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.



Join the largest creative community established exclusively for visual arts educators, college professors, researchers, administrators, and museum educators.

Join NAEA Renew Membership

« December 2018 | Main | February 2019 »

Wednesday 01.30.19

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.

Friday 01.25.19

Being Resourced in Our Renewal

By Brooke Hofsess

In this post, I share a profusion of resources because it is my belief that being resourced in our renewal includes constantly setting ourselves before new ideas, experiences, and perspectives. Here is a list of what I am taking in for renewal this month:

  • Michelle Obama’s incredibly moving memoir, Becoming.
  • A lively new take on a old theme to share with my daughter, The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken.
  • The philosophy and large-scale papermaking of Hong Hong.
  • My recent residency here and an upcoming residency here.
  • The encaustic works and journals of Erin Keane.
  • This podcast with Mahzarin Banaji who studies implicit bias and how social change becomes possible.
  • Anything written (or spoken) by Robin Wall Kimmerer, after loving her book Braiding Sweetgrass.


What would be on your list? At some point this month, consider taking an inventory of what feeds your intellect, imagination, curiosity, and renewal-- and make a plan to bring more of it into your days. Infuse your life with books, artwork, podcasts, and other fodder that ignites your questions and moves you to imagine yourself and the world otherwise. Fold it imperfectly, messily into your teaching, art making, and living. In the words of a mentor, “the work we do on ourselves is a gift to those we teach” (Vagle, 2011, p. 424). 

In my next and final post, I’ll dig into some of the politics that limit what we might imagine as renewal in our professional learning, and offer some alternative possibilities. As always, I look forward to your feedback and ideas. Feel free to leave suggestions or requests in the comments.

- BH


Vagle, M. (2011, April). An assaulting displacement of the social sciences. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.


Thursday 01.10.19

Being with Art Practice as Renewal

By Brooke Hofsess


As an art teacher educator, I often wonder, How do we prepare artist-teachers to find their way through the inevitable obstacles to renewal? Journaling has always been a way for me to explore difficult questions and circumstances, and it is a practice I share with my students. Therefore, my preservice classes kick off with either altering or stitching a blank book so we can dive deeply into living our unsolved questions (Rilke, 2011).

For me, seeking renewal often happens by way of being with my art practice. Therefore, this post invites you into my bookbinding practice by offering a provocation for the being of renewal-- stitching a handbound journal. I learned to make the pamphlet-stitched journal with woven binding (featured above) from one of my incredible mentors, Dr. Laura Gardner (Winthrop University). Laura generously shared how to make this book form with me a few years ago, and it quickly became my very favorite journal to make for myself and with my students.

Below I take you step-by-step through the process of making the journal pictured above. Let the photographs fill in the information I provide with text, as neither one will make complete sense without the other. I also recommend you read through the entire process before starting.

Step 1: Gather the following materials:

  • 2 decorative papers (old book jackets also work great) for front and back covers
             - In step 3 you will cut to 8.5 x 11 (11 minimum, longer if you want an elegant
             - Please save scraps when you trim covers for next item
  • 3 decorative papers 8.5 x variable (at least 4 and no more than 11)
             - In Step 5 you will use trimmings from front and back covers to make covers
               for inside three signatures.
  • Ruler
  • Exacto
  • 20 sheets of copy paper, sized 8.5 x 11
  • 1 piece of colorful copy paper, cut 8.5 x 4
  • Awl or push pin
  • Bonefolder (optional)
  • Bookbinding thread (or embroidery floss)


Note: Jump in even if you don’t have the same bookbinding tools featured above. You can do this project with minimal and/or makeshift tools.

Step 2: This journal is composed of five signatures (a signature is two or more sheets of paper stacked and folded together). Make all five signatures by dividing the 20 sheets of paper in five piles of four sheets of paper, then folding each stack of paper in half.

Fold the smaller color paper piece in half and set aside. This will be a template to poke holes.


Step 3: Cut front and back covers to size.


Step 4: Fold decorative paper in half and nest signatures inside. If paper is longer than 11, you can make a really elegant fold. My paper was 12 in. wide, so my fold is tiny but hopefully offers you an idea of how this would work.



Step 5: Use trimmings from front and back covers to make three additional partial covers for the inside three signatures. Nest copy paper signatures inside.


Step 6:
Order and stack the five signatures with covers to your aesthetic-- from front to back.


Step 7: Make a 5-hole template by marking the colorful sheet of cut copy paper. Indicate with a pencil where the five holes for sewing will be poked along the inner fold of each signature with cover on. You can measure with a ruler, or simply fold to measure. Put the template inside the signature with cover on, and poke all five holes. Repeat for all five signatures/covers. Do your best to keep the signatures in order so the holes line up neatly for sewing.


Step 8:
Sew each of the five signatures with covers using a 5-hole pamphlet stitch. I sketched a diagram below but don’t hesitate to pull up a video tutorial online if you need someone to talk you through it the first few times.

