Maxcanú and Calkiní Visits

Maxcanú, in the State of Yucatán, is just across the board with Calkiní. Equally small in population (around 14,000), they both suffer the same malaise in terms of school quality. Schools follow the same curriculum set forth by the national government offices (Secretaría de Educación Pública, SEP), however, I notice a wide gap between the national standards from SEP (that seem to focus on the advancement of urban school) and the educational needs of the rural population in towns like Maxcanú and Calkiní.

It would be great to channel support toward creating a curriculum that caters to that need, namely a more compact plan of study focusing a trade. For example, English for vocations such as baking, auto-repair, beauty school, art basics, and rural health screening. This includes training in treating patients with indigenous plants and apitherapy. The curriculum is shorter, but complete, so that graduates can enter the workforce earlier and earn money sooner.

Focusing on young mothers, return immigrants, girls and boys, and continuing adult education might begin to solve social issues that have been plaguing Mexico.



English for Vocations Needed Here

It was not enough just to relax in Zihua. I learned that among the tourist hotels and array of restaurants, an impoverished population serves as the social lubricant that keeps the tourist industry humming.

I learned that there is a disproportionately high population of unwed teen mothers in greater Zihua. Yes, reproductive education could be a solution However, despite the psycho-sociological reasons for this inclination to happen, the fact is there are babies born that need to be fed. Such a baby becomes a burden to raise for the unwed teen mother, the father, and the families that support all three involved!

Eventually, adding up the multiplying families, the number of babies will take a toll on the economic wellbeing of the community because these they will need to go to school. Overcrowding an already over-crowded educational system will force some adolescents to work. If they find work, great. But without having graduated high school (much less university), those who do not continue their education will likely have a baby themselves.

In a tourist location such as Zihuatanejo, English for vocations that see the most tourist may be helpful. The obvious one are hotels, spas, massage therapy places, and restaurants. Along with targeted English vocabulary and situational (experiential) learning, students can concurrently be trained in useful job-specific skills.

Project, Day 6: Reflection

What a fun day today! The students have been working on their Significant Stories for over 2 weeks now. This was the “first run” of this unit plan with its own set of circumstances inherent to Mexico. The blessing I had was to find this Escuela Secundaria Tecnica with an able technical department. Vivi and Lupita have been supportive and helpful. The major unanticipated hurdle was the lack of sufficient wifi bandwidth in the homes of the students.

The technology and intra-communicability among our small working group was stymied by the variable types of internet service that these students have at home. All of the students said that they had a slideshow program on their computers, like Keynote or PowerPoint. Some had serious difficulty in figuring out how to make a smooth presentation with embedded video clips and narration! This is the reason why some of them had to work with Vivi and Lupita at school to finish their stories digitally. I will definitely need to create a How-To guide for this project.


For the brevity of time that had to work on this project, I am satisfied that the students got valuable information about their families. We had a 20 minute reflection exercise to tease out their outcomes.

Students Love

  • I loved that I meet my sister and the family of my dad who died in 2012.
  • I loved that I meet my aunts and uncles.” And found out that I had about 20 cousins!
  • I loved the time spent with Mr. Lim and my classmates. The stories of my mom were very funny and interesting; I learned much of her life, her childhood and her parents. It was so wonderfull.
  • I loved the way of teaching of Mr. Lim. I learned some words I don’t know.

Students Hate

  • I didn’t like that we have short time to do the project and that Mr. Lim will stay a short time in Mexico.
  • I didn’t like the homework of having to make the video because is very hard for me, even though Lupita and Vivi can help us.
  • I hope we have more time for realize this…
  • I didn’t like that my sister works a lot and I don’t have oportunity to question her.

Students Change Suggestions

  • I would change the form that we edit videos to be funnier [so that] students will pay attention to them.
  • That Mr. Lim shows us projects of other people, so we can [see] how we do the project.
  • I would increase the time with Mr. Lim because I wish I can learn more from him.
  • I would change the time that Mr. Lim stays in Mexico for more time…because I think he is a very good teacher.

Day 5: Collecting

It’s already been a couple weeks that the students have been working on their individual stories. I’m so looking forward to seeing them and to share their point of view of their communities, from interviewing someone they admire.

Today we focused on the technical aspects of collecting the recordings and photos of artifacts, editing, and uploading a YouTube or Vimeo video. I asked the help of Vivi and Lupita at the school’s media center to help. They are so helpful!

Project, Day 4

The topic for today was Storyboards. I have to admit that I am getting a bit concerned about the pace of our work. The students did find people to write about, but I feel they don’t have the interviewing skills that are needed to get robust information to craft their story. Without information we cannot develop a good story line in a storyboard form.

To speed up the thinking process, I gave them a list of selected questions from Barbara Ann Kipfer’s book “4,000 questions for getting to know anyone and everyone”. I hope that the students come back with some good information about their community heroes.

