When Bad Things Happen..

Photo from CNN

August 23, 2010 is a sad day in the Philippines when a dismissed officer Rolando Mendoza of the Philippine National Police took hostage Hong Kong nationals in a tourist bus at the Quirino Grandstand. This resulted to a 12-hour siege with gunshots coming from both the hostage-taker and the police resulting to Mendoza’s death and the death of 9 hostages.

All media outfits showed the sometime graphic scenes until late at night. The following day, the students were abuzz with their own version of what happened based on what they saw on TV and on how their parents reacted to the situation.

“Teacher, mga bakla naman yung mga police kasi hindi nila nakuha kagad yung nang-hostage (Teacher, the police are all gay for not being able get the hostage-taker right away)”

“Teacher, what will happen if our schoolbus gets hostaged?”

“Teacher, isn’t a policeman a community helper. Why did he do that?”

“Teacher, I couldn’t sleep last night because I can imagine the bad man coming to our house.”

When a national trauma likes this occurs, and we watch it unfold on TV, we usually have our kids beside us. However, what the parent usually fails to do  is to find out how the incident affects their child.

The incident may not affect your child directly but it paints him a picture of what the world is. And usually, his belief system on what happened relies solely on how his parents reacted to the incident.

The gay remark in one of the students’ comments definitely sounds like a statement of an adult in the home of that child. When I posted this statement in Facebook,

The students have a lot to say about the hostage-taking..greatly influenced by the comments of their parents. Parents, discuss the hostage-taking with your children carefully. You are shaping their beliefs, values and principles.

..a friend asked me, “What are the best things to say to them, Tina?”

Its hard to explain bad things to children. But not telling them anything or being reactive and have media take over your role as counselor, is much much worse.

1. Ask the children how they feel in order to validate their emotions. Judging from the students’ comments, they felt angry, scared and confused. These feelings should be processed well in order for them to regain a feeling of security.

2. If the children can’t articulate their feelings, ask them to draw what they feel or what they think happened. Even psychotherapists use art as a medium to express emotion.

3.  We should be careful with what we say around children. Their beliefs and principles usually echo that of the adults they live with. When parents start ranting how disappointed they are with the government, with the police..when they start using expletives and curse words or labels.. we usually hear the same from their children.

4. We should also be careful what we allow the children to watch. Judging from the media coverage yesterday, there are scenes that I wouldn’t want my preschool students to watch. Just like censorship or ratings in movies, parents should monitor what the children watch on TV.

5. Discuss things that the child can learn from the incident. This is the best time to talk about good and bad behavior and their outcome.

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Q and A: Are you a TRADITIONAL parent in a PROGRESSIVE school?


Alfie Kohn, one of the proponents for progressive education wrote that one of the problems of progressive education is having traditional parents in progressive schools. Since almost all parents were educated the traditional way, they usually have traditional expectations in their child’s progressive school. Why did they choose the progressive school in the first place if they are traditional in belief? Well, they THINK they believe and understand the goals of a progressive school until that nagging feeling sinks in…

Why aren’t there more homework?

Why aren’t there more quizzes and tests?

Why is my child always “playing”?

Why isn’t the school like my nephew’s school? Why isn’t my child having the same lessons as my nephew who’s in the same grade level?

And the list goes on…

It’s like the parent has morphed back to the traditional leanings even after multiple parent orientations, parent interactions, explanations and workshops. That nagging Traditional voice always come back and haunts not only the parents but the school as well.

So are you a traditional parent in a progressive school? Or are you a traditional parent thinking of putting your child in a progressive school? Help us out by posting a comment if these questions resonate in your mind. We’re setting up a Parent Education Seminar with this topic in mind and we want your help by knowing those questions that haunt you.

As an added bonus, we will choose a comment at random and give a special gift for your participation. Random choosing will be on September 15, 2010.

Thanks for your help!

5 Progressive Teacher Blogs to Start the Year Right!

It’s the start of another school year and what better way to start the year but to inspire all our teachers to think of progressive and creative activities for their students. These blogs have gone the extra mile to explain their philosophy through informative posts and great pictures.

1. Let the Children Play

My friend and wonder mom, Candice, gifted me with this very informative and inspiring blog from Australia.

