About alexandersoul

I'm a writer and a poet. I'm also a thinker, but too much thinking gets in the way of the soul. And that's where I write from.

Implementation of Exploration Learning

A Three-Sided Reflection: What does it mean to be a Spanish teacher?

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A mural in Victoria, Chile

The Philosopher

Who am I? Well, I’m a human being. I’m a man, a son, a brother, and a husband. I’m a friend and a colleague. I’m a Christian. I’m an adventurer. I’m a gringo who speaks Spanish fluently. I’m also a teacher, a mentor.

My role as an educator is constant, but what it means to me, and the way I choose to act in my role, is ever-changing. I’m constantly searching, learning, exploring, applying, adapting, and refocusing. If you ask any of my colleagues they’ll casually respond that I teach Spanish. I see it differently. I teach what I love, and one of those many things just happens to be Spanish.

I’m a lifelong learner and that happens to suit me wonderfully as a teacher. The questions that I have about who I am and what I do keep pushing me forward. The hunger I have to learn more about the area I teach keeps me growing. The combination of my own passions (travel, language, culture, growth) is what brought me to where I am today.

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Exploring in Reykjavik, Iceland

Richardson’s article hit very close to home for me. “The most important thing we can impart to our kids is a love of learning and the skills to learn well.” I couldn’t agree more. Our job is not lecturer or manager or babysitter. Our job is to light a fire for learning within our students, regardless of the topic, so when they leave school they are better prepared for the world we live in. I truly believe that part of my job is to learn alongside the students that I teach, and Richardson clearly believes the same.

We cannot simply teach “stuff” or “facts” about our subject matter. We must help our students recognize the value of learning. As a teacher I 100% expect my students to take some of the responsibility for their learning. Do I expect them to learn Spanish without my help? Of course not. It’s an exchange, a partnership, a mentorship.

In his article, Richardson cites Sir Ken Robinson: “The key is not to standardize education but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” I wish school was conducted this way when I was a student. Thankfully, my own personal drive and my parents’ support enabled me to start exploring the world and my passions at a young age, but not all kids have that luxury. As an educator, I have a unique opportunity to enable my students to explore their dreams a little bit. I can give them the chance to delve into articles of their choice, experiment with new resources, and even engage with communities outside our classroom walls.

It ultimately boils down to this question that Richardson words so nicely: “What if teachers and students were co-learners, co-creators in the process?” What if my students and I can create a dynamic where they get to explore and I get to help them?

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3 English students and lifelong friends of mine from Saudi Arabia, Japan, & Palestine

The Idealist

Who am I? I’m a dreamer. I color outside the lines and I think outside the box. I put on my creative goggles and I go to work painting reality with my imagination.

If obstacles weren’t a factor in my classroom, students would soar. I would love to implement a language program based more on exploration and less on the grammar and vocabulary lists that our textbooks offer. I want my students engaged and invested in Spanish, not because they have to pass my test but because they can’t get enough of it. Knowing another language opens so many doors and provides avenues for so many connections that otherwise aren’t there. The best thing about learning another language is that it can easily be applied to any topic, which enables students to learn more about their own passions.

Dan Pink commented on a unique practice: “Another way of personalizing learning, among many others, are DIY report cards. An educator in upstate New York did these DIY report cards, and they changed the way he taught.” This is something that never would have occurred to me. Richardson referenced the fact that teachers today are limited by the teachers that they had as students. We do what we know. While I do agree with this, for the most part, I also believe that best practices transcend time and place. If something is truly good and purposeful, it will remain so. Even if the outer appearance changes, the core essence of teaching should generally remain the same. We have to teach them the love of learning, because that’s what life is all about.

If I were to dream away, my mind takes me to a classroom that allows for the following:

  • The teacher presents new ideas in a succinct way
  • The students explore how this concept is used, how to learn it, and why it matters
  • An open conversation takes place between the students and the teacher
  • The teacher is able to push concepts beyond the walls and into real life
  • The class is able to explore the world virtually
  • The students communicate with people in the target language around the world
  • The students investigate their own passions in the target language
  • The students forget that they’re learning Spanish and recognize that they’re already speaking it

Some of these things are already happening in my classroom, but not all of them, and not all the time. Some are yet to take flight. But I hope to get there soon.

