To the Blog of Enlaces 2007, a language and cultural engagement class project from the College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) of the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Future Research

Now that I have returned from our ENLACES trip it is time to get down to business...research that is! My paper will focus on studying teacher identity and retention in Mexico. This connects to what I am currently focusing on in my studies in the CLL Ph.D. Program. Briefly speaking, the issue of teacher retention is non-existant in Monterrey or Mexico overall. In my paper I will flush out the details of why this is so. My goal is to take the data gathered and use it to look closely at the teacher retention issue here in the U.S.

The main thing I learned was that you can not compare the U.S. and Mexico systems in relationship to this topic. Teacher preparation and teaccing approaches (methodology and pedagogy) are very different in these two countires. It is amazing that being so close to each other this great difference exists.

Overall, I realize that both systems have their pros and cons. One is not better then the other. Both take into cosnideration the needs and values of each of its sociteies. Both societeies can learn from one another!

Sorry, It Will Not Work for Us: The Social Factor When Comparing the Educational Systems of Mexico and United States


This paper will focus on a reflective comparison between social perceptiveness and expectations, politics, economics, and idiosyncratic differences that give shape to the educational systems of the two countries. Mexico’s schools are a product of their cultural and socioeconomic system, and when compared to United States schools we cannot ignore these factors. Although we may exchange pedagogic findings, researches, and in instances implement some methodologies, our society follows different educational patterns: While we encourage competitiveness, Mexican students learn cooperativeness. In United States, big corporate interests are the ones who determine the educational outcomes. The fact of the matter is we need to recognize what is feasible, or acquirable from the Mexican experience in terms of practicality, and in coherence with our socioeconomic structures. Instead of confining our observations into simplistic assumptions of any system being “better”, we must analyze what each country could learn from each other.

Preliminary Assumptions

Imagine walking into a small classroom overcrowded with over thirty-seven children, with limited instructional materials and books. School’s facilities are old and lack air conditioning, for a place where temperatures can reach over one hundred degrees in summer. The government does not fund schools; just cover teacher’s salaries. Operational budgets for primary and secondary schools come from parent’s donations. Teachers are not required to hold University degrees; instead, their training comes from an outdated but traditionalistic “Escuela Normal”, the school for aspiring educators. Graduates from a University cannot work at public school teachers. When inquired for teacher’s assistants, substitutes, aids, etc. they have none. At this point, we, coming from the College of Education of the University of Texas at San Antonio, in United States, are convinced of our unsurpassed advantage. Mexico’s public education budget for 2007 is 9,600 million of Mexican pesos (Observatorio, 2007), approximately $886,320,201 USD at today’s exchange rate, compared to $34,730,091,450 USD in the United States (U.S. Dept. of Ed., 2007). We Americans measure the quality of things by distinguishing its price. So a 34 billions education has to be better to a mere $88 millions, right? It is not so simple…

