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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

Box of Dreams

I used to roam the neighborhood,
When I was just a kid dreaming like everybody should.
I kept my head up in the clouds,
Always speaking soft but thinking things out loud.

You know, the years kept rolling by,
Dream after dream would get left by the wayside.
I wish it hadn’t happened that way,
I don’t know where they went but guess what I found today.

A “Box of Dreams”
Overflowing at the seams,
My “Box of Dreams”
Still shining bright like sunbeams!
That “Box of Dreams”
Is so much more than it would seem
So won’t you please
Start your very own “Box of Dreams”!

I used to run all over the town,
My heart would speed up but my thoughts would slow right down.
I kept my eyes out in front of me,
Ready to discover whatever I was meant to be.

But life got busy, you know,
I had to work to pay to live to see tomorrow.
So I started thinking a lot,
But living in the past I know I’ll miss what the future’s got.

A “Box of Dreams”
Overflowing at the seams
My “Box of Dreams”
Still shining bright like sunbeams!
That “Box of Dreams”
Is so much more than it would seem
So won’t you please
Start your very own “Box of Dreams”!

Now I keep my head up high,
I’m dreaming every day but my eyes are open wide.
My feet are firm on the ground,
Chasing all those dreams that I used to give the run around.

I like to write my thoughts out,
So whenever people read them they’ll know what I’m all about.
So, friend, if you’re ever free,
Start a list, fill a box with everything you’ve ever dreamed.

A “Box of Dreams”
Overflowing at the seams
My “Box of Dreams”
Still shining bright like sunbeams!
That “Box of Dreams”
Is so much more than it would seem
So won’t you please
Start your very own “Box of Dreams”!

Stepping Back

The past few years of my life have been a whirlwind of craziness, adventure, challenge, and growth. I’ve done so many things in such a small window of time it’s hard to keep it all straight. Just two years ago I was finishing up school and looking forward to finding a teaching gig. I landed a few interviews but with the economy struggling there weren’t many teaching jobs to go around. That led me to consider other options, one of which was teaching abroad. Looking back it’s quite obvious to me that God put this all in motion a long time ago. And here we are, nearing the end of 2014, and I’ve since spent almost two full years in Chile. Like I said, those years have provided me with a smattering of life experiences and moments that have been both challenging and unforgettable. Without a doubt these years have left their mark on me, in the best way possible, and I’m coming out a better man for it. This year God has taught me so many things, and most of them fall into these four categories: perseverance, prayer, humility, and trust.

Most of my time here in Chile has flown by. And I’m not exaggerating. It feels like I’ve blinked maybe three times since February and it’s almost October. Both this year and last have been filled with amazing experiences, but they’ve had their share of struggles as well. There were days I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, days I didn’t want to go to work, days I felt overwhelmed, and days I felt misunderstood or alone. But boy was I wrong. God has been with me the entire time. Those moments where I felt a certain weight on my shoulders were due to any number of factors. Homesickness, eternal winter, isolation, exhaustion, and even illness at one point. In each of these situations, among others, there were instances where I took my eyes off the Lord, the result of which left me feeling alone in whatever I was facing. The weight grew infinitely heavier when I tried to go it alone. But when I focused myself on the help and the hope that were always within reach, the problems I was facing slowly grew smaller and I gradually gained more faith that I would overcome them. Moments like these are bound to come, regardless of whether or not we lose sight of the Lord. Frustration, loneliness, and exhaustion are things that happen in life. What matters is how we react under such circumstances. God has taught me again and again the value of persevering. This was the first year in my life that I worked full time and lived on my own. Complicating things even more were visa issues, language barriers, and the fact that I worked independently the whole year. For the first time I had to pay all the bills on my own: rent, food, internet, cell phone, transportation, and the like. There were numerous moments where I barely managed to scrape enough together to pay all the bills. Private English classes were my main source of income but they were hardly reliable as my students could cancel at their own will. It was no loss to them, yet to me it made all the difference. Moments like these were tough for me. But pressing on in these moments develops character, and it prepares us for future challenges. It also helps us to get through the hard times quicker. I now know never to give up because I have it within me to press on. I have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me and I have God on my side. In no moment was I going it alone, and never will I have to. With the Lord’s help I know I will overcome.

