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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Sunday 07. 1.12


At Marlborough High School in MA this has been quite the tumultuous year. With some challenging and very public leadership issues affecting our daily routines, I am incredibly proud of all of our students who remained respectful and positive throughout the entire ordeal. This experience had me thinking about leadership, and its importance in setting a solid example for our students. How do we as teachers provide the support students need in the classroom as well as in life situations?

One of the new things instituted this past year was a program called Advisory, allowing an extra homeroom period once every eight days. These meetings typically included healthy snacks and some ice breaking activities followed by a discussion. Topics such as bullying, school spirit, traditions, cultural awareness, respect, class scheduling, and goal setting were introduced to students and exercises were prepared to help students explore ideas. Prior to this year, I had a few of these students in class, but this really provided an opportunity to know each other as a group on a much deeper level. Advisory provided a safe space for students to share, learn, question, and listen to each other.   

One of the most rewarding and eye-opening sessions was focused around goal setting. At first students were reluctant to share their life goals, and for some of these 10th grade students, they really did not know what they wanted to explore after high school. At one point a student asked “Olive, do you think this goals thing really works?” and I immediately exclaimed “YES!  I know it does!” And without thinking I dove into parts of my personal history, explaining that when I was in 10th grade I didn’t even know college was an option, and once I realized that I wanted to teach art, that became my goal. I went on to explain how once in college at U. Mass Dartmouth I had to work incredibly hard to catch up (as I had not taken many art courses in high school) and in doing so I was able to earn top grades, and that led to my new goal of achieving high grades throughout my time in college. I went on and on and on…. recounting meaningful points in my life and how goal setting has helped me to stay focused and moving forward in a positive way. During this period I helped the students come up with short and long term goals, action plans and checklists to help them succeed in the things they deemed important. Their goals ranged from wanting to be a surgeon, to helping others, to becoming the best soft ball pitcher on the team, to learning how to draw. And, since I see these students daily, they also gained a built-in cheerleader that will check in with them and help with resources and support as they work towards their goals. These students commented that they now feel supported, respected and confident that they can achieve anything they set out to accomplish.

As a teacher in a Race to the Top district moving towards a new teacher evaluation system, teachers will be asked to create goals for themselves and implement these goals in the classroom setting. Specifically, the new system asks teachers to create SMART goals that are multi-faceted and most importantly, measurable. Here are some helpful tips to consider when setting goals:

S= Specific
M= Measurable
A= Attainable
R= Relevant
T= Time Bound

• Big overarching goals are great, but if they are not attainable break them down into smaller more manageable pieces and work through one step at a time.

• Create to-do lists!  This is an incredibly powerful tool to stay organized, keep your focus and stay on track even if it is a little at a time. This will also help you prioritize items on your list and the goals you are working towards.

• Stay in control. Choose goals you can achieve with factors you have control over. Ask for help if needed and don’t give up!

• Stay positive!  Write your goals in a positive manner and be open to revising as necessary. Set realistic stepping stones to help you get to your goal. 

Goals are a powerful tool that can help students and teachers alike in achieving success in anything you wish to accomplish.  I hope you are all taking the summer to reflect, recharge and plan for the coming year!

-Kristi Oliver