2. Teacher Tom

You know how impressed I am with male teachers but I got more impressed when this particular male teacher blogs!

3. The Grass Stain Guru

Remember what fun you  had as child with MUD, SOIL, GRIME and GRASS STAINS?! I love this site’s tagline “Childhood was meant to be messy!”

4. I’m a Teacher, get me OUTSIDE here!

Children of this generation has NDD or Nature Deficit Disorder! Kids should play outside more and this blog tells you how to do it..

5. Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds

Teaching a Toddler Class will always be the highlight of any teacher’s career.

Have a great school year, teachers and parents! Always, remember what John Dewey said, “Education is not a preparation for life, it’s life itself!”.

“My child didn’t pass the school’s admission test!”

copyright Nest School 2009

Tis the season of admission test results..

I was chatting with a parent the other day and she told me that she was so depressed her son did not get admitted in a progressive school that the applied to. I highlighted the word depressed because I cannot describe in words the heart ache that mother felt in what seems to be the first admission test that her son took for Preparatory Level.

I have had my share of similar sad stories from parents in the past but this one struck a chord because they were applying in a progressive school. I’m used to hearing stories of not being able to enter traditional schools for Prep. I know how hard it is to get in… but I also know how easy it is for some to appeal the decision that sometimes I wonder about the veracity of these traditional admission tests. I can’t speak for traditional schools so I’ll just focus on this particular mother’s plight… What did I tell her? I told her 5 things:

1. If the school is a progressive, then the admission test should ALSO be progressive. This mother narrated that her son was in tears while exiting the exam room. In tears! I think we should reserve stress and anxiety of this kind to when the children are older. Six-and-a-half-year-olds should not go through a test that make them burst into tears. Her son did not have a learning disability and performed very well in the school that he was currently in. So for him to burst into tears, one can only think that the test was highly traditional and definitely not developmentally-appropriate.

2. The school should tell the applicants and their families how many slots they are opening up for the school year AND they should only test that number of students. I remember a story from a dad whose daughter tried to get in an exclusive girls’ school.  After learning she did not get in, they found out that there were only 2 slots available and 85 girls applied! Now this is okay if the parents were informed BEFORE the test. Why?

  • The parents already know the odds and may decide not to pursue the application.

The UP-Child Development Center has a tambiolo system. A system wherein the number of slots available are announced during the application period. Then the names of the applicants are raffled off. Believe me, hundreds still apply even if the odds are the same as winning the lottery!

  • If the child does not get admitted, then the child’s family will not feel that bad because they knew the odds of getting admitted.

The heart ache of not being admitted is coming from the feeling of a parent that her child is not ready, cut out or good enough for that school. This is a normal feeling however, couldn’t we avoid promoting this by telling the parents the number of slots available?

I understand that progressive schools have limited slots because of the small class size. But what peeves me is that schools sometimes justify not admitting some children by hinting on some learning disability that the child may have which is the reason for him not passing the admission test. I’ve seen some do it, so it’s hard to deny it.

If the reason is a learning disability or a special need, and the school has limited slots for SpEd students or not admitting SpEd students at all, then this information should also be available.

3. It is not the fault of the current school that your child did not pass the admission test. I know of a mom that tried to get her son in an exclusive boy school. Her son was then enrolled in a progressive preschool. When her son did not get in, she kept telling me that her son did not get in because he was in a progressive preschool who did not prepare him enough for the traditional school’s admission test.

Whoa. I told her that it is not the ultimate goal of a progressive school to prepare a child for a traditional admission test. I will repeat that with feelings.. it is not the ultimate goal of a progressive school to prepare a child for a traditional admission test. I’ve met parents who have asked me that if they attend our school, will their son pass a particular traditional school. My answer is “I don’t know. But we will teach him the skills he needs appropriate for his age and skill level. We do have former students who have passed that particular school’s test and are thriving in that school, though.”

There are even schools that even advertise that if you enroll in their school, your child will definitely pass a certain boy school. Would you want your child to be prepared for a test or be prepared for life?