The First Clash

We had the opportunity to visit a primary and secondary school from a middle class “Colonia” (subdivision) in the city of Monterrey, in northern Mexico. First, we visited the “secundaria” (secondary) number 50 José Vasconcelos[1] very early in the morning, before class, for a “Saludo a la Bandera” (salute to the flag), a routinely ceremony of every Monday. All students were impeccable uniformed, with a sharp expression of pride and respect in the “patio de la escuela” (school’s courtyard), to sing ten stanzas, 242 words long “Himno Nacional” (National Anthem). They also performed for us a jazz choreography, and few students recited in perfect English, warm welcoming speeches. However, what impressed us the most, was a typical “baile veracruzano” (a dance from the Mexican state of Veracruz). Girls wore all white ruffled dresses, a triangular shaped black apron with embroidered flowers, a white stole adorned with red trimmings, and red flowers as headpieces. Boys wore white pants and “guayaberas” (traditional Mexican shirts), also white “sombreros” (cowboy’s hats) and “pañoletas rojas” (red bandanas) around their necks. What is original about this dance is that girls carried a glass full of water in their heads while moving to the music. The show served two purposes for us: We learned that Mexican students are educated from a very early age about patriotism and respect to their flag; and newest generations keep alive the country’s rich cultural diversity and traditions. Each of the approximately 700 students paid attention with the required reverence.
We met with the “Directora” (female school’s principal) who gave us a first glance of the system. She explained that this secondary has the higher standards in the region in terms of quality of education; measured by the results of a test called “Enlaces”[2] (Links). This is an equivalent to a standardized test established by SEP[3] for students of first and six grades. This national test measures entry and exit proficiency levels. On testing day, there is a parent in the classroom witnessing the test administration. In order to measure teacher’s performance, the SEP sends inspectors to schools and uses an evaluation system based on evidences. Schools with the higher percentages receive “premios” (awards), and teachers get a “puntaje” (points). These points are good to move forward in the pay scale, and determinants when applying to a better position.
It call our attention that in Mexico, “Educación Básica” (Basic Education) is the name given to Pre-K, Elementary, Middle School, and Secondary; “Educación Media Superior” (Superior Middle Education) is the equivalent to High School, also called “Prepa” (acronym for Preparatory school); and “Educación Superior” (Higher Education) for Universities. A “Licenciado” is a person with a Bachelor degree, “Magistrado” with a Master; and Doctor (Dr.) for males, or Doctora (Dra.) for females with doctorate degrees. Grades levels are in years: first year instead of first grade, second year for second grade, etc. Other significant finding was that students are not required to live in a specific zone around the school, like districts. Most of actual students come from far away neighborhoods, but their parents prefer this secondary for its academic achievements, rather that for how fanciest the facility looks.
Around noon, we saw all the students living and a new group with different uniforms was coming. They share the building between the two schools and each has its own name, administration, and student body. In the morning shift, they get the students from middle class and white-collar families. In the afternoon, the students are from less affluent families, usually service workers. In this way, the school can accommodate a great number of students with a diverse socioeconomic status. The afternoon school receives also a group of children from a convent, which also contributes financially to the school’s expenditures.
We concluded, after today’s observations, that the school plays a preponderant role in the community. The education of children is a shared social responsibility, where parents join forces with teachers in order to provide the resources needed. How contrasting to the U.S., where still fresh in our minds the San Antonio v. Rodriguez landmark case of 1973 where “the Supreme Court ruled against Rodriguez, deferring to the long history of local communities funding neighborhood schools. The Court declared that education was not a ‘fundamental right’ under the U.S. Constitution and that preserving local control was a legitimate reason to use the property tax system” (Sadker, 2003, p. 388). Unfortunately, a school funding system based on quotas from student’s families will not work in the U.S. because:
1. People relocate frequently because they change jobs or move to new neighborhoods, which do not facilitate a community bonding.
2. Students are required to attend a specific facility based on their place of residence. Parent’s emphasizes on geographical locations instead of school’s performances.
3. There are areas with bigger school-age populations than others. Some schools will not collect enough money to cover their operational expenses.
4. Many low-income families are working two or three jobs and barely making ends meet; for them, it may be financially impossible to contribute schools with quotas.
In the Classroom
We visited the “escuela primaria” (primary school) Alberto Jáuregui López, with the purpose of learning about them, and imparting a class to their students. In general, the operational system was similar to the secondary. They also share the building with another school. All the students wear a clean and colorful uniform. This primary school is located next to the secondary, so its demographics are the same. The administrative staff and the teachers all wear the same uniform; and even the secretary, so there is not distinction by ranks. For several consecutive years, this school is one the best in Monterrey.
All classrooms have as average between 35 to 38 students. Some need to pass underneath their chairs in order to get out. The facilities are old, but clean, and although there is a sort of a small bookcase attached to the wall, the teacher told us they do not have enough books. The school’s pays special attention to reading, and they organize frequent book fairs. One great initiative is that they promote reading a book with “la familia” (the family) and it helps them to find a common bond through literacy. Regardless material limitations, these students excel in their classes and use a great deal of creativity to solve problems. They brought to class yearlong science projects, build with regular household items.
When we entered the classroom, all students standup in sign of respect and saluted us with courtesy. The teacher introduced us to the class and they were interested in learning about us. One student in particular named Victor approached us talking in perfect English. He was born in Los Angeles, California, but for family reasons his parents move back to Mexico around forty-five days ago. We inquire at his experiences in the new school and social environment. He was very eloquent and happy with the changes. Most teachers coincide; students moving to Mexico from the U. S. have lower academic levels. Nevertheless, what impressed us were the camaraderie form Victor’s peers. They even ask us to talk with him because they want to hear a full conversation in English. Over all, we noticed high cooperativeness and respect among all the children. Gender plays an important role, since boys lead in classroom’s participation, and girls are quiet; they keep themselves relegated as spectators. The teacher commands without screaming and efficiently controls thirty-seven third grade children in a very professional fashion. She explained to us how limited resources they have. SEP provides textbooks free for all students, and at any given moment, they are all reading the same page of their textbooks in the whole nation.
We meet with parents and teachers to explore their interactions. There is a sense of pride and responsibility to support the school. Parent’s involvement could not be better. It is significant that a big number of parents have degrees and hold white-collar jobs. They also travel frequently to the U.S. for shopping, and want their children to learn English. In this northern region of Mexico, many families keep close ties with relatives in the U.S. so they teach their children to feel comfortable between both cultures. It is undisputable parent’s commitment to schools, and the support to their children and to the teachers. This elaborated relationship is able to work because of a powerful will from every side involved. Teachers have a vocational calling to their careers, and the majority of them will spend their lifetimes in the teaching profession. Parents understand that schoolteachers are only learning facilitators, and students need motivation and support from their families.
Schools in the U.S. pursue the same goals than Mexican counterparts: excellence in education, highest academic achievements, transmitting social values, etc. The problem is that in the U.S. we lack institutions truly interested in training professional educators. Charles J. Sykes criticizes Universities and their professors for abandon the education of teachers in exchange for research, which is the way to get more economic resources and prestige. He writes that top institutions, as Harvard and Berkeley do not continue the education of teachers for elementary and secondary levels, since teaching is for many a second-class activity. “The schools of education have become priesthoods of good intention and well-meaningless, where would-be teachers are taught how to cope with low self-esteems, dysfunctional families, and learning disorders: teachers as therapist, social worker, and Big Sister” (1995, p. 88). Parents have so much pressure from their jobs that they rely solely on the school for their children education. Another drawback for schools is that American children get too many distracting activities, like television, internet, videogames, etc. In Mexico, many families still follow old gender’s stereotypes where men are the breadwinners, while woman are homemakers and help with their children education.
In addition, other cultural factors restrain American teachers from applying disciplinary measurements in the classroom, because in our society a teacher does not have the same autonomy and social respect than in Mexico. “Many factors influence children’s intellectual developments, among which are the skill, warmth, and enthusiasm of teachers” (Evers, 2001, p.37). Our educational system it is not centralized like the one in Mexico, which mean that each state apply its own regulations. Some parents even disapprove the use of uniforms arguing that it attempt against the child individuality. There are so many chains of commands and bureaucratic procedures in our school system, that any attempts to put in practice a new idea will face great deal of caution. We cannot ignore the fact that the implementation of standardized testing in the American educational system has turn teachers into just test-passing coaches. “Many educators have already voiced their fear that standardized curriculum and high-stakes testing will reduce the teacher’s role from spontaneous facilitator to a mere test preparer” (Kohn, 2000; Ohanian, 1999).

