Experience Is What You Get When You Don’t Get What You Want – Dan Stanford

My studying in Assumption for high school is a decision I made – the first major decision I ever made for myself, one that would affect my life forever, and at that time, I was grateful that my parents allowed me that decision. My parents would have preferred my enrolling in St. Scholastica’s which was is a stone’s throw away from our house, and the Alma mater of my grandmother, all her daughters (from grade 1 to college and all her granddaughters (up to high school), not to mention my grandfather’s sisters and their daughters, their granddaughters and countless other relatives. But I chose to enroll in Assumption because most of my seventh grade classmates from Maria Montessori Cooperative School (MMCS) would be studying there, and my parents, respecting my decision, faced my grandmother’s wrath courageously. I would be the first female of our extended family not to graduate from St. Scholastica’s for grade or high school.

Now, as I approach my last few days in high school, I cannot help but recall my seven wonderful years in MMCS and compare that to my four years in Assumption.

Learning in Montessori was totally different experience. Learning was “offered” and never imposed, thereby making it fun and exciting. Grades were not important. They were incidental. It mattered more than that a student learned – by reading, writing, by copying, by doing research, by making mistakes, by correcting mistakes, by succeeding, by helping younger children in the classroom, by being helped by older students in the classroom, by asking questions, by being answered, by being treated as an equal, by being respected by the directresses and classmates, and by respecting the directresses and classmates.

Our teachers were friendly and approachable. In the classroom, they did not look like teachers as they dressed just like the students (we had no uniforms) and they moved about the classroom sitting beside the students either at the tables or on the floor, depending on the activity. Officially, they were called “Directresses” because they did not teach but merely “directed” the students (But all students called them “Teach”). They guided us through daily various activities that would help learn through experiments and discovery, through experiences and repetitions, through school work and homework. They measured our learning, but not through surprise quizzes or long tests or exams. Learning was measured by oral check-ups. A student who could not complete a check-up satisfactorily would do more exercises and if this showed that the student did not understand the lesson, the directress presented the lesson once more.

Discipline was never imposed through threats. It was instilled in us by example and by invitation. We did not get scolded or suspended. We were asked to think of the consequences of our actions. And we were asked whether a different way of doing things would not be better for everyone involved. Most everyone developed an inner discipline which resulted in good behavior NOT because they had to, but because they wanted to.

In the Seventh Grade at MMCS, we were moved into a different classroom set-up. The school wanted us to experiences the traditional type of learning in anticipation of our moving to traditional high schools. Our teachers no longer mingled with us to guide us along, they stood or sat at the head of the classroom lecturing to us. We were giving quizzes and tests and exams preparatory to our need to take these in high school.

As Seventh Graders, we were given additional responsibilities. We were assigned to act as directresses in the lower grades when teachers had to attend meetings. We were given several projects to manage ourselves – the newspaper drive, the Christmas Fair and Bazaar, the yearbook. We were treated as adults by the school authorities. We were consulted, together with our parents, on the things that would affect us (graduation venue, Glee Club costumes, etc.) and were allowed to air our views and opinions which the school always respected.

I graduated from MMCS almost four years ago, and I have great memories of my seven wonderful years there that I will always carry with me. It was sad and painful to leave the school, but I had to move on. I moved on to Assumption which turned out to be so different from MMCS.

In Assumption, learning is not always fun and interesting and teachers are not as friendly and approachable. Tests and exams give me the jitters, yet they are all important as they supposedly measure my level of learning. Grades are almighty and everyone keeps track of scores or pass and fail levels while what a student has or has not absorbed seems to be ignored.

Discipline is imposed through threats of low conduct marks or suspensions so that students behave properly only when someone in authority is watching. Even social consciousness and the willingness to help the less fortunate, rather than being awakened in our hearts, is forced upon us. Most of my classmates realized their great responsibility to the less fortunate and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to lessen the gap between the rich and the poor. However, they much prefer to do this out of their own volition, not out of fear of the threatened consequences. More Seniors would have attended the Alternative Christmas had there been an explanation that their absence would mean some families would be without a food basket (which would be an embarrassment to the Senior Class) rather than a threat of an NI in conduct.

The Student Handbook states in the Forward that “Blessed Marie Eugenie, Foundress of the Assumption believes that the education of the young consists not in “clipping their wings” but in “redirecting their flight” because such is the process of liberation.” It is sad to say that I feel that this past year Assumption has been clipping wings than redirecting flight. I feel that the students’ enthusiasm and creativity are being stifled. I sometimes feel so constricted that I feel unhappy. I wake up in the morning wishing that I didn’t have to go to school. I often wonder whether I made the right decision about Assumption.

Despite these feelings, however, I believe that Assumption has built on the foundation started at home by my parents’ example, and by my grade school education at MMCS. I now have the strength of character to live with the consequences of my decisions, the confidence that I can make the right choices, the initiative to pursue my dreams, as well as the academic preparation and a strong and close relationship with God to help me through the challenge of college, a career and family. I believe that I am close to achieving the goals and objectives as well developing the values of Truth, Love, Peace, and Justice, as envisioned by Assumption and expressed in the Student Handbook. For this, I thank my family, my friends, and my teachers who have touched my life. I am grateful to all of them.

Bettina A. del Rosario, IV-3  (English Class with Ms. Mary Ann T. Eala); February 25, 1993 (18 years ago)

*I do not mean to step on anyones toes as I share this. Remember this was written 18 years ago. I was 15.5 years old. 

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