4. I personally believe that if a child came from a certain progressive preschool that has a grade school, he should be able to attend that school’s grade school automatically. If Progressive School A (PSA) has a preschool and grade school, then all their graduates from their preschool should be able to attend their grade school if they wish. WHY? I ask, WHY NOT? It’s the same school!

First of all, if they were not cut out for the grade school because of learning disabilities of SpEd needs, then this should have been addressed in the preschool level either through the allotment of SpEd slots or having a SpEd department to handle their needs. Progressive schools should accept ALL children. A progressive school should cater to every child with every need. In reality, a progressive school is not a SpEd school, however, it may allot a number of slots for SpEd students depending on the SpEd need. If they cannot handle it, then they should have turned down the child’s application during the preschool level.

It’s very difficult to justify that your own preschool graduates cannot go to your grade school. If you can, please enlighten me with a comment.

5. A failed admission test should not define your child. I know that no matter how often I say this, it’s still hard to accept. My daughter applied in UP and Ateneo for college. She did not pass UP, she passed Ateneo. So she went to Ateneo. Simple. If we wanted to appeal the UPCAT decision, we can probably do so. We can also make her study for a year in Ateneo and make her transfer to UP. Many options.. the important thing is that we did not brood over the UPCAT results. It’s easy to justify it (UP doesn’t like homeschooled applicants, etc.), but accept it already. He didn’t pass, so what are your other options?

I know it’s a blow on the parent’s ego. But it’s not about you, it’s about your child.

What happens when 4 progressive schools play together?

Timpalakasan 2010!

When Teacher Tin Canon of Create-Learning Paths (CLP) called Teacher Ani Almario of The Raya School, Teacher Tina Zamora of Nest and Teacher Aleta Villanueva of The Builders School for a meeting about an inter-school event, everyone was excited to go. Since all schools had small populations, like all progressive schools usually are, having a chance to interact with other schools is a good experience for their students.

One good thing about progressive school owners is that they usually know one another. They even refer students to each other’s schools. Their generosity with their time and knowledge only shows that their priority is child development and education rather than profit.

The first project was an inter-school Palarong Pinoy aptly titled Timpalakasan (Timpalak and Palakasan).The games started with the parade of school colors..

followed by the singing of the National Anthem..

the prayer..

and the Sportsmanship Oath.

The different schools then proceeded to their bleacher area for their cheer.

The Opening Remarks were given by Teacher Tin Canon..

The indigenous games that  were played were Araw o Gabi,

Karera ng Bilao,

Larong Goma,

Karera ng Gulong,

Kadang-Kadang,

Hilahan ng Dahon

and Bato Bato Pik.

The Bato Bato Pik segment was extra special because each team that played was composed of students from the different schools. This was suggested to promote camaraderie and build friendships between schools.

The prize for each game was a Putong — A head dress given to noble guests and dignitaries in a ceremony originating from Marinduque.

This really was a milestone for progressive schools. More events to come!

5 Ways a School can handle a Calamity.. and L.A.R.O.!

It’s the calm after the storm. The Philippines has been ravaged by Storm Ondoy/Ketsana and Storm Pepeng/Parma. Statistics show that rainfall during the 2 storms even surpassed Hurrican Katrina. Over 500,000 people are affected and/or displaced from their homes.

How should Schools handle a Calamity like this?

1. Give. A school belongs to a community, to a country, and the world. Whatever happens around it, has a direct effect on the school, if not its students. After a tragedy like Ondoy strikes, a teaching moment rises to send an important point to the students.We encouraged all our families to bring in any relief goods they can bring.

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2. Talk about it. During the meeting this morning, it was decided that Homeroom time for the Graders is Storm Talking time. Children sometimes hide their feelings during stressful moments. The teachers were tasked to encourage the children to either talk about or draw their experiences. After the activity, a lot of emotions and thought were unsurfaced from the students that even their parents weren’t expecting. Giving them a chance to air out their feelings, will make them cope faster and better.

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3. Reach out to other schools. We are blessed that our school in the Quezon City area was not affected by the storm. However, a lot of public and private schools in the Marikina, Pasig and Cainta areas were either flooded, filled with mud or totally destroyed. Our local newspaper has reported that the storm damage on schools already reached 73 Million pesos. Also, reports are pouring in of students losing all their books and supplies to the flood.