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English Opens Doors, Santiago, Chile. Teachers that were also willing to be learners!

The Pragmatist

Who am I? I’m Alex McKay. I’m all of the people listed above but I’m also real. I’m not perfect and I do make mistakes. I live in an imperfect world with limitations. But that doesn’t mean I stop dreaming, nor does it mean I stop chasing the dreams that I create.

I am very thrilled about the beginning of this school year. For the first time in my life I’m teaching Spanish 4. I’ve always taught Levels 1 & 2, which are mandatory for graduation. I now have the chance to teach a class that my students are choosing to take, and I could not be more excited. My expectations are high, but not unreachable.

The very fact that I’m teaching this new level will allow me to slowly implement some of my idealist thinking. My plan is to come up with 2-4 core activities, projects, and big ideas and slowly put them into practice. It is very possible that they crash land, but I’ll never know if I don’t try. I continue to speak with colleagues, do research online, follow quality educators on social media, and pursue professional development opportunities.

These practices will allow me to stay relevant in my field. I would also like to collaborate with some of my peers at work on presenting a formal PLN program for our school. My experiences and research from this class have shown me the value of PLN’s and made me question why no one at my school ever said anything to me about getting connected. Shouldn’t there be someone in charge of equipping new educators with meaningful online resources to guide them on their quest to become lifelong learners and better teachers? This is something I’d like to see remedied.

As mentioned above, this year I plan on trying out a few new ideas that I’ve been sorting through. I’m very intrigued by Pink’s idea of allowing the students to set their own expectations. Obviously my school will not allow me to be that extreme, nor would I care to, but I can allow my students to create a digital set of entries as the year goes along. They can start off by detailing their own expectations for themselves in regards to the Spanish language. Little do they know that I’m going to allow them to use Spanish as a means for exploring other passions that they may have.

I’m curious to see how the students take to the approach that I’m working on. Spanish Levels 1-3 are very grammar driven at my school. Speaking and listening unfortunately take the hit and I’m setting out to change that. I want my students to engage with each other, with me, and with the online community to make Spanish meaningful to them, beyond the traditional textbook and workbook.

My plan for this year is to dabble, to experiment. I have no idea how things will go, but I want to find out. I’m going to take my own notes and journal my own thoughts as the year goes along. This way I can reference how things went without having to recall everything from memory.

Year two will be dedicated to the following: honing the best practices, reshaping the ones with potential that were possibly misguided, tossing the bad eggs, and trying a few new ideas that surface along the way.

The following year I plan on sharing my successes and failures with my colleagues in a more formal manner. Obviously I’ll be collaborating with them along the way, but I would like to share my best practices in a more professional setting.

I think that the way world languages are currently taught is severely lacking. The current textbooks are so outdated that it’s painful. I want to continually rethink the way we teach Spanish so that it becomes practical, enjoyable, and purposeful. It may be the idealist in me, but I think I might be onto something. We’ll see how it goes…

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Andes Mountains, Chile. Never stop exploring!

 

 

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Unbegotten

Sunbeams embrace your fickle soul,

a breath of fresh air,

a burst of fresh light.

An honest breeze tickles your nerves,

releasing their tension,

unleashing their weight.

A fervent spirit overtakes your being,

calming your cares,

reassuring your bones.

The darkness rattles inside you,

caged as an animal,

confined by your ribs.

He beats like a drumming madman,

eager to break you,

to squelch the light.

She fiendishly grates at your insides,

screaming like torture,

yet silent as death.

You feel the clashing of forces,

light from without,

dark from within.

You step outside of your borrowed skin,

watching the war,

awaiting the victor.

Darkness hurls its entirety at light,

expecting to triumph,

to overwhelm their foe.

Yet the light just inhales to breathe them in,

swallowing the darkness,

absorbing them whole.

