Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fomenting a revolution in the classroom

A text message from a teacher in Palawan who attended a three-day Mentoring the Mentors seminar/workshop reads, “Hi, Dr. Sol, Dr. Eve & Dr. Cel! Ds s Rhoda, one of the pax in MMP at PSU. Just wanna thank u all again for what we got out of d seminar. For one, a mentor lyk me whos considering quitting her job made a (180) degree turn around in a matter of 3 days…”
The program is taking the countryside by storm but in a quiet way. By storm –because Mentoring the Mentors has unleashed so much energy and fire from both catalysts and the catalyzed, the mentors and the mentees. The sessions are usually quiet, because those involved are observing in rapt attention what is taking place and are not inclined to make useless chatter. They have more important things to do.
But the time comes when the light should no longer remain hidden under a bushel and should instead be brought forth. To use another biblical imperative, they should get out there and shout from the rooftops.

The Mentoring the Mentors Program (MMP) had low-key beginnings. It had a most unlikely instigator in the person of journalist-publisher Eugenia “Eggie” D. Apostol, founding chair of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (1985) and the Foundation for Worldwide People Power (FWWPP). Apostol received the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Literature, Journalism and Creative Communication Arts plus several national and international awards for her work and daring in the field of journalism, especially during the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship.

Eggie was not a school teacher. But something possessed her to go beyond journalism and get her feet wet in education. And so FWWPP embarked on a movement called Education Revolution, which included the adopt-a-school and mentoring the mentors programs. A series of meetings, consultations and brainstorming sessions created interest and enthusiasm among individuals and groups.

Adopt-a-school was an idea whose time had come, and was promptly adopted by civil society, business and the government. But the Mentoring the Mentors Program also took on a life of its own and gave its initiators great, pleasant surprises in the way principals and teachers took to it like ducks to water. There was so much thirst to be quenched and a watershed moment had come.

What is MMP?

It is a program meant to further develop teachers’ skills in mentoring their students, open their hearts and broaden their perspectives. Its main targets are the public school system (teachers and principals) and teacher education institutes (TEI). It coaches mentors (teachers) on the “new” teaching methodologies so that both teachers and students become not only learned and capable individuals but agents of change.
Education for social transformation is the ultimate goal of mentoring, and so at the center of MMP’s work is enabling people to learn more effectively and “helping people to become the persons they want to be.”

MMP is a mobile program designed to meet the participants in their own localities. Sessions are limited to 50 to 65 persons to ensure quality and personalized mentoring.

MMP executive director Stella “Chinit” D. Rufino enumerates the topics in the mentoring program:

-Kambio sa pananaw [paradigm shift from "akin" (mine) to "atin" (ours)]
-Principles and practices in mentoring
-Character formation
-Leadership for service
-Building win-win relationships and the art of loving
-Active teaching-learning strategies
-Designing effective instruction/understanding by design

Rufino has had years of experience in values formation at the Marie Eugenie Institute based in Assumption College. Fired up with the idea of helping public school teachers, she was among the first persons who brainstormed with Apostol.

Snared into the “revolution” were Dr. Evelyn Mejillano and Dr. Celia Adriano, both education professors from the University of the Philippines. The then newly-retired Mejillano became MMP’s national coordinator and a trainor, while Adriano, whose expertise is instructional design and methodology, came on board as a trainor, spending weekends in places with unfamiliar names. Lirio Ongpin Mapa of the Franklin Covey System also joined the team.

Today, seven years later, the MMP veterans look back on their trailblazing efforts: 6,450 principals and teachers mentored in 30 cities all over the Philippines. Their cups overflow because of the profuse expressions of gratitude, the warm welcome when they go back for follow-ups, the clamor for more, and most of all, seeing change and results in teaching and learning.

Rey Amit, principal of Alanib Elementary School in Lantapan District in Bukidnon recalled his MMP experience: “I was so lucky to have gone through the active learning process. We used to think that there was only one way of teaching English, Math or Science. But with active learning, we realized there are new ways.”

He also learned how to improve relationships among teachers, shifting from the “akin” to “atin” mentality strongly stressed in the “kambio sa pananaw” (paradigm shift) exercises.

