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!