A brilliant flash envelops your presence,

infusing you with energy,

granting you with vigor.

An explosion wells within you,

a fullness unfathomed,

a beauty unbegotten.

The darkness will no longer be found,

for they could not

overcome

the light.

 

The Grace of All Graces

Broken is the man, stained by sin,

            likewise the woman, born of his rib.

Lost are their children, strayed since birth,

            for they don’t understand the soul or its worth.

Ravaged by envy, driven by greed,

            they’re pushed and pulled by the evil one’s seed.

He’s planted it there within their hearts,

            leading them swiftly into the dark.

But light still exists in the form of Christ!

            For love overflows from the Giver of Life!

He takes the guilt and the shame we all bear,

            He wipes the slate clean, He signs His name there.

We’ve all been offered His infinite grace,

            both deeper than oceans, more expansive than space.

There is no end to the grace He bestows,

            the depth of His love, not one can know.

For He is beyond and so high above

            that He cannot sin; He simply loves.

His love is greater than all we have known,

            much higher than the eagle has ever flown.

No comparison of love will ever be found,

            for God is unfathomable, His grace too profound.

Yet our souls have weight, we’re given a choice,

            to ignore His gift or to follow His voice.

We are to choose between life and death,

            and God will decide in whom to place breath.

Though some will fall and rise no more,

            others will marvel at His graces galore.

For He yearns to take us to heaven with Him,

            to shower us in grace and to usher us in.

There with the angels His praises we’ll sing

            to the Grace of all Graces, our King of Kings.

The Artist of Life

Imagine an artist whose art comes to life…

His paintings leap from their canvasses,

            his sculptures break free and move,

His storied characters rise from their pages,

            his poetry blossoms and breathes.

Whatever he creates takes shape,

            their lungs filling up with air.

Whatever he envisions comes to be,

            for life flows from his giving hands.

Now, imagine his creations in the world

            where they live and they interact.

Imagine they’re given free will,

            granted freedom upon the earth.

Their environment is sublime,

            their surroundings are so pristine.

They commune together here, at peace

            with each other and their creator.

Next, imagine that they rebel,

            they reject their giver of life.

Chaos, anguish, and ire ensue,

            pain and hate take root.

What once was a place of harmony

            has been plagued and riddled by evil.

The creations are razing their canvas to the ground,

            their creator just watches them go…

There are wells of tears in his eyes

            and his heart is beyond broken.

His paintings have discolored,

            his sculptures have all contorted.

His characters have been manipulated,

            his poetry has turned against him.

All that he’s created has changed,

            warped by the evil in their hearts.

All that he had dreamed and envisioned

            has been lost, ruined, undone.

He gave of himself in their creation,

            but his love was not returned to him.

Now, imagine that we are his paintings,

            know that we are his sculptures.

Understand that we are his characters,

            believe that we are his poetry.

His life still flows through our veins,

            his breath still breathes in our lungs.

His love still beats in our hearts,

            and his touch is still within reach.

His longing stands before us,

            his arms are open wide.

His embrace will reshape and remold us

            into what he dreamed we would be.

Now, imagine he’s painting our path,

            know that he’s sculpting our souls.

