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How To

April 10, 2012

By Laura Slotkoff, Corps Member Proudly Serving at Reed Elementary School

Tiana* sat on the floor of the library, hidden from view by a stack of books as she rummaged through the bottom shelf. All the other students in class lined up by the door, fidgeting with the pages of their new books. “Tiana! It’s time to go,” called the teacher impatiently, and then turned to me with an aggravated look. I understood. As the rest went off to their next classes, I went over to the stack of books.

Tiana was in the “How To” section anxiously tapping her foot and frustrated by the lack of drawing books. She wore her usual stubborn scowl and eyes filled with tears, an all too often occurrence for the 11-year-old girl. Surprised, I said, “You know, I really like drawing too. I started keeping a sketchbook when I was in the fifth grade. These books don’t seem quite right for you, but I can teach you how to draw if you’d like.” Her watery eyes went wide. “Really? You know how to draw?” For the first time I can remember, she smiled.

Excited by this newfound connection, we agreed to meet at lunch for her first drawing lesson. She told me some of the characters she wanted to learn to draw; Hello Kitty, Tinkerbell, and the Princess and the Frog were at the top of her list. While I helped her sketch the bow on her Hello Kitty, we talked. She opened up about some of the things that had been upsetting her, such as fighting with a friend, hating the school lunches, running out of food stamps at home and attending her aunt’s funeral. As her hand drove the pencil across the paper, her thin, angry lines became soft, thoughtful strokes. By the time her drawing was finished, she seemed more relaxed and happy than I’d seen her since the beginning of the year.

I did some research online and began putting together “how to draw” packets for her. Though she rarely allows herself to show an interest in anything, she began to ask me about them on a regular basis, bringing me drawings and showing off the nice new folder she got to put the drawing packets in.

Picture drawn by Tiana

I began to think back to when I was in fifth grade. I remember how whenever I was upset, doodling and drawing not only cheered me up, it made me feel more in control. I became more confident in myself and my abilities, more motivated to push forward and make smart choices. I became hopeful that art could do the same for Tiana. It is still a struggle to get her to do her work and not throw tantrums, but she now has an outlet for her frustrations and a developing talent to give her more self confidence.

*Student’s name has been changed.

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