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.



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Wednesday 11.27.19

Know Your Worth

By Mary Weimer Green

Throughout my career, I have been blessed to have friends and family who have supported me. With that said, we all have faced teachers (and others) who at one time or another have let us know oh so subtly that we are ‘merely’ art teachers and not part of the core. With this in mind, it becomes exceptionally important to understand and convey our value in a real and practical way to students, parents, and colleagues.

There are many values that we instill daily; for example, perseverance (grit), workmanship, and even playfulness. The most important thing that we do, in my opinion, is to encourage the students to look beyond themselves. In learning about other cultures and individuals different from themselves, they develop a deeper understanding of similarities and appreciation for differences. Students also develop more effective forms of communication; both verbal and visual. While improving their visual literacy they learn perhaps most importantly to question those things they don’t understand and not to settle for the superficial answer.

Through empathy curiosity is charged, similarities bring us together, differences are celebrated and lifelong learning is naturally established. In our classes students realize that the arts are for all people: the arts develop individual affect, it speaks to, and for everyone. In our classes we strive to create an environment where our students feel as if they are safe to respond honestly with their reactions and ideas. What a wonderful legacy we will have if this example carries forward!

Through an aesthetic education student responsibility and accountability are increased. Visual thinking strategies create critical creative and bold thinking within the students that employ these methods. Through the visual arts, problem-solving becomes an everyday occurrence that does not elicit fear or trepidation but problems are viewed as challenges to be overcome. Approaching all of life’s challenges in the same way will benefit the student and our future by making them effective global citizens. In short, we are not a 'Core Subject', we are THE Core Subject.

Teaching art is an important occupation with an awesome responsibility. We are the builders of dreams, the preservationists of culture, and the ambassadors of the future.


Wednesday 11.13.19

Start with Joy

By Mary Weimer Green

Before I became a teacher, I believed that teaching was an elusive art. I believed that only a few could be truly good teachers and fewer still really understood the lingo and could implement effectively the practices. Over the time that I've been teaching, I have found that I was merely complicating things. Any teacher can be a good teacher by keeping three important points in mind. For me, the three keys to successful teaching are Joy, Empathy and of course, Excellence. These three simple overarching themes have kept me on task and given me focus so that I can continually improve my professional practice. They're all of equal importance and each speaks specifically to a different part of the instructional experience.

In the coming blog posts, I'd like to explore how each of these points can be practically implemented in the art room.

To begin with, joy is desperately needed in all education. Without joy, without enthusiasm for learning, it is impossible for the teacher to convey a concept or for the students to retain information. In serving as a mentor and coach to my students I continually try to find new ways to merge my enthusiasm for my subject into creative and fun lessons that will engage the students and teach them deeper concepts. When I am enthusiastic my students are enthusiastic and we all learn from each other. As an art teacher, it is my job to convey a love of my subject that will hopefully inspire the students to remain involved with the arts whether for pleasure or as their profession.

So, my first suggestion is a simple one. Think of it as self-care. Find something that brings you joy. Something that excites you. This can be a partnership with a local arts organization, an opportunity to exhibit in an unconventional space, or bringing a medium that you just learned how to use into your lesson. Then do it. Go all in! The enthusiasm that you have for that new experience will catch on with your class like wildfire, as you learn along with your students.


Friday 11. 1.19

Always Growing

By Mary Weimer Green

The year is in full swing, and I’m sure everyone is more than just a little overwhelmed by the seemingly massive amounts of work to be done. Lessons are being tweaked, papers graded, meetings attended, and evaluations are beginning. It seems that there is an endless supply of work and no time!  Despite all of this there are many opportunities on the horizon and you need to take advantage of them!

Now is the time to plan for the rest of this year! During Thanksgiving break and Christmas break, consider adding just one more opportunity to show student work this year to further engage your students and increase the visibility of your program. I know that many of you are thinking, “I can’t possibly add one more thing!”. We all feel overwhelmed at times, but showing your students’ work is not only great for the self-esteem of your students, its great PR for your program!  YAM, Scholastics, and the exhibitions hosted by your local and National Art Education Associations are just a few of the opportunities to expand exposure for your school’s art program. I was shocked to find that fewer and fewer of us are participating in our school district’s art exhibition opportunities. Some of them only require a minimal amount of artwork to be entered from each school. My local district only requires five pieces. We all know the benefits of art for our students, refining cognitive and creative skills, as well as developing a strong sense of craftsmanship. If we as educators don’t go the extra mile to exhibit the results of our teaching (and our student’s learning), how can we hope to keep art education alive? We must advocate for ourselves and our profession.

Utilize your local Art Education Association to develop collaborations with other art teachers and learn about opportunities in areas outside of your school system. Each region in your state will have opportunities to meet other teachers who have similar interests and concerns. Participation in local workshops is also valuable for both learning and networking!

Starting now, expand your reach, raise your visibility and let everyone know what a valuable asset you are! Just be willing to make one small change and watch your program grow!