Understand he’s the author of our lives,

            and believe our poetry is still being penned…

The Wide Sea

Sometimes the world feels so big, and I feel quite small.
There are things to do that I haven’t yet figured out how.
There are places to go that I’m unsure where to look.
There are people to meet that I’m unfamiliar with.
There are mountains to climb, yet I am still unequipped.
There are oceans to cross, yet I haven’t the stamina to swim.
I peer out the window and see the world, tall and ominous.
The people around me move so quickly that I can’t react.
There are days that pass by and I feel all too unaccomplished.
There are nights that worry prevents me from sleeping.
It’s difficult to admit when I feel overwhelmed.
It’s often embarrassing to ask another for help.
I’m no longer a boy, but am I truly a man?
I’m no longer a student, but there’s much more to learn.
The ambient noises are sometimes overbearing.
The constant advice is sometimes taken as criticism.
In this world so large, I’m truly very small.
I am a leaf on the wind, a single drop in the wide sea.
And so I close my eyes to escape the weight.
I close my eyes to dream of a place otherworldly.
I dream of feeling wanted, needed, loved.
It’s a distant and lofty dream, dreamt with regularity.
I close my eyes tightly and I drift off to sleep.
And when I awaken, I know what awaits me in spirit.
When I arise, I know that I’ll be embraced.
For I have been created and I am dearly loved.
I am wanted for a purpose, needed for many things.
In my life I will take countless small steps.
But when added up, I will have walked a great distance.
And so, I close my eyes tonight, ready for sleep.
I will once again think these very thoughts.
Once again I will dream this very dream.
And when I stir in the morning, I will once again rise.
Though small I will stand, and I will take many small steps.
I will go a great distance, until I become weary once more.
There I will lie down to sleep, to dream, and again to rise.

Freed

Stained by sin are the tips of my fingers

Stalked by death the steps that I take

Proud is the heart that beats in my chest

Sin is what’s left in my wake

.

Broken are the bridges that daily I build

Flawed are the friendships I keep

There are no ways to undo what I’ve done

The debt I’ve incurred is too steep

.

Someone must cover the cost of my sin

Someone must pay for my life

Nothing I do or say will suffice

I need the one they call Christ

.

Jesus Christ is the very Son of God

And He’s willfully died in my place

He’s gone as the lamb is led to the slaughter

He’s bestowed on all sinners His grace

.

Perfect was the life that Jesus had lived

Undeserving was the death that He died

But unworthy a foe the grave did prove

For Jesus has risen, He’s alive!

.

Not even the clutches of death could hold Him

There is no power below or above

Christ will triumph again and again

There is no match for His love

.

What we deserve is a sinner’s death

But Christ died for you and for me

Death could not hold Him, nor will it ever

Thus by Christ we’re alive, we’re free

Lo que siento por ti

Lo que siento por ti no se puede expresar con palabras,

         pero intentaré.

Lo que siento por ti es más profundo y más amplio

         que incluso los océanos.

La extensión de aguas no podría ni acercarse

         al amor que te tengo.

La profundidad del mar es menos que una sola gota

         de lo que siento por ti.

Las lluvias podrían inundar toda la tierra

         y tampoco sería más grande que nuestro amor.

Lo que siento por ti se desarrolló en instantes,

         y a la vez sigue creciendo.

Cada día aprendo cosas nuevas sobre ti

         y cada día me asombras más y más.

Jamás pensé que podría sentir algo tan fuerte

         que mi corazón no pudiera contenerlo.

Mi amor por ti excede la capacidad de mis células

         y no lo puedo negar.

Lo que siento por ti no tiene límites

         y sigue expandiendo más aún.

La palabra “sentimiento” no es suficiente

         para describir lo que tenemos tú y yo.

Mi cerebro piensa en amarte, mi corazón quiere amarte,

         y mi alma necesita amarte.

Con cada fibra de mi ser,

         deseo y planeo amarte.

Lo que siento por ti no tiene fin,

         y sé que nunca se va a acabar.

Nunca antes hubiera podido imaginar

         que el amor fuera así.

Tan fuerte es lo que siento por ti

         que no lo puedo mantener adentro.

Con gozo y alegría te amo

         en cada momento de mi vida.

Lo que siento por ti es el amor verdadero

         que crece y crece y no deja de crecer.

Cada día pienso que no sería posible

         amarte más.

Pero cada día que sigue me doy cuenta

         de que estaba equivocado.

No hay otra palabra que amor para describir

         lo que siento por ti.

Lo que siento por ti nunca será superado,

         sin importar lo que pase.

Si te llevaran al otro lado de la galaxia,

         seguiría amándote.

Si me prohibieran de verte para siempre,

         seguiría amándote.

Y sabiendo bien que esas dos cosas podrían pasar,

         seguiré amándote.

Lo que siento por ti, amor mío,

         es amor como Dios lo destinó.