I’ve also been taught a lesson or two about prayer. And let me be up front here; I’m not simply talking about asking God to do things in your life. That’s a vital piece of prayer, but a piece nonetheless. God genuinely cares about what’s going on in our lives. He wants us to succeed and he wants to help us. He also wants us to come running to him, whatever the situation calls for. Be it for help, a shoulder to cry on, to celebrate, or to ask for forgiveness. God is our Heavenly Father and he wants us to seek him out. I admit that there were stretches during these past two years where I fell away from devoting time to prayer. And those stretches were most likely when the lowest moments occurred. It wasn’t that God had stopped being faithful, or that I had hit a stroke of bad luck. It was my own lack of faithfulness to God. My own laziness, or whatever excuse you’d like to plug, prevented me from feeling close to God when I needed him. And that’s on me. Prayer is sometimes made out to be a chore. It’s like a checklist item that we feel obligated to complete at some point during the day. And while it should be done daily, it shouldn’t be a burden. From all of the examples of prayer in my life, too many of them have been in moments of hurt or need or desperation. It’s like we only resort to prayer if nothing else is working out. I am really bothered by this. God has been helping me and showing me how to restore joy to my prayer life. I look forward to speaking to him. Even if it’s at night before I fall asleep, I love telling him about my day. I love praising him and telling him how much I appreciate him. Sure, I ask him for help as well. I’m always going to need it and frankly he’s the one I most want to receive it from. But God is so gracious, and so good, that prayer should be joyous. It’s a privilege that we can speak to him freely and a massive blessing that he listens. And he truly cares! So pray faithfully and do so joyfully. You won’t regret it.

Humility. Man, are these fun lessons to learn. I’ll be flat out honest and say that I’ve always thought myself a pretty humble guy. I can’t stand showing off or bragging. I don’t revel in the spotlight. I try to never come across as arrogant or ungrateful. But sometimes I am way off base, and I know it. These lessons are the kind that sting at first, but for me it feels so good afterward. I’m thankful for the episodes over these past few years where I’ve been put in my place, so to speak. There were various moments in which I was shown what true humility looks like. I’m talking about the kind of humility where you submit yourself before others, even when they don’t deserve your time or respect or help. It reminds me of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. He’s the King of Kings and he had no reason to be washing the dirty feet of men that would later betray him. But he did wash their feet. This is the kind of humility that very few people are good at. I am trying to get better at it. I think our modern-day society possesses a very subconscious but firmly set idea of elitism. We are always comparing ourselves to the rest, aiming to stay above some meaningless standard we set for ourselves and others. As long as we stay above that line, we’re better than the rest. I have very gratefully come to realize that I am only the best at one thing, and there is no reason to compare myself with anyone else. Care to guess what it is? I’m not the best at soccer or hockey. I’m not the best at Spanish. I’m not the best writer. I’m not the best teacher. But I am the best at being me, and that’s precisely what God created me for. He didn’t make me to be any other way but the way I am, and that is perfectly good with me. I am made in God’s perfect image. I am made to glorify the Lord, to serve men, and to love them both with a humble heart. So in humility, I will ever attempt to do these things to the best of my humble ability.

