Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Non-traditional School for Alternative Learners Like Me


Photo from Zazzle.com


Anyone who knew me from high school or college will attest to the fact that I was always at the bottom ten percent of my class. In high school I was required to do summer class for math three out of four years. In college I think I graduated with around twenty-four units of failure. One teacher in college actually told me straight that I should just quit because early since I would never graduate in Civil Engineering. What they couldn't see though was how much heart I had. I absolutely hate being told what I can or cannot accomplish. Even I was shocked though when I not only graduated but passed by Board Exams. I think that was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Despite my lackluster grades I always was a hard-working kid. I remember that ever single time I had a big test I wouldn't sleep at all studying all night many times a year.

What is weird though was when I got into Stanford for my Masters (and come to think of it even when I was in International School for grade school) I always did well in class. In I.S. I was even in the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education Program) for the overachiever children. In Grade School I was Student Council Vice-President of my batch so I couldn't have been that "slow" otherwise my peers wouldn't have voted for me. At Stanford I got only A's and B's working only half as hard as I did at Ateneo and La Salle.

Bottomline, the Philippine education system and I never really got along. I felt that many of my teachers entered this profession purposely to make me feel worse about myself, which consequently made them feel better about their own lives. Sure, there were a few excellent teachers. In high school I remember my English teacher Norman Agatep. In college I was extremely impressed by our Dean, Dr. Romeo Estanero. But by and large they were (at least by my standard) boring and more interested in having people fit in a box than having them find their own voice.

While in school I felt so small, so utterly insignificant. I thank God I had a Mom who always was my champion, otherwise I would have believed all those put-downs and I would have LSE (low self esteem). My Mom would always have me focus on what I was good at which was public speaking and debate. She encouraged me to compete and win competitions both here and abroad and it was in this world that I excelled.

More than the personalities of the teachers though my bigger problem was with the system itself. Till today I think that memorizing is a totally useless skill, especially as you can find unlimited amounts of information online. I memorized around fifty formulas to take my Civil Engineering Board Exams but if I took the identical exam abroad the formulas are given along with the test paper. I believe that what is more important is application and learning to love learning. Stimulating a mind starts from stimulating one's heart, getting students excited to come to school and grow the possibilites that their lives have in store for them.

Being the type of person who cannot just sit by the sidelines and allow myself to be marginalized I decided that I would “fight back” by building the school of my dreams. That was really how The One School started. Here students are given the chance to speak and find their inner greatness. I think that young people have an infinite capacity to accomplish anything, but only if they have discovered that spark within them. We teach Entrepreneurship, Fashion, Intermedia and Filmmaking, but really these are just tools to an end. What we do is help students to help themselves.

Some people think that non-traditional or alternative education is a euphemism for diploma mill but honestly that can't be farther from the truth. In my last class I failed 25% of the students, yet the person I got closest too was actually one of the ones who failed. I believe that students should be pushed, a lot needs to be expected of them, mediocre should not be tolerated, and all of this can still be done in a method that is firm but fair.

My students are my inspirations because they are extraordinary. I think that because everyone on my team expects this from them they have no choice but to live up to this positive image. People will always become what you expect from them so if you keep saying your kids are lousy don't be surprised if they turn out that way.

The One School = College Personalized


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