Monthly Mentor

Andrew Watson (April)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Watson is the Fine Arts Instructional Specialist for the Alexandria City Public Schools in Alexandria, Va., where he coordinates the arts education of more than 15,000 students. He is the recipient of the 2015 Art Education Technology Outstanding Teacher Award and the 2019 Southeastern Regional Administration/ Supervision Art Educator of the Year Award from the National Art Education Association. Click "GO" to read his full bio.

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« The Process of Reflection | Main | Be an Artist and an Art Educator (Part 2) »

April 08, 2019

Be an Artist and an Art Educator

By Andrew Watson

Hello, it is my honor to be the NAEA April 2019 Monthly Mentor. When thinking about what I want to share, two themes keep popping up in my head— art educators as leaders and art education as holistic education. So, I’m going to give you a few entrees about each! But first, a foundation for both subjects:

Be an artist, as well as an art educator!

Now, I know most of us went through formal art training and in many ways, we are all artists. But, being an artist is an issue of identity beyond training. Being an artist gains us respect from our students and peers. We don’t just teach about our subject, we live it. Which doesn’t make it easy! During the first few years as an art teacher I found making time to create art beyond classroom samples almost impossible. This was doubly true when I started my position as an administrator and had twin infant boys at home! But, finding my way back to an artistic practice has had such an important impact on my teaching and supervising other art teachers.

My artmaking has informed my teaching in many ways. Most importantly, it has taught me empathy and the importance of play. Keeping up with my artwork reminds me that the process of making art is one of vulnerability.

Image 1Having my work critiqued every now and then gives me sympathy for insecure students!

Art isn’t just hard work it is also deeply personal, which is vital to remember when working with adolescent artists. The self-reflective nature of art also helps me to better understand my students and colleagues. Play is a vital aspect of my process. Having a chance to get down on the floor and get my hands dirty reminds me that to make room for experimentation, the unplanned, and most importantly—fun!

Image 2 My artistic practice literally involves playing with toys!

Teaching art standards, media, and higher order thinking skills is important, but we can’t remove the sense of wonder and discovery. We must leave room for our art and our students to breath and become!

Next time, I will discuss how art education prepared me for leadership.    

- AW

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