Our rock n roll schoolstyle
This little learning center in Cubao is giving the buzzword ‘blended learning’ new significance—and a whole lot of hope—for kids who don’t thrive in traditional educational systems
People say a lot of nice things about Blended Learning Center (BLC)-Manila. Parents tell us how they wish we existed when they were growing up; they would’ve bloomed or gotten to know themselves better, they say, and not have wasted so many years wandering in the wilderness of high school and college, making the wrong career or life choices. Our students hate it when classes are cancelled; some even show up on non-school days—or extend way beyond school hours, by choice—just to hang around.
We have six dogs onsite, some ducks, a turtle, and fish (in a pond, not an aquarium). We used to have a potbellied pig, who the kids named Steak, and for whom they (and some parents) gave a memorial when he had a heart attack, keeled over and died. Animal memorials aren’t uncommon in BLC—years ago, we held final rites for snails that had been crushed underfoot.
We sometimes hold classes in museums or art galleries or eco-parks; we don’t blink if a student comes in pajamas or a rash guard (or both) or with a shaved head (remember the kid who caught Millie Bobby Brown’s eye during Comic Con a couple of years ago? Yep, she’s from BLC); and we have a Gay pride flag waving fabulously in our garden.
Also: instead of academic awards, we give badges that honor values—Peace Making, Wit and Humor, Responsibility and Initiative, among many others. Our students raise funds for their own advocacies, such as buying Zoleitel for Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) or school bags for Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) Foundation and volunteer their time for places like Brahma Kumaris. One of our students recently curated an art exhibit on LGBTQ representation in mass media, collaborating with eight established artists from Manila, Sydney and Brooklyn. It’s called “I,” and runs till late July 2018 in The Hub in Escolta Street, Manila. Producing lemmings, we ain’t.
However, we aren’t a “school-school,” if you want to get technical about it. We’re not even die-hard technical “blended learning,” since we’re aware of the limitations of online learning in this country of infinitesimally slow and expensive Internet, and that the digital environment isn’t ideal for younger kids. We are merely a tutorial/learning center that makes the learning experience much more enjoyable by blending techniques to suit children’s individual needs—because every kid is different. “Oh, so you mean you apply the Multiple Intelligence Theory?” we’re asked every so often. Ye-es…but it’s not just that. It’s not just about pedagogies or methods. BLC, really, is about knowing the kids well enough so we know how to best make them excited about learning—without grades or academic standing as the endpoint.
In a sense, BLC-Manila is an unschooling school. A “no-method method,” says one of our teachers. “You get a sense of how the kids learn and how they’re feeling that day and go from there. Feed the natural curiosity and eagerness to learn.”
Not everyone who hears about our little center in Cubao, or comes to our tete-a-tetes or applies for a teaching job here, gets or appreciates this. It used to irritate me, but as the years went on, I saw it was a blessing. We get to sift who are open to our rock-and-roll school style. It makes for a tighter, fun-ner (and funnier!) community—as they say, your vibe attracts your tribe.
Another thing we do that is anti-thetical to the whole “school” thing is that we like to be upfront and honest to parents, even if it means losing numbers. “We warn you, homeschooling and unschooling is hard,” we like to tell them. “But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, then the rewards are immeasurable.” Churn out graduates in droves just to turn a quick buck? No way. We may be a small, crazy school (as defined not by institutions but by Merriam-Webster: “an organization that provides instruction; a source of knowledge; a group of persons who hold a common doctrine or follow the same teacher…), but we stay true to our tagline and my personal motto:
“Where different is better” and “mamatay na, ‘wag lang mapahiya.”
Regina Abuyuan is a journalist. She owns BLC-Manila and runs it with an amazing group of educators. It is at 56 Lantana cor. New York Streets Immaculate Conception, Cubao, Quezon City. Visit https://www.facebook.com/blendedlearningcentermanila/, www.blendedlearningcenterph.com, or contact (02) 814 3969 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.