Our school organized a relief effort called L.A.R.O. Laruan, Aklat at Regalo para sa mga batang nasalanta ni Ondoy (Toys, Books and Gifts for the children ravaged by Storm Ondoy/Ketsana). It started as an effort to give learning materials to child evacuees and has transformed to an effort to not only give children but also schools totally destroyed by the storm. If you’re interested to join, check out the Events Page in Facebook.

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4. Prioritize. After a nationwide crisis like this, frilly events can be cancelled for more important ones. We decided to cancel our yearly Costume Day (or Halloween) to make way for a relief drive. Simpler is better in times like this.

5. Take care of your families. At the start of the storm, teachers reached out to their students by asking if they were directly affected by it. We were able to determine whose houses we can help in cleaning or whose notebooks and supplies we needed to replenish.

The most important thing that this calamity has proven is the resilience of the Filipino people. If your school was not a victim of the storm, be a blessing to the others who have bowed down to it destruction.

If your school needs help, contact  L.A.R.O. at info@nest.ph or at 0920-952-3825. You may bring your donations for the children and schools at 92 Matahimik St., Bgy. Malaya, Quezon City, Philippines. If you want to give through PayPal, please click the Donate button. Be a blessing!

The Pressures of going to Preschool

My youngest sister didn’t attend preschool. She was the youngest of 5 kids and my parents were, honestly, just too tired and old(er) to send her. So after 1 year (actually, I think it was only 1 semester) in the mandatory prep level, she entered the U.P. Integrated School for 1st grade. She totally enjoyed school because my parents just let her go through the everyday rigors of school without the pressure (as I said, they were too tired after 4 older kids!). We laughed through her funny mistakes in pronouncing words or when she would always fall from her chair because of being too playful at the dinner table.

Fast forward to her college graduation, she finished Magna Cum Laude in Business Administration at UP. She worked in prestigious marketing sectors. Now, she stopped worked to focus on another chapter of her life 🙂 She’s getting married in December.

So you’re wondering why this story after a title like that?!

I just wanted to show you a glimpse of an unpressured preschooler, going on to live life with much enthusiasm and excellence even without the pounding of today’s pressure-cooker preschools. I got an e-mail from Child Care Exchange, which by the way, you should subscribe to, about Pressure-Cooker Kindergarten in the US. It may be based a thousand miles away, but America has its way of wheedling into our culture.

The article clearly admonishes the alarming pressure for children to be test-prepared rather educated. Or guidelines that truly are not developmentally appropriate to create a semblance of genius.

Take the example of a girl who was barely 5 when she entered Gerzon’s classroom. She didn’t know her ABCs, but one day in class she made up a song and taught it to the other children. But because of new requirements, “I had to send a letter to her parents saying that [she] is not proficient,” says Gerzon. “You tell me that [she] is not proficient in language skills!” The Concord resident, who usually exudes a gentle presence, bristles. “It’s destructive, even abusive. That’s a pretty strong word, but what do you call it when you take a group of children and you force them to do something that they are not developmentally ready to do? What do you call that? It’s abusive.”

David Elkind, author of The Hurried Child and The Power of Play, adds to the article with a statement that made me want to jump off my seat and give him a standing ovation..

When children are required to do academics too early, he says, they get the message that they are failures. “We are sending too many children to school to learn that they are dumb,” says Elkind, a professor emeritus at Tufts University. “They are not dumb. They are just not there developmentally.”

I can site a hundred similar stories. To read the whole article, click here.

Sometimes we fall in love with the Super Child that the world pictures rather than the Special Child that we already have. Much of it, I think, comes from the inner needs of parents to give their children what they didn’t get or Healing through Rearing.

Chill, parents! Learning is supposed to be fun. Don’t let the world and advertising tell you otherwise.

Protecting their hearts is more important than enlarging their brains. I’ve seen enough students with “undeveloped hearts and large brains” to say that the kids with huge hearts always finish first..

P.S. This is dedicated to my soon-t0-be-married sister Karla.. You have always been a loving sister and daughter.. Your being smart pales in comparison 🙂