Lastly comes trust. In today’s world trust is quite a rare commodity. There are very few people that we entirely trust. Be it with our belongings, our secrets, our past, or our lives. In order to give out trust we require others to earn it. Sadly, we hold God to this same standard. We don’t fully trust in him until he proves himself. We’re all about the proof. And even when he does, we sometimes rescind that trust because he didn’t come through in the way we wanted him to. Well, shame on us. God doesn’t need to earn our trust. He should always have it. God has provided for us in so many ways it’s absurd. He put us on this earth. He put breath in our lungs. He gives us free will. And he gave up his one and only Son to save us because we screw up all the time. So yeah, God deserves our trust. But what God has done this year is show me again and again, time after time, that he wants me to trust in him one hundred percent, all of the time. God has opened so many doors, just at the right time, that I can’t even count. He has also closed doors that needed to be closed, exactly at the right moment. And even when there were no doors to be opened, but he wanted me to get somewhere, he opened a timely window. I can’t even fathom or come close to explaining how incredible everything has been. God has guided me right to this very moment. What I’ve learned is to lean on God through everything, and to never doubt. If he wants something to happen, it’s going to happen. He always finds a way. And if not, no worries. It wasn’t meant to be and he’s got something even better in store. And that’s the fun part. If we trust in him, let him take charge, and team up with him, we’re in for one wild and fun ride. It may bring tough times and obstacles. In fact, it most certainly will. But when we trust in him there’s nothing to worry about. Trust in him, even when you have no idea what’s going on. Because he does.

As you can see, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on all the growing I’ve been doing. Maybe you got bored and skipped ahead or maybe you spent the whole time nodding in agreement. Maybe you’ve already learned all these lessons or maybe they’re on their way to you right now. Whatever boat you’re in, I challenge you to take a step back from life for a moment. Life is so crazy and we get so busy that we forget to consider this stuff. Hopefully you haven’t forgotten to consider God. But even if you have, it’s okay. He’s right there, waiting for you with open arms. And if you have been relying on him, take a moment to think about all he’s done for you lately. Reflect upon what you’ve learned. Sometimes we forget that the lessons that God sends our way are meant to help us grow into better people. And if we forget to work on these things, his lessons just go to waste. So again, I challenge you! What has God done for you lately? What have you learned from him, or from others? And finally, I encourage you, to never stop trusting in him. Never stop asking him for help or celebrating with him. And never ever stop learning from him. He’s a pretty awesome teacher to have.

The World and I

The world and I are not alike.

The world spins at the same pace, day after day after day. It never speeds up. It neither slows down. It remains constant, ever steady. I, on the other hand, am not constant. I can sit still no longer than a moment. I may run quickly but surely I will tire. I am fast and I am slow, but I am not steady.

The world and I are not alike.

The world is neatly divided. It has its Northern and Southern Hemispheres. It has its North and South Poles. It has an equator and lines of latitude and longitude that clearly separate and define. I, on the other hand, am not neatly divided. I am part boy and part man. I am one part strong and the other part weak. I am both proud and humble. I am one moment serious and the other giddy. But while the world is black and white, I am grey.

The world and I are not alike.

The world is dominated by the fittest. The weak are brushed aside to the fringes and stepped on while the strong succeed and survive. The world has no mercy on the lesser man. The world is unrelenting. I, on the other hand, am unfit. I would prefer not to step on the weak but rather to give them a hand. I would rather not be first, but actually last. Greed is something I try to avoid, and not collect. I am in favor of mercy, of forgiveness.

The world and I are not alike.

The world is a created place, a landscape. It is also a canvas, so to speak. The world is lived on by many people, and those creatures paint the earth, sometimes beautifully and sometimes with ugliness. I, on the other hand, am a created being, a person. I am also an artist, so to speak. Both the world and I are creations, but I am made in the image of the Creator. Therefore, I can also create. I am not painted on but I do the painting. I leave my mark on this world, in whichever way I choose to do so. It may be beautiful, and uplifting, and meaningful. Or it may not be. That is up to me.

The world and I are not alike.

The world is a temporary residence. It is finite. It will have an end. I, on the other hand, am not temporary. I have a soul, and that soul does not have an end. It is everlasting in its being. When the earth has long been dissolved, I will still be, in some other place. I will be alive and well, not because I deserve to be, but because it has been offered to me and I´ve accepted. The world ultimately ends in destruction, as will all who choose the world over their souls. The world, at its core, is wicked. But in my core, should you pry open my soul, dwells one we call the Holy Spirit. And he is the stamp of everlasting life, the seal of the Almighty God, and by his word I will not perish but have eternal life.

