Monthly Mentor

Aaron Knochel (October)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Aaron D. Knochel, PhD, is Associate Professor of Art Education in the Penn State School of Visual Arts and an Affiliated Faculty at the Art & Design Research Incubator (ADRI) at The Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on intersections between art education, transdisciplinarity, and social theory. Aaron was named 2019 Eastern Region Higher Education Art Educator by NAEA. Click "GO" to read his full bio.

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August 12, 2019

Finding Your Spirit Animals

By Susan Silva

Who are the people that collaborate, support, challenge and celebrate with you?

OHSARTDEPArtmet

As the school year gets rolling it is imperative to keep your well full. That is a feat best accomplished by getting to know your campus community. Do you know all your peers? Creating environments where students and teachers thrive is best cultivated by symbiotic energy often created by many people. Having a network of critical friends and colleagues is an important ingredient to your day.  

School buildings are chalk full of talented individuals. Developing relationships with your fellow faculty and staff will enrich your teaching and daily experience tenfold. I know in every school where I taught it was important to know the teachers within the art department as well as other professionals around the building. I would take the time to seek out my fellow spirit animals.

Consider all the amazing people it takes to populate your school community. Harness this energy to create the best team you can for yourself and ultimately your students. The strongest school communities I have ever been a part of respect the individual teachers and use their strengths to enhance the overall learning environment. A strong community builds capacity by growing relationships. Part of growing relationships is recognizing what amazing resources are at your disposal on your school campus. The best resource you have access to as teachers is bar none each other!

Ravenandbull
There are new teachers on your campus, and just like the new students you are meeting they are filled with questions and curiosity about the culture on campus. There are also teachers who have been on your campus for a while who would welcome the opportunity to be drawn out, it just has not happened yet. Be an ambassador to those teachers who are making heads and tails of the innerworkings of the school. Greet the teachers who are on either side of your classroom or along your hallway. Knowing their names and a little bit about them is as important as knowing your students.

Coffeewithfriends

Be humble and kind. Generosity of spirit goes miles. Remember when you were the new kid on the block? Invite another staff member in for a cup of coffee before school, eat lunch together or just be intentional in making eye contact and saying hello when you pass in the hallway. You never know who is struggling, looking for a kind hello or thirsting to connect. As you navigate these adult relationships, you are also modeling healthy relationships for your students. They will see it, and they will ultimately benefit from the community you are cultivating. Teaching is demanding and can be a whole lot more fulfilling when you know your herd.  

-SS

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