A roomful of glee in a roomful of learners

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CARLA BIANCA RAVANES-HIGHAM

How many of us truly know what we want from the moment we are young? As children, we think of the many possibilities we can become before we find our life’s one truly calling.

For others, the calling might be several different ones through the course of a lifetime, such as Pia Pulido, founder and owner of Roomful of Learners.

She says, “I am one of those people who always knew what they wanted from the very beginning. I love working with children. I love how being around them reminds me of what’s new in everyday things. The raw emotions, the honesty, the sincerity of everything, the craziness of everything, the food drippings, the mess – I love it all.”
Pia, who initially started out as a pre-school teacher, was looking for the right challenge for her when she came across special education.

“My first inspiration was this eight-year-old Argentinean girl who could not read. She was living in the Philippines and had to deal with a different culture aside from her learning difficulties. Each day was different because she also had difficulty retaining information. She would learn concepts one day and forget about it the next. We had good days and bad days and it was the bad days that drove me to find out what would be the most effective way to help this child. This is what drove me deeper into special education,” she lengthily shares.

Armed with a different kind of determination, Pia took Developmental Psychology and it was through this course that she understood her passion more, “It gave clarity to my role as a special education teacher. My role as a teacher was to bridge gaps and given typical development as basis, there needed to be a way for children who were wired differently to learn and it was my job to figure that out.”

Pia knew she needed to learn more and so after getting married, she left for New York and enrolled herself in Bank Street, “It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I received the education I didn’t know I wanted. It was engaging and immersive. And gave me the opportunity to volunteer in Bank Street School for Children and had the opportunity to work in Mary McDowell, which left a great impact on me.”

Pia soon returned to the Philippines to continue to pursue her desire to help children with specific difficulties in learning, “I put up Roomful of Learners. Being in Mary McDowell made me see how learning strategies play a significant role in helping children’s education.”

Aimed specifically at Learning Disabled children, Pia says, “I decided to focus on learning disabilities because there are already several schools for children with special needs.

However, what I felt was necessary was a support system for those children who could make it to regular school.
So Roomful of Learners is a supplement to school. Its aim is to help children perform better in their own spheres. It is meant to empower the child and make him/her a more receptive learner.”

She also notes, “I realized that when a teacher tried to help children with difficulties in learning or those diagnosed with learning disability, the teacher also gets in the process of learning. It’s a place where everyone learns because every day, everyone learns how to help each other.”

When asked about the distinctive factor of Roomful of Learners, Pia says, “It’s the deep probing that we do when it comes to seeing how a child learns. As much as we are known as a reading center, when a child comes to us, we look at their emotional disposition, their motivation, and their skills. These three factors play such a significant role in learning. When a child is going through something. When a child is going through something emotionally, there is an automatic block. When a child is not motivated or does not see the purpose of learning, it is harder for information to get through. The skill area is the most straightforward aspect we deal with.”

She continues, “A child can either have difficulty in decoding, comprehension, or writing and we have the tools to measure that. Emotions and motivation, on the other hand, are more difficult to identify and address. In the process, I have learned that books are the most powerful tool in dealing with both emotions and motivation. We look for meaningful books that children can relate to. We look for stories that will give them ideas on how to resolve their own problems. When a child comes and is not motivated to read at all, we search and search for books that he/she might be willing to try. Most times we succeed, and of course, other times we don’t. I’m just happy to report more success than failure.”

As for the importance of learning “how we learn,” Pia says, “Once you understand how you learn best, you come up with strategies to become an independent learner. Once teachers know how their students learn best, they can figure out how to make a lesson more accessible to children.

We are all different and because of this, we all learn differently. I am always reminded of a title of a book by Marie Clay, Different Paths to Common Outcomes. In school, all children are expected to learn the same concepts. However, we all have different styles of learning because we are all individuals. Looking at it in a deeper manner, acknowledging one’s learning style is the same as respecting one’s individuality…and this is of great importance.”

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To know more, like their page on Facebook, Roomful of Learners.

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www.carlabiancaravanes.com



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