The world and I are not alike.

Are you?

HIGH

Two months out from a big race and I decide to go for a training run. I get ready, mentally and physically, plug into my running playlist and take off. There’s a route I like that heads toward the highway and crosses over into a peaceful countryside. It’s sometimes louder, colder and windier, but to me it far outweighs being chased by dogs in the town center. So, I cross the bridge over the highway and get a glimpse of the trail ahead, beaten down on by warm rays of sunshine. It’s a welcome sight after a few days of rain kept me from heading out. I round the corner fronting the fields and run parallel to the highway, looking not towards the sporadic passing of trucks but towards the country, and towards the sky. In this moment I see the clouds part and the sun burst through in a way I haven’t seen in some time. People say not to look at the sun, but I can’t refuse. It’s as if the heavens are opening up. The warmth that’s beating on my chest and face is indescribable, and I’m filled with an overflowing peace and joy. An infectious wellspring explodes within me and I begin to rejoice as I run. I’m literally pointing to the skies and jumping, leaping and fist pumping. It’s as if I’m celebrating a goal at the World Cup; a goal that I’ve scored. That’s the kind of elation that I’m feeling. There exists this thing that people call a “running high,” a sort of euphoria experienced by distance runners when they reach this point of pure bliss and feel an extra jolt of energy. There also exists this thing that people call a “spiritual high.” This high refers to a place of spiritual satisfaction, peace, understanding and joy, often brought upon by retreat, meditation, or witnessing some miracle or conversion. And while this was likely somewhat a combination of the two, it was certainly more of the latter. I was high on running, on life, and on the Spirit. As the skies parted before me I witnessed a coming of light that I’d never seen before except in my soul. In my own heart, soul and spirit I’ve experienced bursts like this before, but this time it was different. It coincided with an explosion of light before my own eyes. The way the light refracted through the clouds amplified it in a way that made it otherworldly. I literally felt as if God was beaming down on me, lifting my spirit, warming my soul. He was cracking through the skies like a beacon, sweeping aside the darkness of this world as dust is taken by the wind. And there I was, leaping and rejoicing along the side of the highway, celebrating the grace that He pours down on us. I felt energized and relaxed at the same time. Despite the fact that I was salted with sweat, I felt cleansed. The joy that came over me was pure. The way my soul was renewed was breathtaking. And all that I felt was directly from God. As I continued running I dwelt on that moment, even as the clouds rolled back over the sun. That moment, that sunburst, that high, lingered in my soul, beneath my breast. And it still does some two days later. I’m consistently reminded and blown away by the mercy of our God, the way He renews us and cleanses us, the way He provides and cares for us. But above all, I’m flat out astounded at the way He loves us. Whether it’s apparent or not, I’ve spent days trying to formulate the words to describe this experience, and I’m still struggling to find them. Words aren’t sufficient; they fall short. And they will always fall short when we attempt to use them to describe our God, our Creator, our Savior, our Redeemer. I’m still blown away by this moment that I was gifted, but there is one thing that saddens me. The more I think about it the more I realize that God deserves that celebration, that jubilation, at all times. We should be on fire for Him, incapable of keeping His magnificence to ourselves. But it’s more often the opposite. We struggle to motivate ourselves. We lack the boldness, the gall, the strength, to step up and say something. Being loved and saved by the Creator of the universe deserves a celebration and euphoria far beyond that of a World Cup goal, or any other petty thing that we rave over. But we get things mixed up. Our priorities are wrong. We’ve got it all backwards. We give God ten percent and the world the rest. In reality, we should give God all that we’ve got. He deserves more than our lives are even worth. But instead He comes down to earth. He descends from on High, and dwells among us. Then, to top it all off, He dies in our place. We have life because He loves us to the grave. We have breath in our lungs and hope in our hearts because that grave cannot hold Him. Death cannot hold Him. He is greater. He is far greater. And now He’s exalted on High, at the right hand of the Father in heaven, and His Spirit dwells within us. In moments that are all too rare, we take notice of what this Spirit within us is saying. In moments like the one I experienced on my run, we realize that we have things backwards. So, I will continue to rejoice. I will continue to skip and jump and pound my chest and pump my fist and exalt the One who deserves all praise, the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. Rejoice. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Los Tres Bandoleros

