Monthly Mentor

Susan Silva (August)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Susan Silva is currently the Secondary Fine Arts Resource Teacher in Fairfax County, VA. Beyond the classroom, she has served as a curriculum fellow for Engaging the Arts and Museums in Mind for Project Zero, as well as facilitator of Digital Storytelling at the National Gallery of Art. Silva was named 2019 Southeastern Region Art Educator by the National Art Education Association. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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« Being Resourced in Our Renewal | Main | She’s an art teacher... »

January 30, 2019

Being Renewed in Play

By Brooke Hofsess

Thank you for the opportunity to share my inklings and imaginings with you this month as the NAEA Monthly Mentor. My gratitude extends to NAEA’s Web and Communications Design Manager
, Heather Rose, for working with me on all the logistics and details: Thanks, Heather! This will be my final post for the month, and where I dig into some of the politics that limit what we might imagine as renewal in our professional learning, and offer play as an alternative possibility.

Through my research, my attention has been pointed to many, many obstacles to renewal for artist-teachers: lack of resources, isolation, time constraints, a need for content-driven professional development that focuses on visual art, and the current focus on standardized outcomes in learning, and therefore, in professional learning (see, Conway, Hibbard, Albert, & Hourigan, 2005; Gates, 2010; Hourigan, 2011; Jeffers, 1996; Lind, 2012; Macintyre Latta & Kim, 2010; Mantas & Di Rezze, 2011; Sabol, 2006; Scheib, 2006; Thompson, 1986; Upitis, 2005). Other findings demonstrate that many art educators find it frustrating to apply high-quality professional learning in “a system that isolated them from other teachers; a system that didn’t allow them the time to think deeply about their practice or plan detailed lessons” (Lind, 2012, p. 15). 

In other words, for artist-teachers there is often little space in which to flow, become immersed, wonder, think deeply alone or with others, and engage with art and artmaking.

Given all of this, I have come to believe that to play as an artist-teacher is to resist standardization with fierce ontological traction-- meaning that when we play, we embody resistance to the challenges I named above.

Play is a powerful tool for our renewal-- a tool that has challenged me to try all kinds of new creative practices: handmade paper sculpture, letterpress printing, alternative photography, even performance art.

If you could choose one way to play, to be an explorer of something completely new to you-- what would it be?

Whatever comes to mind, I hope you might engage with it-- and that it brings you into renewal.

To close, I leave you with the words of one of the most inspiring scholars I have had the pleasure of learning from-- educational philosopher Maxine Greene (2001):

We see ourselves in partnership when we think of educational renewal, but our part has to do with mystery and possibility, with loving questions that are unanswerable, with probing depths that are no longer closed. Our contribution to reform may be a suggestion for catching more frequent glimpses of the half-moon, more frequent movements with flamenco dancers, more heart-stopping dialogue with those that find themselves on stage. It is immeasurable, but it may signify a necessary professional development; it may be named ‘possibility’. (p. 132)

- BH



Conway, C. M., Hibbard, S., Albert, D., & Hourigan, R. (2005). Professional development for arts teachers. Arts Education Policy Review, 107(1), 3-9.

Gates, L. (2010). Professional development through collaborative inquiry for an art education archipelago. Studies in Art Education, 52(1), 6-17.

Greene, M. (2001). Variations on a blue guitar: The Lincoln Center Institute lectures on aesthetic education. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Hourigan, R. (2011). Race to the top: Implications for professional development in arts education, Arts Education Policy Review, 112(2), 60-64.           

Jeffers, C. (1996). Professional development in art education today: A survey of Kansas art teachers, Studies in Art Education, 37(2), 101-114.

Lind, V. (2012). High quality professional development: An investigation of the supports for and barriers to professional development in arts education. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 8(2).

Macintyre Latta, M., & Kim, J. (2010). Narrative inquiry invites professional development: Educators claim the creative space of praxis. Journal of Educational Research, 103(2), 137-148.

Mantas, K., & Di Rezze, G. (2011). On becoming "wide-awake": Artful re-search and co-creative process as teacher development. International Journal of Education & The Arts, 12(SI 1.4).

Sabol, F. R. (2006). Professional development in art education: A study of needs, issues, and concerns of art educators. Reston, VA: The National Art Education Foundation.

Scheib, J. W. (2006). Policy implications for teacher retention: Meeting the needs of the dual identities of arts educators. Arts Education Policy Review, 107(6), 5-10.

Thompson, K. (1986). Teachers as Artists. Art Education, 39(6), 47-48.

Upitis, R. (2005). Experiences of artists and artist-teachers involved in teacher professional development programs. International Journal Of Education & The Arts, 6(8), 1-12.


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