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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March 01, 2019

Jury Duty? Me?

By Holly Houston

At some point last summer I received a notice that I would be called upon to for Jury Duty within the year; I was asked to send back my most convenient windows of time. I found this request very generous, yet also almost comical to respond to, given the nature of teaching. Classes were just getting up and running in September and October, I had a visiting artist arriving for the month of November, when he departed I would be frantically trying to pack in all that had been pushed aside in November before we reached the end of the semester in mid-January. March held an annual trip to NYC with advanced art students, as well as the National Conference in Boston. April held an already planned vacation week in a very warm spot, and May and June involved the final push for AP students and wrapping up the year for all others. I wrote back that February would be best.

Sure enough, a letter arrived in January, detailing my duties. In both preparation and as a firm believer in asking questions, I called the number on my formal and slightly intimidating yellow paper (that told me it was a crime to not show up at jury duty) and explained that my job as an art educator included, among many other technical skills, teaching students how to throw on the wheel and how to properly use an expensive etching press--things that were nearly impossible to find a substitute to teach. The clerk kindly yet briskly told me that while I certainly was NOT excused, she could minimize my time. I felt a deep curiosity and sense of civic duty, yet also an inner frustration over creating lessons that would lead to having a sub for an undetermined period of time.

I was slightly dismayed by what became the standard adult response when they heard I had Jury Duty: picture a sad face accompanying the words, “I’m so sorry; what a pain!,” to which I responded that I hoped people like me were in the jury if I was on trial! I was somewhat buoyed by the standard student response, which was generally open curiosity. I frontloaded class information to students so that they would be prepared for my possible extended absence and also explained to them all I knew about the jury duty process so that they might one day be prepared to accept this civic duty.

The day arrived when I was required to be at the courthouse by 8am. Sitting shoulder to shoulder in a courtroom, we potential jurors watched a video about being a juror, yet then I was able to leave, and I promptly returned to my classroom. At my next appointed time to appear, oddly at 11am, I found a line of people signing in to prove they had shown up, then we were all allowed to leave as there were no cases scheduled! Thus ended my civic duties, which was both a relief and a letdown, and I headed back to class. I didn’t find out what it was like to participate in an entire trial and I wasn’t called upon to make any judgement calls. I did, however, experience the stress of not knowing what serving on jury duty would truly look like for me and my students. I overprepared all of us. I was able to sit in a courtroom for a few hours, people watch, and study the portraits on the walls and the incredibly ornate ceiling and chandeliers--truly impressive. My students, of course, sailed through my absences, kept creating artwork, and welcomed my return. The bottom line is I am relieved this experience is over and also feel happy that the experienced educated not only me, but also my students, on this civic duty to which we have relatively little control, yet need to take seriously.



Suzanne Goulet


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