Érase una vez un grupo de tres amigos que se llamaban los bandoleros. Vivían juntos, comían juntos, y todo hacían juntos. Nunca fue visto uno sin los otros. Tampoco fueron visto dos sin el otro. Siempre andaban juntos. Pero así se distinguieron: uno era demasiado alto, uno era bajito y gordito, y el tercero tenía una barba que casi llegaba a su cinturón. Se llamaban los bandoleros porque les encantaba causar caos. Adonde iban siempre dejaban detrás algún lío, siempre huyéndose sin ser capturados. Y aunque eran ladroncitos, eran encantadores y siempre simpáticos. A pesar de que los guardias del pueblo sabían que eran así, nunca alcanzaron pillarlos en el acto. Eran rápidos, quietos, y listos. Y así vivían, todos los días, todos los años.

Un día llegaron al pueblo tres extranjeros. Se fueron directo al mercado central y empezaron a observar a la gente. Conversaron con los vendedores, charlaron con los niños, y se fijaron en el ritmo de la feria. Al fondo habían dejado sus bolsas y maletas.

De repente, llegaron los tres bandoleros al mercado. Como era costumbre, los tres entraron corriendo y gritando, saltando y cantando. Hacían todos tipos de ruidos y chocaban con casi todo en su camino. Barriles de naranjas cayeron, ruedas de carritos salieron, y todo un caos estalló.

Los bandoleros escurrieron entre todas las tiendas sacando todo lo que podían, dejando caer todas las cosas en sus bolsas. Siguieron con su payasada hasta que llenaran sus bolsas y después se dirigieron hacia las salidas. Esta vez, al pasar por el fondo del mercado, vieron tres bolsas desatendidas en el piso. Fácilmente recogieron las bolsas en sus brazos y salieron corriendo.

Cuando todo se había calmado, y todos los vendedores habían arreglado sus tiendas y contado sus pérdidas, los tres extranjeros volvieron por sus bolsas. Pero no estaban. Buscaron y buscaron pero en ningún lado aparecieron. Ahí se dieron cuenta: los bandoleros se las habían llevado.

Por las próximas tres semanas los extranjeros volvieron al mercado, ayudando a los vendedores y trabajando para recuperar lo que habían perdido. Todo ese tiempo pasaban conociendo al pueblo y a la gente. Y por el chamullo de la gente se enteraron de la rutina de los tres bandoleros. Aprendían sus costumbres, sus tácticas, y hasta sus características. A fin de mes, desarrollaron un plan.

Una noche, justo después del atardecer, los tres extranjeros se juntaron afuera del palacio. Se escondieron detrás de unos arboles y cuando preparados salieron disfrazados. Esperaron hasta que los guardias salieran a dar la vuelta por el castillo, como era rutina. Sabían que tenían unos quince minutos para entrar y salir.

Procedieron a pasar por las puertas del palacio, sin ser vistos. Poco a poco, sala por sala, avanzaron hasta el salón del trono. Ahí espiaron al rey sentado al lado de su esposa. Antes de entrar, uno de los tres gritó con voz de dama: “Socorro! Guardias, por favor! Ayuda!”

Los guardias miraron al rey, y él les dio permiso para ir a ayudar. Pero, cuando habían salido los guardias, entraron los tres extranjeros, armados con espadas y arcos. Se acercaron al rey, apuntando sus arcos a él y a la reina. Los amenazaron para que no hablaran. Después les contaron que sólo querían sus coronas y sus anillos, y ahí saldrían sin problemas. Pues el rey y la reina rápidamente les dieron sus joyas. Aunque eran carísimas preferían quedar sin joyas que quedar sin vida.

