Life is Messy and Beautiful

Tanya is an LAUSD teacher of over 15 years currrently working with pregnant and parenting teens. She is remotely teaching parents or parents-to-be while also parenting and educating her own kids ages 2 and 4.

In her experience:

Arts can help us process trauma

Let go of the outcome and be present in the moment 

Art can be made from anything

How has the pandemic impacted the way you balance work and family?

I have worked for LAUSD for over 15 years and I currently work with students who are all pregnant or parenting teens. I have two kids 2 and 4 and I’m supposed to be working and self-regulating and sometimes all I want to do is stare at my phone or watch tv.

I think of my students living in small spaces with multiple people, and they’re supposed to be schooling online, which raises questions of accessibility. Imagine trying to read an article with your two-year-old and be engaged in what you’re reading. So, I’ve been creating lessons that engage them in social-emotional play while also contributing toward their credits.

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How did you start making art at home for your students?

I thought about simple and accessible activities that my students could create with what they have on hand. I looked at what I have in my house, what I could craft out of my recycling and then I tried the projects with my own kids to see if they work. I took pictures of our process and posted the steps so that my students can see ways to complete the projects.

Do you have any tips or tricks for other parents/teachers who want to engage their kids/students in the arts?

I think it’s really got to be child led, you have to see what’s engaging them and what’s not. My four-year-old can do different things than my two-year-old. Letting go of what the outcome is and being present in the moment has taught me the process should be the primary focus.

For my students, they’re young and have a deep history of trauma. These kids weren’t as thoroughly played with themselves, and there’s not a lot of knowing how to engage in play. In my classroom, I brought in slime and water beads as a way to connect. Community is built through actions, even small ones, and we all took part in the experience. And they can bring the slime home to their child. Slime and water beads are both sensory experiences which can be calming for those who have heavy trauma experiences. Well, for all of us, right? 

It is also access. It levels the playing field, no one is making one slime better than the other, no right color, or right texture. We move through it, in it, together. Community.  I want my students to know they have community. Women, what else do we have, but each other?

How have the arts impacted your family and class in these times?

For me, art makes me play and think how I can use what I have. It takes me out of my Amazon Prime brain. (Don't get me wrong, I also ordered a ton of weird crafts.)  But I think art: play, movement, dance, music lets us be. One thing that really stands out to me from this week is my kids put the chalk in our plastic kiddie pool. I was annoyed. But Solana, 4 years old, started to draw with it, and it made a paste. She used it like a thick paint. Moving, touching, mixing. I watched her. I was transformed by the process too. My husband would be annoyed, but so much symbolism. The water, the chalk, the baptism into something new, the work that is created, the work that happens as my daughter explored. SO MUCH GOOD. I would have missed this moment had I been annoyed and stopped them. Life is messy and beautiful, right?

For my students, I want them to be their best self. I want to give them tools to help them develop their young 15-16-year-old selves and their children. I want to bring them play. I hope for a moment that my students and children can feel valued and seen in creating, in making, in being.