Ego tripping

We are studying magical realism in English class and are discussing what about these stories is true. Magical realism arises from real experience, real settings, and real characters but imbues reality with magical and fantastical elements. The magical components are used to provide contrast to daily life, norms and things we take for granted or as givens. They are used to expand our notions of what is possible so that we can more fully see reality and options that exist to improve it. And finally, the goal is to use magical elements to illuminate “truths” that are often hidden in our normal examination of life and ourselves. Writers use this style to portray ordinary life in a way that allows the reader to see it anew, to recognize the everyday magic, horror, beauty and possibility in life or in people.

We used this base to explore extraordinary notions of ourselves and to challenge the idea that when we speak of ourselves and our abilities it is better, more correct, more real, or more reasonable to devalue, minimize and doubt our capabilities. These excerpts of poems come from a prompt to indulge in “ego tripping” ... and every single word is TRUE.

I am unstoppable,
No one can stand in my way
I have climbed the tallest mountains and became one with them
Everest grew up from under me
I have been an eagle
Majestic and mightier than you
Everywhere I soar people watch
My eyes hold the world
Blue oceans and skies... ~EShenck

I am so unique
I don’t even have a shadow
Because nothing in the this world can be compared with me ~AMontes

I am down to earth and up in the sky all at the same time
I “throw like a girl” but can catch a million people in my arms
I have, will, and am going to change the world...
I have friends and a family
I have a bed and a home
I have food on my plate and clothes on my back
I simply have everything~CBecker

I have eyelashes so long and strong you can hang ornaments on them like a Christmas tree,
My feet barely tred on the earth as I run, marking my path in the world~MRhueman

The light from my smile illuminated the path for the three wise men,
Babies cry when they are born because they know they are missing out on a life of endless love from my booming heart~JWinborne

My body was carved from the canyons toughest of stone
The finest artisans worked day and night to create a show that could harness the canyons most determined soul~LMurphy

The latitude that the magical realism style provides allows students to unabashedly speak truths about themselves and endulge in warranted self love. Each one of these students truly is that divine, that beautiful, that capable, and that exceptional.

Written by Irene Shaver --English B

Chile: The Parallel Progression of Spanish Speaking and Kayaking

As our time in the Lake District comes to a close, we have traveled 5 hours south to embark on our final Chilean expeditions. Our time in the Lake District was split up between the students focusing on cultural exchange and improving their technical kayak skills.


For some of the students, this is their first time in a foreign country and also their first time in a kayak. Skills in both of these are built by a progression; for example, in the student’s Spanish A classes, they learned vocabulary appropriate for the environment that they were in. When we were flying into Santiago, the students were learning airplane vocabulary and words that they would need in order to travel through an airport.

Students of all levels of Spanish speaking ability have had room to grow and improve; not just the beginners. Through conversational challenges in the towns and interacting with the locals in soccer games, students have been pushed out of their comfort zones in order to improve their fluency. Both beginner and advanced students need a foundation of basic skill that they can build upon in order to improve overall.


Like this progression of confidence in a foreign language, the students who were new to kayaking also needed to start from a foundation of skill in order to grow. Students in Choshuenco spent time practicing the basic paddle strokes of kayaking on the flat water of the lake before going out on the white water of the Rio Fue and the Enco. Students also learned how to safely exit a kayak and some mastered their roll.


These past few weeks in the Lake District of Chile have been essential in the progression of the students’ confidence in cultural exchange as well as their confidence on the water. These skills are not learned and perfected overnight; it takes time to build upon past experiences in order to master a certain amount of expertise in these skills.

This final expedition on the Petrohue River challenges students to use the basic skills they have learned on the lake and rivers in Choshuenco. This river is larger and faster than what they have been training on, and will help them further improve their skills for the waters of Idaho.

I know that this growth is only the beginning for these students, with both kayaking and Spanish speaking. Students will continue to learn not only in their Spanish classes, but also on the water in Idaho. Chile has been just a glimpse of what these students are capable of; I look forward to continue to watch them exceed my expectations.

Here is a video summing up our highlights in Choshuenco and Neltume!


Classes are in full swing as the school is in its third week of academics down in the Lake District of Chile. Coming off of our first two full-length expeditions in Patagonia, each student also came away from their first experience being a designated Leader of the Day (LOD) (more accurately - leader of two days). During this experience, students were supported by faculty to explore different leadership styles, self-reflect on what worked well and what they wish to work on, and take feedback from their peers and from staff in order to gain a clearer vision of the infinite ways that leading can look.

To start our weeks of Leadership classes here in the Lakes District, my co-teacher, Ned, and I asked students to write SMART goals for each of the four major components of their experience here at the Alzar School: Academics, Technical Proficiency, Leadership, and Cultural/Language. While we hope that all goals are thought out and intelligible, SMART goals stand for something more. To be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

Academics and Technical Proficiency tend to be the easiest for students to articulate, for example:

"To have above a 90% in all classes by Parent's Weekend"


"To study for the ACT two nights a week (1 hour each) while in Chile, and four nights a week while in Idaho, until taking the exam this spring"


"To be able to roll a kayak 8 out of 10 times in flat water by the time we leave Chile". 

Goals surrounding language acquisition and leadership skills tend to be more abstract and harder to measure. Some of the more articulate include the following:

"To be able to order a meal and ask what ingredients were used (in Spanish), and understand the response, by the time we leave Chile." 