Entonces, los tres salieron del salón corriendo. No iban muy rápidamente pero por sus trucos nadie les seguía. Justo cuando salieron del palacio volvieron los guardias. Al ver los tres hombres a los guardias les dio pánico. Se dieron cuenta de que habían dejado a su rey sin protección. Así que entraron corriendo a buscarlo.

Cuando llegaron, él les contó todo, como habían entrado tres hombres para robarles sus coronas y anillos. Los guardias se sintieron horribles por haber caído en la trampa. Pues preguntaron que podían hacer para arreglar las cosas. El rey les dijo que encontraran a los tres culpables y que los dejaran en la celda del castillo.

Allí los guardias le hicieron una pregunta más al rey: “Usted les vio a los tres, cierto? Cómo se vieron?” Ahí les respondió el rey: “Uno era alto, pero muy alto.”

Y afuera del castillo el primer extranjero se quitó su disfraz: un abrigo largo, y dos palos atados a sus pies.

El rey siguió: “Uno era bajito, y muy gordo.”

Y afuera del castillo el segundo dejó de agacharse y se quitó su disfraz: una túnica grande y tres cabeceras que tenía debajo.

El rey terminó: “Y el último tenía la barba más larga que jamás había visto.”

Y afuera del castillo el tercero se quitó su disfraz: un gorro y una barba falsa que llegaba a su cinturón.

Adentro, los tres guardias se miraron con las sonrisas más grandes y el rey les preguntó por que sonreían así, y le respondieron: “Porque ahora sabemos perfectamente bien quienes son los tres culpables. Perdónenos, su señoría, y volveremos de inmediato con los tres.

Así que los guardias salieron corriendo a buscar a los tres bandoleros en su casita. Al oeste del pueblo vivían en una cabaña que ellos mismos habían construido. Y ahí estaban, cenando adentro, tranquilos. No tenían ni idea de lo que había pasado.

A pesar de eso, los guardias tenían pruebas que los culpaban sin duda. Llevaron a los tres antes del rey y él confirmó que ellos mismos le habían quitado sus coronas y anillos. Los bandoleros lo negaban todo pero no importó. Aunque ni siquiera tenían las joyas, los dejaron encerrados debajo del castillo.

Después, el rey lo pensó y decidió que les daría a sus hombres una semana para encontrar prueba del robo, y si no podían encontrarla, tendría que dejar libres a los tres.

El siguiente día los tres extranjeros pasaron una vez más por el pueblo. Primero fueron a la cabaña de los bandoleros. Ahí entraron y encontraron que era una casa normal. No habían muchas cosas, y menos sus bolsas que les habían llevado el primer día. Pero, después de mucho tiempo buscando, debajo de la alfombra central uno encontró una puerta que abrió al sótano. Bajaron uno por uno y se encontraron en un espacio gigantesco, con tantas cosas que uno no puede imaginar. Encontraron comidas, riquezas, y tirado al lado sus tres bolsas. Felices se las llevaron.

Después, pasaron al mercado. Informaron al jefe de los guardias de lo que habían encontrado y todo el pueblo se fue para la cabaña de los tres bandoleros. Afuera se crearon una fila, y uno por uno pasaron adelante a declarar lo que habían perdido por culpa de los tres. Después, el jefe de los guardias se encargó de que todas las cosas volvieran a los brazos de sus dueños. Y cuando habían sacado todas las cosas del espacio quedó sólo una bolsa. El jefe llevó el saco y salió a preguntar de quien era. Nadie lo clamó.

Abrió el saco y ahí encontró dos coronas de oro y siete anillos con varias joyas. Los tres extranjeros habían dejado el saco ahí abajo. Pero cuando el jefe los buscó para agradecerles ya se habían ido y nunca más fueron vistos. Habían salvado al pueblo del caos de los tres bandoleros y encontrado las cosas perdidas de todo el pueblo.

Y aunque salieron después de unos tres años, los tres bandoleros nunca volvieron a robarle nada a nadie.

Fin