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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April 01, 2020

Looking to Next Year and Beyond...a Fresh Start

By Matt Young

As we all sit here hunkered down in the makeshift offices in our basements and living rooms it allows for us to not only focus on the task at hand, but it might allow for some reflection on how we teach?  Are we best serving our students?  What are their needs versus how we are teaching? Is it time for us to look at next year when we can start fresh and new? I would like to start off my monthly blog with a thought, “How can I make my curriculum better for my students?”.

I went through this with my department about 5 years ago. Now, luckily I teach with my best friend and another one of my really good friends so there were no fisticuffs. However, we found that the lessons we had been doing for years and the way we were teaching were no longer having the same success with our students as they had in the past. So, we dedicated ourselves to spending the summer looking at the bigger picture and how we could better serve our students. But, students still need to learn technical skills and they used to like our old lessons, right? What had changed to make things start going wrong?

Now, we had lost Elementary art in our district a few years ago, and we were just starting to see the effects on the students as they were coming into the high school with less skill and confidence in their artistic abilities. We also saw that they wanted to be told what to do and struggled with the thought of coming up with their own ideas.  As we brainstormed, we came to the consensus that we needed to determine our fundamental goals as visual art teachers. Namely, to make all students thinkers and problem solvers (a key skill for any student), and to help build skills and portfolios (and scholarships!) for those creatives going into college. So, we looked to outside sources to provide us with a fresh insight on what we were doing.

We sat down with a few art college experts and asked them their thoughts on how to get students to achieve these goals. They said to focus on these 4 things in no particular order:

  1. Technical Skill
  2. Creative thinking
  3. Responding/reflecting
  4. Ability to work with others


Over the next few weeks I would like to take everyone through the process of what we did to change the way we look at our curriculum.  It involves slowing down and looking at the student first and the project second. Here is a quick breakdown of what we do in all of our classes:

  1. Climate Building
  2. Creativity Challenges
  3. Clearly defined/concrete skill goals
  4. Student Choice
  5. Reflection



Thanks for spending a few minutes with me today...see you in a few :)

- MY


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