Scholar Stories: Michelle Cabanillas

How do you use writing or art in your life?

I use writing and art to express my thoughts and  feelings in my personal and work life.  Through writing and art you can express yourself in a private and safe way and if you want to and are ready to, share them with others. Throughout my 20 years of work as a School Social Worker, writing and art have been embedded in every aspect of my practice. From teaching students how to journal to deal with difficult feelings, to drawing/coloring to calm down, to facilitating an art club for middle school students called Healing Through the Arts to help them express their feelings through art.

What lessons/teachings from your family, home and/or community do you draw on in your teaching and/or scholarship?

The lessons and teachings from my family are always with me, they are part of who I am. Lessons from my Abuelo Luis to treat everyone I encounter with respect, dignity, and compassion. Lessons from my Abuela Vives to lean on my faith to guide my day and to find the light among the darkness. Lessons from my Abuela Socorro to have a positive outlook and to enjoy each moment. Lesson from my parents to work hard and to do the things that you do with love. Lessons from my Puerto Rican upbringing to embrace diversity and to find joy and laughter in little things throughout my day.    

What would you tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to take the time to be present and to try to find joy in each moment lived. To let go of things that I can’t change and to focus my energy in the things I can change. To judge less, talk less, and listen more.  

Advice for new scholars and/or teachers:

I would advise new teachers to take it one day at a time. To enjoy the adventures that each day in the classroom brings.  To savor the moments when everything comes together in a perfect lesson and to find humor and opportunities for growth in the lessons that don’t.  Above all, to focus on building relationships with their students and families from  day one.  Having a relationship with your students and families is more important than anything else you can and will do as a teacher.

Something else you want to share?

As adults we need to always keep in mind what it was like and felt like to be a child or a teenager. As we grow up we forget that and expect children and teenagers to behave in ways that they are not supposed to. We must remember we are the adults and can and most behave like adults around children, as they learn from our actions and reactions. They are the children/teenagers and they are acting in ways that are perfectly explained by their developmental stages and brain development. 

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