Monthly Mentor

Krissy Ponden (June)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Krissy has been teaching art to elementary and middle school children for the past 15 years in addition to serving as the department chair. She is the co-coordinator of her school’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee and currently serves on the NAEA Commission for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as the Middle Division Commissioner. 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

« Jury Duty? Me? | Main | Keynote Address for Youth Art Month Celebration at PMA - March 2019 »

March 03, 2019

Ashtrays and Assumptions

By Holly Houston

One beginning ceramic project that was worked on while I was fulfilling my civic duty as a potential juror was the making of pinch pots. Upon inspection when I returned, I found many fabulous, very well-formed and unique pots. Students were asked to have refined, even sides and bases, use texture on at least two of their pots, utilize sprigs on at least one other, and leave smooth spaces for decals on one other. There were multiple examples left in the room as references. Two different students made these pinch pots.


When I saw them an inner voice shouted in my head, “ASHTRAYS??!!!” As fate would have it, the day of their next class was a snow day and the following class found them both on a field trip. This was most likely to their advantage, as it gave me some time to think about the origins of these pieces. I called on a young substitute from the classroom across the hall; she is a former art student of mine. I asked her what she thought these were. She looked puzzled, then tentatively volunteered, “Pinch pots?” When I asked her if she had ever seen an ashtray, she said no. We discussed the relevance of ashtrays as a current-day household item, and determined it unlikely a teenage student at our school would think to make one, if s/he even knew what one was. Our students are more likely to vape (a whole other issue) than smoke cigarettes, and I have certainly never heard any student refer to ashtrays or ashtray use. It is more likely one student thought of altering the edge of the pot and the other student followed suit.

This made me consider the assumptions we make as teachers and the need to stay relevant to our students. I think by showing students we have an interest and at least a general understanding of what is trending in their lives, we are showing we care. As an example, after taking a state-designed and mandated survey on technology use, an Advisee shook his head and said he would have put more effort into it if he hadn’t been asked such irrelevant questions such as how often he accessed Facebook. “We don’t use Facebook,” he scornfully said.

Despite feeling fairly certain these pinch pots are not destined to hold ashes, it is hard to let go of thinking about the viewing of them in the display cases by people my age and wonder if they, too, will see ashtrays. I will have to be doubly sure to post the project criteria nearby!



Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.