London Calling

Mr. Solis' English Adventure

Hello to All!

First of all I want to apologize for not having communicated with you all until now. As I'm sure that you can imagine, myself and the other Baylor interns that are here with me have really hit the ground running with immersing ourselves in our schools and orienting ourselves around the area. So, I've made sure to set aside time to keep everyone updated with how things are going here, what experiences I've had so far! Maybe you'll even learn a thing or two about British history as well!

For those of you that don't know, I love photography! So, as a disclaimer - you probably won't see me too much in these photos, but I promise you will see some some of my work and other incredible things!
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Traveling to The United Kingdom

Allow me to start off by saying that if you ever have the opportunity to travel abroad, to any place in the world - TAKE IT! I beg each and every one of you (once you're old enough to) to travel. If you don’t have a passport, find out how to get one. Take a summer, get a backpack and go to Delhi, go to Saigon, go to Bangkok, go to Kenya. Come to the United Kingdom! Wherever you go, allow yourself to have your mind blown! Eat interesting food. Talk to some interesting people. Have an adventure! Be careful and come back with a new perspective on the world and in life!

As many of you know, because of my previous career I've been fortunate enough to travel to many different places in the world, and I can tell you from first hand experience that it will certainly impact your life if you go with an open mind that's willing to learn. I've been to the U.K. many times before and I never grow tired of it; however, I will say that my least favorite part about traveling is the process of traveling. For those of you that have ever had to fly anywhere, I'm sure you can empathize with the feelings of frustration that comes with having to go through security checkpoints in the airport and the hours of waiting that follow afterward. Our flight was originally scheduled to take off at approximately 6:35pm. Alas, our plane was delayed due to the incredible amount of safety checks and paperwork that comes with keeping air traffic organized. I was literally able to watch an entire film before the plane began to pull out of the gate! It was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, by the way - another great film that depicts some great adventures! Once everything was set, our plane departed DFW and climbed 33,000 feet in the air to carry us on our 8.5 hour trip across the Atlantic Ocean.
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The First Weekend!

Before I left for the semester, I told all of you that I was going to London to take part in a comparative study program with my cohort of other Baylor interns. Now that I'm here, I should clarify that I am actually staying in a small little suburban area just south of London called Surbiton. It's such a great neighborhood with some incredibly wonderful people and a charm that I still haven't quite been able to put words to. Our group is staying at a small lodge called The Warwick and it's fantastic! Admittedly, it's small and kind of hard to move around in when you have 18 Baylor interns, but we make it work.
Although Surbiton is kind of small, there is still plenty to do in the surrounding area. Not to far away from where we stay is another neighborhood called Kingston. If you've ever heard of Kingston Upon Thames, this is the same place. As a little history lesson - It was the ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned. It's just a short bus ride away where many of us go to eat dinner in the evenings. There's plenty of great places to eat and shopping for those that choose to do so! Personally, what I love about this part of the area is that has a very traditional "small town" feel to it. Growing up in a big city has always left with with a yearning to experience "small town life" from time to time and Kingston has been a great balance between the two for me. There is some really interesting artwork and sculptures here that I've really enjoyed looking at. Not to mention, I've already made some new friends that live in that neighborhood, so it's nice to see them from time to time.
Within days of our arrival and after getting some much needed rest to compensate for the jet lag, our group headed into London! In order to get there, we have to take a train into the city from Surbiton which only takes about 20 minutes. The train stops in the Waterloo train station which is always bustling with foot traffic. It's a task to just maneuver around people most of the time. Nevertheless, Waterloo is one of the main stations that connects to the London Underground, commonly referred to as "the tube" by locals. Once leave the station, there are a number of breathtaking sights that just grab your attention! Technically, as we stepped out of the station, we were in the city of Westminster along the south banks of the Thames River. Like many of the cities in the United States (think of New York City, for example), the greater London area is divided into boroughs. Westminster is home to many of the most famous attractions within London that I'm sure you may be familiar with. In a matter of minutes, we were able to see The Palace of Westminster (which includes the Houses of Parliament and The Elizabethan Tower, more commonly known as "Big Ben"), Westminster Abbey, and The London Eye. Even though I've had the chance to see all of these attractions before, I am always blown away by how much history is literally within a one mile radius!
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One of the most exciting things that I feel incredibly privileged to have experience since I've been here is the celebration of Remembrance Day. Similar to our Memorial Day, Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of World War I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Just like Veterans Day in the U.S., Remembrance Day is observed on November 11th in most countries to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month", in accordance with the armistice signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente.

