Day Two

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The day was chock full of busy again, and again I ate for the first four and a half hours of it while learning about country’s educational system.  How Filipinos can even drag themselves to school, by the way, is beyond me, as I’d be 900 pounds and sweating lumpia juice if I lived here.

Regardless of my body’s inclination to lie comatose in a bath of adobo, my brain is still working and it’s finding it to be difficult to be okay- even more so after today- with mid-Millennium Spaniards.  Come to find out, when they colonized the Philippines in the 1500s, they declared all Filipino books to be the writings of evil spirits and chucked them in the fire, thus ridding an entire nation of its ancestral legacy.   Now, I already have sympathy smallpox from teaching about the complete destruction of the Aztec and Inca civilizations, where the conquistadors (please don’t think I’m condemning every single Spanish person alive then, mind you) basically tortured, murdered, and spread disease through the lot.  And then set up harems and slave trade.  This is not to condone the Aztec practice of, for example, having multi-day heart-ripping-out ceremonies or to revere the Incan practice of, for example, tethering starving alpacas to freezing Andes summits in order that their cries prompt the gods to make rain, but still.  Don’t burn books; it pains me!

Right, education system.

During the Spanish occupation, schools muddled along teaching life skills to boys and housekeeping to girls (could arguably be the same thing but I’m trying to subtly- well, I guess not anymore- point out the sexism) and that went on for like 300 years.  The Americans blasted in in 1898 and introduced English as the primary language of instruction, but then Japan’s imperialistic tendencies took over pre-WWII and knocked schools right back into being a Nihongo propaganda machine.  It was regimented and totalitarianism and bunk.

Seems like they’ve recovered pretty well now, though.

We got to visit one of the schools today, and it was pretty spectacular.  Though the national system is going through some significant change- until recently, Filipino kids would graduate from high school at the same age as our American 10th graders- the students we met today were unbelievable.  It was a Catholic girls’ school with a few thousand students


and when we toured classrooms and extracurriculars (and were treated to a concert and dance performance even though they only started the school year two weeks ago) we saw some definite thriving.  Apparently this school got the idea that it was cheating their girls to hold arts and athletic clubs with just any old faculty member who had the time or inclination to coach, so if they didn’t have them on staff already, they brought in experts in each area and started a Gift program.  The idea is, all kids have gifts, whether it be music, performing arts, creative writing, athletics, whatever.  So it’s the school’s job to let kids explore those areas in elementary and middle school so they can find their gifts and interests, and receive expert instruction in honing them.  By high school, they specialize and get really good.

I love this program.  The nuns reported that since they’ve started it, kids have succeeded academically and are more likely to come to school each day, plus their dedication to their disciplines make for successful interscholastic competition.  It’s great stuff.


They have all kinds of cool student programs, like this one initiative from the student council that gathers student leaders from all kinds of area schools to share ideas and form communities.  I love this, too, and want to bring it home.  I feel like I’ve been really lucky in that some of our district and union leaders have made some fantastic teacher leadership opportunities available to me, and previous to this trip I looked on it as excellent professional development and an opportunity to serve my colleagues.  Now, though, I’m like… wait, what?  Why don’t I pay that forward, and create opportunities for student leaders to collaborate with each other?  There’s no reason our kids can’t meet with other middle school student leaders and form an interscholastic community; we just haven’t done it yet.

Note to self.

This school had some other great stuff that I’d like to appropriate, too.  Not in the conquistador way, mind you, but as ideas.  For example, they’ve got their own eco-center


where students not only separate and sort, but they also create their own recycled paper!  Teachers show them how to garden, too, so they really have a whole-child, whole-community approach.

I’ve got to go shower and prep for more visits, so I won’t get into detailed descriptions of the auditorium, gymnastics center, indoor track, and wellness room in which parents who are waiting for their kids to finish clubs can get massages and manicures.  Isn’t it enough to just know that they’re there?

2 thoughts on “Day Two

  1. Beautiful school! Love the ipads on top of old-school type desks. Gift program – wow. Honoring the genius in each child is a beautiful thing.

    PS – I kind of love your writing style, humor, reverence and abhorrence of colonialism.

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