We had the good fortune of connecting with Marlha Sanchez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marlha, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
One of the biggest lessons that I always try to carry with me and that I hold close to my heart is “Everyone has something to teach, everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to share.” The value of our lived experiences and the power of our stories makes each one of us a unique treasure trove of wisdom. This idea helps me to remember that it’s “not me, it’s we.” I’m not doing this alone or for myself, the work we do came from a need we felt and saw but we weren’t the only family that was in need of more choices in education and we certainly weren’t the first or the last to have the idea to build the solutions in response to the lack we saw. We come at this work from the knowledge that this is a community effort. That even our youngest student has something to teach all of us and that every parent, community member and volunteer has areas of expertise that are valuable and important. Each perspective and voice is needed. No one has to start from scratch when we are able to learn and glean insight and real life wisdom from each other’s lived experiences as well as our otherwise obtained knowledge. When we share our stories, victories and struggles with one another we all gain so much! It’s in the integration of all we hear, see and feel that allows us then think creatively, critically and powerfully about how we can approach problems we see in our communities in a new & innovative way. It is here that we are able to stop repeating the same responses that have kept us stuck in cycles and systems that don’t really help us to be our best selves – personally, at work or in our larger communities. This idea also helps us to be flexible, although we all have our areas of expertise this motto reminds me that I always have room to grow and that everyone around me is also an expert and a teacher in some way. Even those with whom I have experienced challenges can teach me how I choose to respond to challenges and how I want to work through those hard moments. And in the end all of this helps us all to learn and grow.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I see education as an art form that can and should engage the whole person as well as the whole community. Most of us grew up thinking that school had to look like a classroom with students who were all the same age studying the same thing in the same way. At Unidos Homeschool Cooperative we are trying to make a shift in what education can look like. We learn mostly through and with art. Whether it’s learning through music or learning about a subject via Picture Books or movies, every family and every student decides how they want to focus and work with the material we are discussing. As any art form we must be open to shifting and slowing down as each moment presents itself. We use our mistakes to build upon and we take hard experiences – like this pandemic- to try to create something new that helps us to process and grow together. In this pandemic we’ve had to shift how we gather and how we meet the social, creative and educational needs of our kids and families and that was why we created a downloadable curriculum inspired by the “summer social justice” curriculum that was put out by Chicana Motherwork last summer. In our curriculums we make sure that there are options for each type of learner and family. Each week includes keywords, music, read alouds, journal prompts, crafts and educational videos. In our classes we incorporate whatever our students feel passionate about and many of them are great artists so we allow them to take the reins and teach what they know! To me art is an integral part of education, whether it is structured or not, it’s a vital part of how humans process and learn.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would definitely take them to El Centro Cultural de Mexico for a Son Jarocho class and with any luck there would be a Fandango happening during their visit. I would take them out to Puvungna to meet the amazing people keeping local Indigenous sites and culture alive. We would meet up with friends at the park and play some music and we would go dancing! We would get tacos from the taco truck a few blocks from my house and take the kids and dog for a walk along the Santa Ana riverbed. Mostly we would spend time in convivencia with the amazing people here in Santa Ana, there are so many amazing artists and people doing amazing work in the community. We would visit El Mercadito and as many of the amazing events that the community organizes as possible.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Semilitas Preschool (Long Beach), El Centro Cultural de Mexico, Ana @ La Casita Colibri, “Emergent Strategy” Adrienne Maree Brown, Mia Mingus, THRIVE Santa Ana, all the folks doing Mutual Aid work in their communities like @thepeoplescoalition, Indigemama/Indigescuela, Friends of Punvunga, Santa Ana Active Streets, Chicana Motherwork, @Movimiento_Meca, Speak Nahuatl, Son Chiquitos, Kalli Tecpatl, Probono ASL, Diana @arte.es.medicina, Rethinking Schools, My children who are my greatest teachers, My partner, My Grandmother Betty who showed how love and acceptance could make all the difference in the world to a child who didn’t feel that anywhere else.
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