Grasshoppers. Caterpillars. Frogs. Leaves. Stones.
These were a few of the things my children brought for me from school. They also came home with faces streaked with (a bit of) dirt, socks (somewhat) black on the soles, knees of denim pants turned white (or brown )from kneeling on the floor to play board games, and the bottom back of white uniforms turned brown from sitting on steps while socializing with classmates. In the early grades, they brought mats and pillows to school because they had one-hour naps.
They came home excited, narrating what they did and learned. Sometimes, they showed off a portfolio of artworks they did in school.
They learned to play wonderful sentimental music with various instruments. Once, my eldest child, who was in the lyre and flute ensemble, serenaded nuns in a hospice. They played old songs which brought tears to the nuns’ eyes. Another time, they were invited to an expensive exclusive school for girls. My daughter said the campus was big but didn’t look friendly.
They had stage plays mounted in school and in other schools as well. I should know, because my son used to play a main character in one which enjoyed three runs.
They competed (and won!) with other schools in various intramurals.
My husband and eldest daughter joined a Father and Child campette twice while I stayed home for a change.
All my children enjoyed camping in school and with other schools in different venues. We celebrated and still continue to celebrate Earth Hour every year as a school year-ender for the Scouts.
Whatever was the child’s family’s religious preference was respected: there were Religion classes for Catholics and special classes for non-Catholics. There were interfaith prayers in programs when the school community is gathered.
These are just a few of my children’s experiences going to school in JASMS or Jose Abad Santos Memorial School, the basic education department of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) in Quezon City.
The JASMS Way taught my children that learning is not defined by grades in report cards and that learning is done not just within the four walls of the classrooms.
I have three children and all of them, except for the few years we home-schooled the two younger ones during their early grades, are or were JASMS-QC students. As of this writing, I only have two children in JASMS-QC because the eldest graduated high school two years ago, with a Loyalty Award pinned on her graduation dress.
The JASMS learning experience
Where we live, we have a lot of school options, but we chose JASMS for our children and these are some of the reasons why:
1. JASMs helped our children develop their self-confidence through a balance of learning academics and nurturing their gifts in the other intelligences traditional schools do not give importance to.
2. The school focuses on wholistic development, such that youngsters were able to hone their skills in the fields they excel in, whether theatre arts, music, sports, writing, speaking, visual arts, etc.
3. It offered a learned process that allowed children to value their self-worth, develop their confidence, sharpen their thinking processes and explore different ways to learn within and outside the classrooms.
4. I am a special needs teacher and having my children mingle with children who have special needs is very important to me. In JASMS, typically and atypically developing children learn side by side. Thus, they learn to respect and accept each other, regardless how differently they learn and cope.
5. The school and the parents work together in the children’s learning process.
One time, at the nearby supermarket, I noticed a young school boy who, at 7pm, was still squeaky clean, polo shirt still white and black pants with no marks on the knee part, looking like how he might do if he were on the way to school. I discreetly pointed him out to the children and said: “Look at the boy, still looking clean even at this time.”
The children were unanimous in saying that he looked like he did not have fun in school. “Di naman siya masaya.”
Masaya = happy.
The children were happy with the playground (muddy when it rains) and whatever was there they can play with. They did not mind the sometimes leaking classroom roofs or the flooding from EDSA during heavy thunderstorms. Children still went back to the school even if classrooms were submerged during Ondoy and the children’s books, mats, and most of the first-floor rooms were flooded and majority of the materials there were destroyed. (Thank you, QC and JASMS Parents Association, for having that creek/concrete barrier fixed.)
The children played happily in the only court in the quadrangle, even if they had to schedule basketball and volleyball practices till late because they had to share.
We witnessed a lot of performances in that court: Field Demo, Family Day, English Night, Drama Club performances, Grade 5 and 6 Turn-Over Ceremonies, Graduation Rites, First Friday Masses, Monday Flag Ceremonies, Camping Programs and Basketball and Volleyball Tournaments versus other schools.
This was the same court where performances often had to be stopped because it was raining and the audience had to wait for the weather to clear out. We didn’t complain about this much. For us parents, what mattered most was that our children loved the school, lock stock and barrel.
This is what the JASMS way is all about, that children have fun learning and that learning is fun.
Threat to the JASMS way
Lately though, the JASMS way is facing awesome challenges.
Without our knowledge, PWU and the giant developer AyalaLand – tapped by STI which has been brought in to buy minority shares in PWU – have been planning for some time to build a concrete multi-storey school to replace the present JASMS and two 33-storey residences and a mall beside it.
The planned conversion of the 33,000 sq. m. area to a mixed-used land where only a few thousand square meters will be dedicated to JASMS is a nightmare we all want to wake up from.
Don’t we have enough malls and high- rise condos?
We ask ourselves if we still want our children to stay when the conversion plan is approved. And what about the risks they would face going to school while a huge construction is going on in their midst? What about the special-needs children who have no other schools to go to?
With the uncertainty of what’s in store in the years to come, we can at least say that our family experienced the JASMS way where children play and learn among heritage trees and the birds and the bees.
We have precious memories of our children cavorting under the trees, swimming in a wading pool, riding a calesa around the school campus, camping near the “mountain,” camping under the stars on tents pitched on grass wet with morning dew.
We wish other families and children would experience these too for generations to come.
As Doreen Gamboa says: The child grows up only once so let his/her childhood be a happy one.”
JASMS is a place where happy childhood + learning happens.