The Most Important Thing
Here are three mentoring strategies that really work for me.
1. Start with questions.
When a student needs directions or ideas I used to start with suggestions but then I realized I was talking away a really valuable learning opportunity from my students. Now, my first response is always a question. If you're stuck - what have you tried? If you're not happy with how your work is progressing - what was your vision? I often start units with Big Idea questions proposed to students and recently I've started experimenting with asking students to develop their own guiding questions as the first part of the planning process. This all adds up to making the learning experience a differentiated journey.
2. Provide a range of suggestions.
When I start with questioning and a student still really wants my opinion I don't give them one answer, because who's work would it be then? Instead I give them a list of options. I try to always give at least three. My goal is to provide a buffet instead of automatically giving the student what I think is best on the menu.
3. Include other voices.
I think it's always best to see what others think and I try to model this. When addressing student questions about work I try to involve the whole table to get a range of opinions. Often other students have great ideas or suggestions that would never have occurred to me. Plus, this type of conversation in the art room helps build community and it's great for everyone's learning. The key idea here is to take away the concept of the teacher as the sole expert and instead teach problem solving and independence.
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I'm interested in creating a student student centered space for my high school students through choice and abundant opportunity for self expression. I'm also a writer for SchoolArts co-author of The Open Art Room.