Dr. Esther V. Tabaniag, principal of Tongantongan Elementary School in Valencia City, reflected: “I thought MMP was just training. It was different from what I had attended because it made learning go beyond the exercise of imparting and acquiring knowledge. It called for teaching and learning with a heart. It emphasized that teaching children and developing their intelligences and skills should include a strong sense of community responsibility and moral values.”

While the MMP seminar may begin with a lot of heart opening, soul-searching, and hand holding (the art of loving, leadership, character formation, win-win relationships), it eventually segues into innovative and effective ways of teaching, many of which had not been taught in traditional institutions for teachers.

Active teaching and active learning are not merely subjects of lectures but are experiences teachers go through during the MMP seminar. This results in many “aha!” moments and unforgettables that the principals and teachers can’t wait to take home and share.

Seasoned teachers’ teachers Mejillano and Adriano did not invent these new ways. Scientific research in education, they stress, have shown how effective learning takes place and that some old methods should be changed. Teaching may be one of the oldest professions but it does not mean that methods should remain forever Jurassic.

For example, among the subjects of contention are lesson plans. Adriano has practically rendered the old wordy lesson plans obsolete and is teaching the teachers how to make more focused, workable ones. This results in more “aha!” moments. Creativity is key and teachers must not be afraid to use new ways to make learning enjoyable and unforgettable.

Here are some features of the MMP sessions:

-Participant-centered. Participants learn about themselves and develop personally and professionally.
-Activities are highly participatory and anticipatory.
-Activities are based on the latest brain research and studies on multiple intelligences and how these are applied to teaching strategies.
-Handouts are interactive and personalized to suit the participants’ needs.

“That is why we first get the principals,” Mejillano said. “If the principals are convinced, change takes place easily.” It goes without saying that among the MMP’s great assets are newly-retired school superintendents in the region, who have caught the fire and for whom there is no turning back as far as education revolution is concerned. As they say, teaching is for always. And so is learning.

The clamor for more MMP seminars is now greatly felt and MMP executive director Chinit Rufino and the MMP team see the need to multiply themselves. More trainors have to be trained. More funds are needed – it is plain to see.

The cost per session is about P150,000, inclusive of facilitators’ fees, handouts, transportation and board and lodging for facilitators, meals for 65 persons for the three-day session, rental of venue and equipment.

Superintendents have a budget for teacher training while mayors have a budget from their Local School Boards. They could provide MMP seminars for their teachers if they so wish. Fund-challenged but eager individuals can be served through the kindness of sponsors. But finding sponsors is another interesting story.

The quiet revolution that MMP began is now spreading inexorably. One has to experience it to believe it. Here are some words from the mentored mentors:

From Palawan State University: “These three days have been the most productive session in the university… They are excellent resource persons… We felt the tremendous surge of passion in your hearts. It is infectious!”

From Ormoc City: “I will implement the acquired knowledge by changing myself first in order to create the change in others. But this change must be rational and with a purpose. I was disappointed I was not aware of this earlier. I could have started a radical change for myself and my students, but I know it is not too late.”

From Iloilo: “We developed a passion for excellence among us teachers, which translated into a significant increase in our pupils’ performance in achievement tests: from 42nd place in the district achievement test, Bolilao Elem. School is now in the top 10.”

From Gingoog City: “Your sincerity to revolutionize Philippine education radiates with the untiring service you have rendered. Amazing! Thank you very much for reinvigorating my spirit, to be the best person/mentor I can be. Your inspiration touches my heart.”

Much has been achieved, but there is still so much to be done, the MMP team cannot stop saying. As they forge ahead, they take to heart and make alive the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “We must be the change we seek in the world.” •

Interested parties may contact the Mentoring the Mentors Program at 3F Marie Eugenie Institute, Mother Marie Building, Assumption College, Makati City. Tel. 8693292, 8938588 (fax), Email:

Tags: classroom , Education , Eugenia “Eggie” Apostol , Mentoring the Mentors Program (MMP) , revolution , Stella “Chinit” D. Rufino