Holes poked and ready to stitch!


Always start and end inside the signature at the middle hole (station 3).


A curved bookbinding needle can be useful, but any thin needle will do. Too thick a needle might rip your paper.


Moving from inside to outside the book in a figure eight movement.


Finally, tie a double knot around the long thread at the center hole.


Step 9: Use the pamphlet stitch to bind each of the five signatures with covers individually.


Step 10:
Stack all five sewn signatures. Now you are reading to begin weaving the binding using a simple over and under stitch. You will see there are four sections to weave, two long and two short. Be creative with color if you like. To determine how much thread to start with per section, simply stretch thread between your outstretched arms and cut. You can always tie more on if you run out of thread, so just jump in. I find the weaving to be meditative.




Step 11: Tie off thread from first section with a new length of thread to move on with weaving the next section. (Leave tails long and weave them into the binding at the very end- more on that step below).


Step 12:
Be sure to look up every now and again to relax your eyes.


Step 13:
Continue weaving until you complete all four sections. Change thread colors as you like, or use the same color throughout. Again, when you finish-- weave longer threads back into the binding to secure your stitching. Use the needle to weave each loose thread in and trim.


Step 14: Your journal is complete! Grab some coffee, water, or tea and work through the following prompts:

  • Draw or write about your perspectives or definitions of renewal.
  • What are the 2-3 biggest obstacles to your renewal? What would you need to work around or remove these blocks?
  • Think of your most impactful mentor. What have you learned from this person and how does returning to their teachings renew you?


To close, taking the time to make a handbound journal and using it for deep exploration jumpstarts my renewal. In my next post, I will share a profusion of resources (a list of what I am reading and taking in for renewal). As always, I look forward to your feedback and questions. It would be lovely to hear some of your responses to the journaling prompts in the comments.




Rilke, R. M., & Harman, M. (2011). Letters to a young poet. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Tuesday 01. 1.19

The Being of Renewal

By Brooke Hofsess

I am delighted to be in touch with you as NAEA’s January 2019 Monthly Mentor. The relationship between teacher renewal and professional learning, especially as it concerns artist-teachers, is one of my areas of interest. Over the next month, you can expect a series of shorts essays from me around the topic, The Being of Renewal. In this series I will:

  • Introduce my perspectives on renewal and professional learning;
  • Offer a provocation from my creative practice of book arts/journaling;
  • Share a profusion of resources (a list of what I am reading and taking in for renewal);
  • Dig into some of the politics that limit what we might imagine as renewal in our professional learning, and offer some alternative possibilities.

For now, I’ll jump in by offering a brief context regarding my perspectives on renewal and professional learning. Teacher renewal is often discussed (in the context of professional learning) as the credits needed to keep a teaching license up-to-date or to satisfy a school mandated requirement. Yet, linguistically, the word renewal implies a sense of moving, becoming, reaching, repairing-- and it is these overtones that really intrigue me. My work reaches toward a re-imagining of teacher renewal as the geographies of connectedness that artist-teachers live through in their practices.

Through my teaching and research, I have come to see professional learning as more generative and elusive than what we often designate as half-day workshops and training seminars; I see it as teachers learning together and alone as they experience the world in various ways that circle back to their work in classrooms (Day & Sachs, 2005). I feel energized by recent scholarship exploring the potential of professional learning opportunities that are robustly “… experimental, experiential, empowering, ongoing, contextual, collaborative, connecting theory to practice” (Macintyre Latta & Kim, 2010, p. 139). For artist-teachers, I recognize that this potential brings a responsibility and an attention to a need for “ongoing professional development support for the deeply embedded artist identities of many arts teachers” (Scheib, 2006, p. 9). It makes good sense to me that artists who teach benefit from ongoing, creative conversation and action— making, doing, imagining, sketching, living fully, visiting museums, listening, reading, playing, sharing and conversing with others along the way. All of this and more informs my sense of renewal as a way of being in the world-- moving, becoming, reaching, repairing.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts (Hofsess, 2016):

Professional learning is holistic and unbounded, entangling personal and professional threads.

Renewal is not an end, product, destination. You cannot arrive there, because you are forever on the move.

In my next post, I will be writing to you from my bookbinding table in order to share a provocation that jumpstarts my renewal. It is one I share with my preservice students almost every semester. I look forward to your feedback and ideas. Feel free to leave suggestions or requests in the comments.

- BH



Hofsess, B. A. (2016). Unfolding afterglow: Letters and conversations on teacher renewal. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 2016.

Latta, M. M., & Kim, J. H. (2009). Narrative inquiry invites professional development: Educators claim the creative space of praxis. Journal of Educational Research, 103(2), 137–148.

Sachs, J., & Day, C. (2004). International Handbook on the Continuing Professional Development of Teachers. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education.

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.