"In my next designated leadership role on expedition I will receive positive feedback from my peers and staff on my ability to communicate clearly with my co-LODs, and I will check-in with my co-LODs before announcing plans/ideas to the group as a whole."


"I will improve my personal leadership on expedition by waking up 20 minutes earlier than the designated time, and be ready at the time designated by the LODs."

Students have shared goals with one another, and peers and staff will help hold each other accountable. Many ask for feedback and an increased awareness of both the positive and detrimental impact we can have on one another in the community.

Many of the students set high standards for themselves and what they hope to see themselves accomplish during their semester and beyond. This culture of challenging one another to work hard, improve, increase awareness, and keep pushing, is one that inspires me to continue my own leadership progression and quest for growth. It is a culture that I feel fortunate to be apart of.

*I challenge you to write a SMART goal for your upcoming month. 

Block Scheduling and Political Cartoons in Chile

Greetings from Chosuenco, Chile! The weather is warm and it is real treat to be enjoying summertime in early March. We just finished our first set of classes with half the group in Chosuenco, where they participated in math, science, and history classes. Our first group has just departed to the town of Neltume (fifteen minutes up the road), and the group in Neltume will be joining us for this next week and a half. The students in Neltume have been attending English and Spanish classes as well as working on conversational challenges with their newly honed Spanish skills.

For the first time in the school’s history, Alzar has incorporated block scheduling, making each class about one and a half hours long. This system has been positively received by both students and the faculty. For my honors US history course, this has been a fantastic development. My classes have begun to resemble a college seminar-style class, in which we have been able to engage more deeply with the material. In particular, discussions on difficult topics such as cultural relativism and the illusory objectivity that history textbooks often attempt to propagate have been highly engaging. I have been impressed with each students ability to rise to the added of challenge of more readings and a higher degree of discussion in this new system.

From a teaching perspective, here in Chosuenco I lack many of the resources I rely upon in Idaho. Among these obstacles are limited wifi, no access to an electronic display of information (powerpoint and videos), an inability to email back and forth between students, and the typical distractions of teaching in a busy little town. However, with these obstacles comes a new degree of resourcefulness and creativity in designing a curriculum. We have had debates, student-driven harkness discussions, student presentations, discussions on current events, as well as numerous other engaging classroom activities.

A particular highlight for both the students and myself was the opportunity to draw and present a political cartoon. As political cartoons and satire featured prominently throughout the era we are focusing (American Imperialism and Progressive Movement), I thought it would be appropriate have the students immerse themselves in the political, social, and economic discussions of that time as well as share their knowledge in a creative and hilarious way. The results had us dying with laughter. Some highlights included Katie Milligan portraying Teddy Roosevelt as a therapist, acting as the mediator between a miner’s union and mine owners in the 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike, and Daniella Admundson comically depicting the disturbing conditions of the meatpacking industry that inspired the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1904. I felt the activity was highly engaging and I look forward to incorporating similar activities going forward. Ultimately, what makes these activities so successful are the incredibly intelligent and curious students I have the privilege of working with everyday!

Colin Hull
History Teaching Fellow
Spring 2016





Culture and Cooking – the Everyday Lessons

This past Saturday our students attended a cooking lesson in Neltume.

As a little backstory, we've never taken cooking classes in Neltume before. We've always taken them at this sweet, little restaurant in Choshuenco with this wonderful woman named Erica. But, this semester, we wanted to branch out. As I'm sure everyone can guess, the first time we try something new here, we have no idea how it will go. There are so many moving parts. Has this woman ever taught a cooking lesson before? Does she like children? Does she want money for it? Will the kids be respectful? Will the kids genuinely attempt to connect with these women who are so different from them yet so similar? Will the kids learn? Because, we don't just take a cooking class to learn how to make a traditional, Chilean dish. We take cooking classes to practice open-mindedness, to experience the minutia that culminate in a foreign culture, to improve our Spanish, to learn humility, to gain comfort in uncomfortable moments.

I feel comfortable saying that, last week, we succeeded on all fronts.

cooking 1Ana María and Isabel, the two Chefs at the restaurant where we eat dinner every night, were gems. Ana made sure to verbally and visually walk students through all the steps they'd be in charge of. They were dicing onions. They were shredding carrots, skinning tomatoes, and hand-sawing (yes, I said hand-sawing) pumpkins. The kids learned how to cook sausage "the Chilean way", and they ultimately learned how to make a traditional dish simply called "Porotos", which means "beans", that we then ate for dinner. In case you were wondering, it was delicious.

More importantly, however, they learned how long the women had been professional cooks. What they did in their down-time. How they liked to play and tease. I told them our students were practicing big numbers, and Ana María listened as one student struggled to say "4,233 shreds of carrot". Isabel slowly explained why we prepare the vegetables in a specific way. The students learned that she is also a guitarist and singer in a folkloric band that has traveled all the way to Argentina on tour. We got to listen to her music on CD as Isabel sang and swayed along. They taught us the Mapuche dance "Cueca", and we all tried our hand. They ate dinner with us. They asked to take photos together at the end.

We laughed a lot together, and we laughed maybe more at ourselves. I left that night feeling fed in many ways. I'm so proud that our students are challenging themselves, embracing new opportunities, and having fun along the way. We have three weeks left in Chile. I can't wait to see how else they'll grow.