the way we do.


This is a piece that my Art 1 students recently finished. You will see our Math teachers bring their students in front of our work to talk about proportions. Our AP English  students had to write a response to this piece. Our Engineering students use this piece to exam the use of a grid.

When someone compliments my students work. I tell those stories first. I share the connections of art to our daily lives. I speak of the process my students go through to create. It's those teachable moments that help me not have to face the big question.

Till next time….Connect!

- SB

Saturday 12. 1.18

My Space

By Shelly Breaux 

I am a jump now, think later type of person, often finding myself thinking “what did I just get myself into?” I was asked to Blog for the NAEA Monthly Mentor after I received the honor of Southeastern Secondary Art Educator. I immediately responded YES! So here I am asking myself “What did I get myself into?”  I don’t know the first thing about blogging. I don’t really read blogs. I don’t know if there is blogging etiquette. I guess I need to figure it out. So here I am embracing this new experience.  Isn’t that what we do to our students every day? Throw something new at them, have them dive in and problem solve. 

I figured I would start the month by sharing my space in which I work in every day. From that moment you walk into your classroom for the very first time, you only then can start your big plan. Your space dictates your procedures and your instruction.


I am very fortunate to have the size and space I have in my classroom. I don’t clean for guests, so I didn’t clean-up for the picture.

How we utilize our space says a lot about us as educators. Everything in my room has a purpose. Everything we do comes from a plan. If that plan doesn’t work then we reflect and make changes accordingly. Now if you are anything like me, at times my best ideas come spare of the moment and I just roll with it.

Picture2I want my students to take pride in their space. Placement of materials can make or break traffic flow and transitions.


Storage space!!! We can never have enough.


I created a space for critiques or just for students to take a step back to look at their work in progress.


Being able to work with my students is valuable in demos. I don’t know what I would do without my Elmo!


My hallway has cork walls where I can staple the students work directly to the wall to display for the year.


A huge perk I have is having this patio area right outside my classroom for students to work outside on pretty days if they choose.


It’s a mess, but it is my organized mess. Having a space where I can keep my library of books and lock up items you don’t want students to have access to is nice.

Till next time….Imagine!