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.


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.


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.

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!

Week 7: UNAM-CEPE Intensive History

Class presentations: Philippines & Mexico

The long and close relationship between the Philippines and Mexico was a surprise for me to discover for myself during this intensive history class. I was born in Manila, Philippines and my family emigrated to the United States when I was five years old. My parents raised my 3 brothers, 1 sister, and me “in the American way” by putting us all the way through school, from kindergarten through university; but at home our upraising was very much “in the Asian way”. The emphasis was doing well in school (so we would have a greater chance in doing well in life). I recall both my mom and dad telling stories of life in the Philippines, but basically keeping the narrative on our relatives, particularly those who had claim to fame in the realm of the Social Good. Ironically, I came to Mexico and learned more about my family, too .

Ironically, I came to Mexico and learned more about my family.

On day one, our class assignment was announced: Relate an aspect of Mexico’s history to your country. Luckily, I had two from which to choose. I initially thought that I should present and compare the U.S. education system with that of Mexico. After a few weeks of readings and lectures, I discovered the linkages between Mexico and the Philippines for myself. I was motivated to deepen my knowledge about that relationship through the threads about the Paredes side of my dad’s family spun by my parents. My research resulted in knowing my great aunt Lourdes, great uncle Victorino, and great grandfather Quintín Paredes.

My Aunt Lourdes became my significant person in my class example for my inquiry project on “Significant Digital Stories of First Heroes”. Here is a short version of the story, which you can also watch below.



Hi, I’m Frederic Lim and I’m an English teacher in Harlem, New York. I teach English Language Learners in middle school, ages 11-13. My students are from immigrant families to New York City that come from all over the world. I am also a volunteer in rural health in Guatemala. I created an organization that empowers women with acupuncture training so they can better care for their patients.

Philippines and Mexico

Historically, you will notice that both have similar cultures and shared history. Also, my family is from the Philippines. Located in southeast Asia, the Philippines is an archipelago of about 7,000 islands. Mexico has 20% more inhabitants compared to the Philippines. Thee similarities are the Spanish language, religious beliefs, and the name of their currency, the peso.

The Spanish Ruled, 1521-1898

For about 377 years, from 1521-1898, Spain ruled the Philippines; for about 300 years, from 1521-1821, Spain ruled Mexico. Around 1521, different settlers arrived on both countries and met the indigenous rulers: Magellan in the Philippines and Cortés in Mexico. Then 30 years later, commercial trade between Manila and Acapulco developed, which lasted for 250 years. This is the basis for the similarities of culture shared.

The Galleon Trade brought many goods and people from Manila and Acapulco and back! A short list includes silver, cacao, Spanish wine, wool, and the red conchinilla (potato bug) for dying threads and yarns from Mexico. From the Philippines (and trading parters in Asia) came gold powder, wax, leather and textiles.

This famous image of the religious relic of the Virgin of Guadalupe hangs in the San José Parish Church. According to historian Prof. Miguel Meneses, the image is inlayed with mother of pearl and is framed in sold silver. It came from Manila on a galleon to Mexico in the 1550’s.

U.S. Commonwealth, 1935-1946

Only 150 years later, the Philippines became a commonwealth country of the United States. The Philippines wanted to be a country, but the United States wanted to make sure that it could function as a country, so they agreed to a 10 year relationship. The president under the commonwealth was Manuel Quezon. He was received by Mexico President Cardenas on an official state visit even though the Philippines was not yet officially independent.


Before his visit to Mexico Quezon was in Washington, D.C. where he appointed my great-grandfather, Quintín Paredes, as the Resident Commissioner (Español) (English) from the Philippines in the United States. Both Quezon and Paredes created social programs for the poor in the Philippines. They also allowed Jewish refugees to settle in the Philippines, the only country in Asia to welcome them during the second world war.

My Aunt Lourdes

Quintin Paredes had a daughter (Ines), who was my grandmother. Her son is my dad, who married my mom. My grandmother Ines had a brother, Ignacio, who fought for the British Air Force during the war. They had a brother, Victorino Paredes, who eventually became an ambassador from the Philippines to Mexico. They had a sister, Lourdes Paredes, who became a justice. She is one of my First Heroes in this significant digital story!

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I am inspired by by Aunt Lourdes because she became the first justice of the Philippines Court of Appeals. She defended equal right for all, especially women. She gained infamy for a high-profile decision she had to make in the 1960’s. You can read about it here in a blog about the incident..


Aunt Lourdes was born in 1910 to the Quintín Paredes and Victoria Peralta de La Union in Manila. She studied Philosophy and Law in the Philippines and Madrid, Spain. She also wrote and published books, did research on women’s rights and property laws. She even represented the government of the Philippines at international conferences around the world, trying to make the world a better place. Someday, I want to travel to places like Stockholm and represent the underprivileged in Geneva.


As you can see, my great-aunt Lourdes’ story is significant to me because now I teach students to be globally competent, and I teach groups of women so that the world is a little better place to live.


Resources about Justice Lourdes Pardedes San Diego


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!