Project, Day 3

Today, I had to show the students my own example of the type of story that I wanted them to produce. I could tell from the previous meetings that they were becoming anxious as to what I was expecting from them exactly.

I adapted the presentation that I made for my UNAM history class on Mexico-Philippines relations to feature my aunt, the judge! She actually became more of a motivation for me as I searched “deeper” into the Internet for information about her.

After a short introduction of myself as a teacher, I first showed the students that Mexico and the Philippines were tied historically from the 1521 landing of the Spanish “settlers”, Magellan and Cortés (respectively) and how similar the Mexican and Filipino cultures have become from the 250 years of galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco. The students were impressed to find out that products ranging from avocados to powered gold were exchanged.

Then, I told them the story of how my great-grandfather (Senator Quintin Paredes) was sent to Washington D.C. to be the first Resident Commissioner in the U.S. when the Philippines became a commonwealth country under the United States in 1936. After President Truman signed the Independence of the Philippines from the United States in 1946, my great-grandfather had long returned to resume being a Philippine senator.

She worked toward equal rights in the 1960’s especially for women’s rights.

One of Quintin Paredes’ sons, my great-uncle Victorino Paredes, eventually became an ambassador to Mexico in the 1980’s. One of his daughters, my great-aunt Lourdes Paredes, became the first woman justice of the Court of Appeals in the Philippines. She worked toward equal rights in the 1960’s especially for women’s rights. She was the justice that presided over one famous case that labelled her the hanging judge. That fact I did not tell my students.

After telling my “significant story”, the students understood that they needed to find a person in their family and/or community that did something positive. I am looking forward to what they come back with in a couple of days!

Project, Day 2

For our second meeting, there appeared three more eager students. We are at the optimum group dynamic of six participants. This number is important in terms of quality control.

Today we learned about the importance of the Timeline. One student produced an amazing timeline of different years when his family helped the community in a variety of ways, for example, he said that his father spoke to a group of students on community values. I encouraged that student to interview his father about his motivation to give that talk. I think he will choose to focus on his mom since she seems to be more altruistic. We’ll soon find out.

At the end of today’s lesson, I gave each of the students an introductory flyer from the Benjamin Franklin Library, which is supported by the U.S. Department of State. I encouraged them to visit the Education U.S.A. office at the library if they are interested in exploring scholarship to study in the United States in the near future. All of them said they would like to do that some day!


Day 1: Project Kick-off!

It was a beautiful day in Mexico City and a great day for the “Significant Stories” project kick-off!

My co-teacher, Lucy, and I have been planning this project for a couple of weeks, adapting it to the the students. In teacher-speak this is called “differentiation”. Basically, we tailor the lesson’s new information to where the student is cognitively (like a baseline) and build from there.

The lesson began with a short game where we made a list of basic questions in order to get to know a new person. Since I was the “new person”, the students interviewed their partner and introduced that person to the rest of the class. The activity was written so this becomes an informal writing sample.

We first needed to define what “Community” means.

In terms of the the goals of the project, I think the students are well suited to make excellent products: their motivational stories found through community interviews, on video! We first needed to define what “Community” means. For example, one student lives with her grandparents (Wow! I’m looking forward to stories from them), so community can mean one’s immediate family. Another student’s family comes from Oaxaca, which is a rural state south of Mexico City, so community can mean where you and your family live.

The students all agreed to commit to the project over the next several weeks. I hope other students can be free to join us. We are a small group, but since this is a prototype lesson, we need to keep the group small. Once we gain some traction, I can envision many students participating and their teachers uploading their motivational significant stories from their communities.

Meeting My School!

I was relieved to finally get an appointment at the Escuela Secundaria Técnia No. 29 Xiuhtecuhtl, in the southeast part of Mexico City! I met with the sub-director and the three teachers of English as a Second Language. They were very welcoming and positive about my placement with the school. The director also attended part of our meeting and gave us the thumbs up. As all good teachers know, one of the secrets to successful teaching is the initial planning. We decided to meet and plan in the coming weeks so that by the first full week of October we can initiate the classroom teaching and research to gather these amazing community stories of significant people! Of course, my aim is to capture what characteristics and actions students think are motivating to them; perhaps they can one day apply that motivation to change something in their environment. One day.

ELLs at My School in Harlem, New York


Hoorah! The exam results are in for our ELLs (English Language Learners) at St HOPE!

Note the strong progress of the ELLs for yet another year! New York State’s Department of Education used the AMAO (Annual Measurable Achievement Objective) for measuring:

  1. The percentage of ELLs “making progress” on the NYSESLAT. For 2015-16, the state target is 68.5%. At St HOPE we achieved 95%.
  2. The NYS target for passing (proficient/commanding) the NYSESLAT is 15.6%, at St HOPE it is 37%.

To read more about the latest in ENL, click this link.