3/4 Through My D.A.T.

Today marks a month since my midway point through this Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching grant. Refer the the midway post here if you want to get some background. I’m approaching my last month in Mexico as if I were trepidatiously skirting the edge of an abyss. My grant officially ends in 3 weeks and I have one more school visit this week to collect a few more significant stories from students. My blogs do not at all resemble my vision of them when I began this trip in terms of look or utility. I would consider it a giant fail if I do not get it together by departure time.

Despite this pressure, I am somewhat comforted by the work I have managed to do from September through November. All that preparing, teaching, traveling, reading serve as a parachute and hang glider as I jump off into December. I am embracing the trajectory that this project put me on in terms of the digital stories I will show my students in Harlem, New York, as well as the stories they will produce from January through March 2017.

We will share them via link to my main Escuela Secondaria No. 29 in Iztapalapa, Mexico City, as well as the Telesecundaria in Maxcanú, Yucatán, México! I hope other teachers can share their students’ stories through the various online teaching platforms I am joining. Also, in February 2017, I will be in Lima again (at my own expense during our school’s mid-winter recess) to work for a couple days with the English teaching staff at the Colegio Marianistas in Callao, Lima, Peru where we visited last August  on the Fulbright-Hays Semester Abroad Program. All this sharing about other students and cultures internationally should eventually shift the global consciousness toward a peaceful world even a modicum, right? Maybe.

At “T minus 4 weeks”, I can blog retrospectively that my time here in Mexico was unequivocally well-spent. Time went by quickly, but I feel vigilant every moment so as not to lose a learning opportunity that would widen my view about the Mexican culture, its people, economic development and education policy–for my own edification and that of my students. The underpinnings of the Mexican society today (I learned) is inextricably tied to historical events and movements fomented by the arrival of the conquering Spanish in the early 1500’s up to and including the election of the current president of Mexico. Of all the significant stories that I have read and heard here, the overarching tumultuous history of Mexico is the one that fascinates me the most.

 

Midway Through My D.A.T.

iSad! Today marks the midway point of my four (wonderful and glorious) months in Mexico as a D.A.T. (Distinguished Award in Teaching) grantee. I love Mexico and am already sad thinking that I will leave my friends and neighbors, exactly two months from now, to resume teaching my ELLs at St HOPE Leadership Academy in Harlem, New York. I would love to return to Mexico…for vacation, for teaching, for the food, for anything!

As a “2016 Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program Participant to Peru”, I was invited to submit a summary of my Fulbright experiences for the 2016 J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board Annual ReportThe 2016 edition highlights the year-long celebration of the Fulbright Program’s 70th anniversary, showcasing the Program’s achievements, evolution, capacity – and power of alumni networks – to advance innovation, cooperation, and more peaceful relations in our high-stakes world, looking forward as much as it looks back.

 This is my submission.

Key Events in 2016, Thanks to Fulbright Grants

by Frederic Bernal Lim, MSc-Edu

The following are the grants that I received from the William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in 2016:

    • Fulbright-Hays Semester Abroad Program (Peru, July-August)
    • Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program (Mexico, August-December)
    • Fulbright Professional Development Grant (to attend MEXTESOL, Monterrey, Mexico, Oct 2016)

These Fulbright grants to Peru and Mexico focus on the inclusion of indigenous history, culture and identity in the modern world. I have chosen to combine these two acknowledgements of excellence in teaching into one multi-national and multi-ethnic inquiry project. At this time, this project is currently in development.

The Inquiry Project

Purpose: to collect and share digital stories of significant individuals, planned and produced by and for K-12 students from communities around the world, starting with Peru and Mexico.  The significant people featured in short videos by the students become the “First Heroes” of their digital narratives.

Objective: to develop global competence in K-12 students as they interview elders to discover stories of their family and local communities. By producing and presenting their rendition of their favorite story digitally to a wider audience through the First Heroes Project, local and global peers gain international perspective and mutual understandings from each other.

This is the one-minute Call to  Action for teachers to join the First Heroes Project.

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This is the website FirstHeroes.wordpress.com where stories can be accessed for instruction as well as posts about improving digital storytelling. (In construction)

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Teaching ENL in Harlem, NYC

I teach in a charter school of 300 students in New York City. About 30% of them require ENL (English as a New Language) support from 6th through 8th grade. Students receive free lunch.

My ELLs (English Language Learners) are from immigrant families from Latin America, the Caribbean, West Africa, and the Middle East. My Project-Based Learning and instruction combines literacy, social studies, science, math, art, and technology.

The Significant Stories from the First Heroes Project will give my ELLs a window into communities in Peru and Mexico as they exchange stories, too. I hope that over time ingrained cultural stereotypes will dissolve through this sharing.

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Active Alumni Network

My Fulbright awards this year have allowed me to expand my professional network, which has made this project successful so far in its initial development.

I hope the project continues to grow in innovative ways to elicit cooperation among teachers and students internationally toward more peaceful relations among communities.

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Fulbright-Hays Semester Abroad: Peru 

During our trip to Peru, we met Eduardo Castillo, director of the Colegio Marianistas, in Callao, near Lima, Peru.

As a former Fulbrighter, Eduardo would like to implement this project in his school. We are now planning a return visit to   their school in February 2017, so that I can train teachers in a digital storytelling workshop.

Co-teachers on the Peru grant also want to help me improve my project. We plan to meet in New York after I return from Mexico. I look forward to working with Fatima and Carmen on related projects, for example, using puppetry to teach ELLs nationwide!

Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching: Mexico

During my Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program, I have expanded my professional network of teachers via other grantees from the U.S. and Mexico.

I have already contacted some of them to further connect me with educators who want to contribute digital stories from their Fulbright host countries.