The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem "In Flanders Fields" written by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. After reading the poem, Moina Michael, a professor at the University of Georgia, wrote the poem, "We Shall Remember," and swore to wear a red poppy on the anniversary. The custom spread to Europe and the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth within three years. Madame Anne E. Guerin tirelessly promoted the practice in Europe and the British Empire.

Just to make sure that I share with all of you and in light of your recent heritage projects, you should all know that I am also have an English heritage on my biological mother's side. What you may all be more familiar with is that I served for eight years in the Marine Corps which has included several combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout those deployments, I have had the honor and privilege of serving alongside some of the best men and women that I have ever met in my life. Each of us have experience loss and sadness through our endeavors which, admittedly, can be very difficult at times; however, the one thing I can safely say is that honoring and keeping the memory alive of those who've we've lost is something very dear to my own heart. Having served my own country in the armed forces, served alongside some incredible allies, and reaching back towards my own heritage - I wore a red poppy over my heart with pride that day.
Now, I will say that not all of my time here is spent cruising around London (sadly). This past week and for an additional two, I will be observing students and teachers in a local school called The Holy Cross School; an all girls Roman Catholic public school (what we would typically refer to as a private school). If I didn't get the chance to tell you about what I would be doing during my trip here, let met take moment to fill you in.

Because this is a study abroad program, the other Baylor interns and myself will spend four weeks engaged in the continuation of our internship experiences participating in small and large group teaching under the supervision of educators in various elementary, middle, and secondary schools. Part of this experience includes collecting data on a research questions developed individually. What our program strives to accomplish during our time here is the growth of professional and academic development that includes field-based teaching, comparative education seminars, dialogue with educators, and numerous cultural education encounters and exchanges.

I won't bore you with that too much at the moment, but I will say that I have had a blast during my first week there and I will share more about my research and experiences at the school in my next post for you all!
Before I close this particular entry, you should all know that I do miss being the classroom with all of you. As much as I am enjoying the experience here and meeting new people with fresh ideas and opinions, I sincerely miss hearing all of yours as well.

Have a great week everyone!

Week #2

Hello once again, everyone! I hope that you've had a fantastic week and things aren't too stressful for you as the end of the semester starts to draw near.

My second week here in England has been just had just as much of an impact on me as the first. So, as you read on, You'll learn a little detail about the experiences that I've had in the school I've been placed in and I'll share some more of my adventures from my free time!

The Holy Cross School

As I mentioned in the last post that I made, I have been placed at The Holy Cross School in a suburb area called New Malden. My morning typically starts off by leaving the Warwick Lodge and going to catch the city bus to that area. Then, it's just a short walk to the school. Depending on the day of the week, myself, the other Baylor interns placed at the school, and the school's faculty and staff will take part in a staff meeting, year group assembly, or department meeting. All of that probably wouldn't interest you all that much, so I'll move on and explain what the rest of the day typically looks like.

Let me start by saying that the schedule (and my own) here is quite different from what all of you are used to. As part of my experience, I'm not assigned to one particular classroom like I am with all of you and Mrs. Roper. I'm actually in various classrooms throughout the day with different teachers, different year groups ranging from Year 7 to the 6th Form Year 13 groups (the equivalent to our 6th grade through 12th grade), and even different subjects like Media & Film Production, Religious Education, Art, Ethics, Health & Social Care, etc. I won't bore you with the details of how all of that works right now, but I'll definitely share more about it in my next post and when I return. So, make sure you write down any questions you have and leave them on my desk for me! As far as the daily schedule - every student here has an assigned "tutor group" based on the year. This period of time typically lasts for about 30 minutes, but it's not an actual class. This time is essentially designated for students as a study hall period where they can use their time to work on whatever assignments they may need to. This is also when the teachers typically give "notifications" (daily announcements). The rest of the day is very similar to our schedule structure with three major differences that I think you will all find interesting.

First, there are only five class periods for the school day after their tutor group period; however, what I will say is that the class periods are much longer that what you tend to have in your classes. Personally, from a teacher's perspective, I love this set up because there is so much that we could do as a class and I could offer you all more time to provide your own input and ask questions. I love hearing what you all have to say and I've really enjoyed having that luxury afforded to me here at The Holy Cross School.

