It’s the start of the school year again and for those who haven’t enrolled their kiddos yet and in the Quezon City area, you might want to take a tour at Benedictine International School. It’s a private school in QC, non-traditional and uses the Systems Thinking approach and they’re very good actually. If we live nearby, honestly, I wouldn’t hesitate to enroll my grade schooler there. Though there may be several non-traditional schools in the area, this Systems Thinking School redesigned their curriculum but still adheres to the DepEd policy yet empowered teachers and students to collaborate for a better education. In a nutshell, they let their students speak their minds, a socio-emotional learning, when it comes to education and extracurricular activities and teachers support them 100%. This teaching methodology helps students gain confidence so that they can eventually make their marks in the real world.
What is Systems Thinking?
Systems Thinking is a process of deducing situations and problems by looking at the big picture first, then delving deeper into patterns, habits, tools, and concepts to develop an understanding of interdependent structures. An understanding of the system helps an individual identify leverage points to help solve problems and achieve desired outcomes.
The way I understood it during the seminar, it’s not jumping to conclusions or rushing to make irrational decisions, instead, look at the big picture or go beyond what you see, hear or feel, go an extra mile to find out to make a better and sound judgment in the end.
We met with Ms. Joan Antonio, Executive Vice President (EVP) and Coordinator for Student Affairs of Benedictine International School and she has this to say: “Sometimes, we don’t realize that we’re already systems thinkers. Especially as moms, we are. Being moms, we’re good at asking questions because we want the best for our kids.
How it all started
Eric Cruz, senior high school coordinator and the assistant to the EVP at Benedictine International School, shared how the book titled ‘Schools that Learn’ jumpstarted Benedictine’s shift to a systems thinking approach and becoming a non-traditional private school.
Systems thinking is attributed to Peter Senge, MIT Senior Lecturer who co-authored the book. He is the Founding Chair of the Society for Organizational Learning (SOL).
Cruz narrated that he obliged when Antonio asked him to read the book which contained case studies, essays, and frontline reports from teachers, students, parents, and administrators. It was recommended to Antonio when she attended a leadership program by an organization advocating systems thinking.
After their minds were opened to a whole new teaching methodology, they attended Camp Snowball, a summer ‘camp’ experience held in Oregon, USA that brings together “teams of students, parents, educators, and business and community leaders to build everyone’s capacity for learning and leading in the 21st century.”
“We felt the need to adopt a systems thinking approach when we realized that a lot of students did not do well in a traditional school,” Antonio recalled.
“The students who came to Benedictine lacked confidence and didn’t want to come to school. For us, we had to adapt to their needs. Children would normally ask, ‘Why do I need to learn this?’ Systems thinking is able to answer that very clearly and it gives them the tools to understand them better.”
One of the habits of a systems thinker is considering the short and long-term consequences of actions. Using that in real life situations, systems thinking aids the person in making responsible decisions.
“Once you develop the habit of looking at the world from the perspective of a systems thinker, you get a clear understanding of how complex it is. Therefore, you’re more responsible in making choices,” Cruz pointed out.
Asked how they relate systems thinking to the use of digital media, Cruz narrated that their two media classes teach students how to be responsible producers and consumers of mass information.
“They have to be critical as to what they get from the internet and understand that not everything they see and read online is true. At the same time, they have to be critical producers of information, because, at times, people will not understand what they’re posting. These are being taught in class because this is a current reality. To dismiss it is to be ignorant of the fact that the world does change.”
For Ms. Bernadette Raralio, a Benedictine International School alumna of 2009, systems thinking taught her to be open-minded, shifting perspectives from time to time to understand every situation and individual.
“I don’t easily get mad. If an employee is late, I think of the possibilities that may have caused it,” Raralio said.
Even at home, practicing systems thinking with her kids, who are also attending the same school, has made parenting easier.
She finished her elementary years at Miriam College and joined Benedictine in high school, a testament to how well a learner from a traditional school can adapt to a systems thinking environment.
Benedictine integrates socio-emotional learning (SEL) in their classes as well. SEL is a systematic classroom teaching of emotional intelligence. It aids in handling life which includes self-awareness, managing emotions, increasing empathy and cooperation, developing responsible decision-making skills, and building relationships.
Before the students start their day in the classroom, the teachers ask how they are using the ‘mood meter,’ an illustration showing five emotions—happy, sad, excited, mad, and scared. This way, the teacher will know how to better react and facilitate the class.
SEL also teaches the students how to be more empathic especially towards their fellows with special needs who are part of Benedictine’s inclusion program.
“Our inclusion program is something that I’m really proud of because it teaches the kids so much about empathy and the real world,” Antonio said.
“If they’re not exposed to children with special needs, when they become adults, they will not know how to deal or even communicate with them. It’s going to be abstract.”
Don’t be afraid to learn
“We don’t want children to grow up, unable to manage life and fall in the sideways,” Cruz reiterated.
Antonio, on the other hand, urges that systems thinking is necessary in the world today.
“For the parents, the encouragement that we need is the love for life-long learning. It’s not easy at first, but you just have to practice it. Let go of the old mental models and learn new things.”
I SAY: So basically, Benedictine International School doesn’t just teach academics, they go beyond. Instead, they integrate play, includes psychological, emotional and social in educating their students which for me is great! That way, kids will be ready for the big world, not just armed with knowledge but also with skills necessary to understand things in a different and proper perspective than others, co-exist with different people in all walks of life, live a better life.
If I got you somehow interested, you can check out Benedictine International School at their website, www.benedictine.edu.ph, and Facebook page, www.facebook.com/BISphilippines. You may also send an email through firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (+632) 951-7454 or 951-7154.