For For example, Tim Flannigan from Rhode Island is in Viet Nam now helping students write about their communities through a specific Vietnamese poetry style. Tim and I will link our sites to showcase our respective students’ work.

 

Locations of Participating Schools

6-8 grade schools in Mexico

    • Iztapalapa, Mexico City: Escuela Secundaria
    • Tlaxcala, Mexico: UNAM campus, students of Aging Studies taking ESL
    • Canicab, Yucatán: Escuela Secundaria
    • Maxcanú, Yucatán: Escuela Telesecundaria and Telebachillerato
    • San Cristóbal, Chiapas: Escuela Secundaria
    • Monterrey, Nuevo León: alumnos graduados de una secundaria 

 

MEXTESOL Conference 2016

I presented my Significant Stories project at the MEXTESOL Conference with the support of the Fulbright Professional Development Grant.

Teachers now have access to the First Heroes Project; it was included in the 2016 MEXTESOL Proceedings. At the conference I promoted my project to key individuals:

  • Teachers interested in implementing digital storytelling in their classrooms.
  • MOOC developers of online classes in ESL, which is a teaching platform that I would like to some day emulate with the First Heroes Project.
  • The education and cultural sections of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.

 

Sharing the Pedagogy

Teaching the World Forum, April 2017

Marry Curran, associate professor of professional practice and associate dean of local-global partnerships, Rutgers Graduate School of Education, New Jersey, spoke at the MEXTESOL on storytelling in the classroom.

  • She invited me to propose my First Heroes Project at the Sixth Annual Teaching the World Forum on the theme “Local-Global Service Learning” in New Brunswick, New Jersey in April 2017.

TexLER Research Conference, February 2017

Rebecca Tapia, researcher and professor at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP), Faculty of Languages, Puebla, Mexico, invited me to:

  • Propose my First Heroes Project at the 18th Texas Language Education Research Conference on “Educating Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students: Research and Practice” at the University of Texas (San Antonio) in February 2017.
  • Be part of her team in BUAP, joining researchers from other universities to do a needs analysis at an indigenous school. I would be more than happy to join them through another Fulbright scholarship grant.

Thank you, Fulbright, for making it possible for me to bring global exchange to many classrooms.

Frederic Bernal Lim

MEXTESOL Conference 2016

What an amazing week I am spending at the MEXTESOL Conference 2016 in Monterrey, Nuevo León, México! The Mexico chapter of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages hosted this event and selected my presentation to showcase my Fulbright inquiry project on “Significant Stories” from communities in Mexico through the eyes of students in middle and high school.

I have already met several teachers (some of whom present their projects here) who are interested in implementing my “significant stories” project in their classrooms. They agree that teaching writing and speaking are difficult, but with my storytelling project the students can showcase their community and talk about themselves. Their finished videos will appear on this site as cultural “windows” to their worlds. I can’t wait to implement this project with my ELLs in Harlem, New York.

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I had a chance to network with the people running academic and scholarly programs in Mexico at the U.S. Embassy-sponsored event and other venues. I also like the great museums here full of interesting historical displays and installations. The sections of the museum of history, for example, had a better treatment of the story of indigenous people compared to other museums I have visited so far.

This town seems far from Mexico City, but I learned that it has been a vital trade point between the United States and Mexico. Specifically, the rail routes crisscross vertically between the agricultural pains of the midwest and the industrial sectors of northern Mexico. The tracks were laid in the 1800’s (or so) when foreign invest in Mexico was high. The ports of Tampico and Veracruz were conduits for loads of products for Europe toward the east and Mexicans toward the south.

Fulbright’s D.A.T. in México!

The culmination of our week-long orientation in Mexico City was the awards breakfast. I was surprised and especially honored to be seated at Table #01 with the dignitaries and important people in Mexico who support education and the Fulbright program (called COMEXUS).

The photo collage shows Mexico Deputy Secretary of Education (Sr. Javier Treviño) and other dignitaries from the U.S. Department of State, like Ms Hazel Blackmore (posing with me and the flags). It was a real honor to wear the Fulbright pin from the orientation in Washington with the pin of the two flags from Mexico and the United States.

I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship through the Distinguished Awards and Teaching program, supported by the U.S. Department of State. I am the only awardee in the entire country of Mexico on the program from August through December 2016.

I have been preparing my project since I got the acceptance letter around April and now I’m looking forward to know as much about Mexico, her culture, people, and history through my inquiry project on “significant stories” as told by English language learners in Mexico!

Fulbright Orientation in Washington DC

We all had a great time meeting the other Distinguished Awards in Teaching grantees. There are about 75(?) teachers going to around 20 countries this year. I’m going to Mexico, so it was especially nice to meet the delegates from Mexico arriving to do their research in Indiana. Special thanks to Karina who gave me a list of great contacts and some “do’s and don’ts” in Mexico!

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Orientation kit and tags. Very handy!

Did we only have 4 days? It seemed like a week because of the amount of meetings we were scheduled to attend. The food was great at the hotel. We also had a Culture Night where country representatives dressed in their traditional clothing and entertained us all. There was dancing and slideshows and games in different languages. Fun… A definite highlight for me was seeing my sister, Christina, during the orientation and spending some quality time to catch up on family news! Thanks, sis!

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Fulbrighters from everywhere!

There was so much to know, too, especially about how our projects were supposed to be developed. I felt that we are given the latitude we need as professional teachers to search for the pedagogical resources we need in our countries, yet we have to adhere to deadlines and time markers.

I’m feeling the excitement of  experiencing Mexico for the first time, but also some pressure to complete my project in 4 months. I am suddenly reminded that, during my second year in college, I studied for 4 months in France… And what about the project due for the Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad to Peru? Yikes.