The second major difference in the schedule is that there is a period of 30 minutes that is set aside in the day specifically for a break afforded to both teachers and students. This is absolutely one of my favorite things about the day because it's a chance for me to really interact with other faculty members and students here over a warm cup of tea and a couple of "biscuits" (cookies). Not to mention, it really is good just to kind of take a mental break during the day rather than just running full speed the entire day.

Finally - and this is probably the part where many of you might roll your eyes and say, "What?! That's not fair! I'm moving to England," blah, blah, blah - everyone here gets a full hour for lunch. I can't begin to fully convey just how wonderful and important I think that this time is for the students here (and really should be for students everywhere). Looking from so many different perspectives, I have noticed that having this amount of time for lunch really impacts how students behave and engage in the classroom afterwards. They are attentive, they don't feel rushed, and it affords them the opportunity to meet with their friends, meet with their teachers if necessary, or just a few minutes to unwind for a bit. After lunch, the students only have one more class period and then they go home for the day.

That is typically what a regular day looks like for me at the school. I will note that I've met and befriended some very wonderful and interesting people, teachers and students alike, who I've had some fantastic conversations with. In those conversations, I've been able to see things from different perspectives and I can't say how grateful I am to have the opportunity to take in so much. As I mentioned before, I'll share more with you about the actual experiences I've had in the classrooms in more detail in my next post and when I return. I highly encourage you to ask questions because I would love to share more with you all and I'd like to address things that you may be curious about. Please ask away!
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Touring around England

I'm sure you are all curious about what I've been doing with some of my free time over the past week, so I wanted to share some of that with you all as well.

Although I've been to the United Kingdom many times in the past with my old job, I haven't always had the opportunity to enjoy it as a visitor and really get to see some of the amazing things that it has to offer. So, of course, I had to make my way around the city to see some of the sights that I hadn't quite made my way around to yet.

First on my list was Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guards. If you're wondering why the photos are during the day and the evening, it's just part of trying to fit it all into my schedule. For those that aren't familiar, Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837 and today is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. The Changing the Guard ceremony lasts about 45 minutes. The privilege of guarding the Sovereign traditionally belongs to the Household Troops, better known as ‘the Guards’, who have carried out this duty since 1660.
There are a few other sights that I've had the chance to see, but I'm going to save those for another time until I can get all of my photos uploaded. Even though I told all of you that I would be studying in London, not all of my time has been spent there.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Oxford, which is somewhere I never had the chance to visit during all of my trips to England in the past. This little town is home to the famous Oxford University system which is one of the more prestigious schools in the country. If you're familiar with the Baylor campus, then you know that it's essentially within it's own area, so to speak. One of the major ways that Oxford differs from that is that the university is a "city university" in that it does not have a main campus; instead, colleges, departments, accommodation, and other facilities are scattered throughout the city. Nevertheless, I did see some of it's building's incredible architecture. If I haven't shared this fact with you all before - I love architecture! Aside from the university, I also had the chance to visit C.S. Lewis' home! I hope that you are all familiar with some of Lewis' work such as The Chronicles of Narnia. I mean, who doesn't love The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe? Lewis is one of my favorite authors and his writing has had a big impact on me as a reader, writer, and even personally in so many different ways. To see his home was something I truly enjoyed! Not only did I get to see his home, but I also had the chance to have a meal at one of Lewis' favorite establishments to frequent - The Eagle and Child. Not only was this a favorite of Lewis', but it was one in which "The Inklings" (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and others) would meet at and converse with one another. It was quite an experience to sit within the same walls that some of the greatest minds who had such an impact on 20th century British literature sat in. Who know? Maybe some of that genius rubbed off on me!
I'm sorry to say that I'll have to stop writing for now, but again, I want you all to know that you are missed and I think of you all often. I'm hoping that my experiences here will truly shape me as a teacher in ways that will only serve to benefit you when I return in January. Until then, I'll leave you with this thought that I had during this past week.

In my last post, I encouraged all of you to travel when you have the opportunity to do so. I want to tell you that travel can be a great spectacle, delivering the all of the wonders advertised on travel posters, brochures, and commercials; however, the truth about the world, about others, and about ourselves - it does not give up as easily as we may imagine. Although I tend to relentlessly encourage reading, there are lessons that you can’t get out of a book that are waiting for you at the other end of a flight, a bus or train ride, or a 20 mile walk. In my case, with my experiences this past week in Oxford and the insight shared from new friends at The Holy Cross School, I can confidently say that reading and travel create a beautiful symphony.

Take care, everyone!