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.

 

Weekend 13: San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas

Thanks to Deborah Colvin, I was able to add her video project to my video project. Deborah works with English language teachers and a group of students in rural Chiapas who speak the indigenous language of Majosik. She and Frances Westbrook from the U.S. Embassy just produced a terrific video that highlights this community with these English Language Learners. My inquiry project on Significant Digital Stories on First Heroes overlaps their project, so I had to travel to San Cristóbal de las Casas! (Deborah and I met in Monterrey at the MEXTESOL Convention when the U.S. Cultural Affairs director at the U.S. Embassy, Brenda Bernáldez, connected us.)

The town itself is laid out in somewhat of a grid radiating (as usual in Spanish-conquered towns) from the central square, cathedral, and administrative buildings. It reminds me of Antigua, Guatemala. History links San Cristóbal, Antigua Guatemala, and Oaxaca City together.

The most memorable site for me in San Cris was a small, humble chapel behind the main cathedral. The chapel was open for the servants and slaves of that time to hear mass.

Tourism is heavy here as the trendy restaurants and trinket shopping areas attest. Eco-tourism is growing here because of the natural beauty that surrounds SCDC. The only time I had to see any rural areas was when I was invited to view a community property that is available to have a university-level school built on it, which is almost 2 hours east. I hope they include adult continuing education classes for those who want this instruction.

 

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.

screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-1-38-20-pm

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

Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 11.47.16 PM.png

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.

ells-at-work

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.

13613372_10153718603233263_1980312523426736098_o.jpg

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

First “Sad” Day

I feel sad for my co-teacher, Lucia, who had a minor fender-bender right after school today! She offered to give me a lift to a metro station closer to my home since it was pouring down rain. I accepted to reciprocate her thoughtful hospitality. Roads were congested due to flooding, which blocked traffic flow. At one point she changed lanes, but a livery truck passed too closely on the driver’s side and took off her front bumper! It was a case of hit-and-run since the truck driver sped away.

We were stranded there in the middle of four lanes of angry road, in the flooding rain. We could not move the car out of the way with the left headlight and the fender on the ground. The rain came down in torrents while I was trying to pick up the detached headlight and fender so that she could maneuver the car into the parking lot across the road. But it was just better to stay put and wait for help in the car with the hazard lights flashing.

In the car she called her husband and the insurance company. By the 45th minute, she followed up. Rain poured relentlessly for another 30 minutes. As soon as her husband approached and the rain let up, it was the best time for me to head back to the nearest metro station while they waited for the insurance company and tow truck.

Three hours later, I texted her to find out whether they made it home safely. They were still waiting in the car, in the dark, in the middle of the road with traffic streaming past them! This was sad enough, but the saddest and most distressing was that Lucy remarked that no passer-by came to check whether she needed help or if she was physically harmed. In all that time not even the police showed up. Is this a cultural thing, or just sad? I vote sad and aggravating!

As an antidote, I watched some uplifting TEDx Talks videos that recalibrate my “hope for humanity” scale:

Maysoon Sayid “I got 99 problems…palsy is just one”

Louie Schwartzberg “Beauty. Nature. Gratitude.”

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.