The Teaching Factories

The most difficult element to understand from Mexico’s educational system was the role of Universities against the “Escuela Normal” (School for Teacher Preparation). A graduate from a university with a Bachelor degree cannot teach at a public school, only at a private school. To become a public school teacher in Mexico, a student has up to a maximum of three years after graduating high school to enter the “Escuela Normal”, from where can earn a Bachelor degree in education. Then there is the UPN or “Universidad Pedagógica Nacional” (National University of Pedagogy) or university for educators. In order to gain admission into this higher education institution, a person needs to be working as an active teacher in order to earn a Bachelor, Master, or Doctorate degree in an educational field.
They offer careers in “Educational Administration, Pedagogy, Psychology of Education, Sociology of Educations, Indigenous Education, Adult Education, Education Plan 94[4], Pre-school, and Primary Education for the Indigenous Medium, and French Education” (UPN, 2004). There is not room in Mexico for changing careers latter in life, and even less opportunities to enter into the teaching profession, unless you enroll in the Escuela Normal, at a very early age. The average age to enter the teaching profession is at twenty-one, after four years of study at the Escuela Normal. Teachers who get their degrees from this school are calling “Normalistas” (from Normal’s school). The first year, graduates must do “Servicio Social” (Social Service) which consists in working in a rural school assigned by the government. Starting salaries for teachers is around 7,000 Mexican pesos every two weeks, around $645 USD at today’s exchange rate. Nevertheless, there are other benefits in the form of “prestaciones” (services, discounts, and freebies) like a house financing at very low interest rates, merchandise at very low prices with installments payments taken out the paycheck without interests, and many other incentives. Moreover, society respects and sees with high regards to anybody in the teaching profession.
If we were to imitate Mexico’s teaching schools, we will face our social reality, where people change careers three or four times in their lives. Now, with the baby boomers explosion, many elderly professionals are becoming teachers. Immigration is a big factor in our society. Many people come to the U.S. in search of a better life. As part of social mobility, emigrants and low-income people go to school at different times, so there is not an age limit to enter a college or university. Ours is not a centralize government, so every state decide the best way to administer its educational system. Everybody is looking for better salaries and benefits, and supply and demand is what determines occupations in our free market system. Teachers, like any other professionals, will move in and out of the profession depending on individual financial needs and not on altruisms, although there may be few exceptions. In today’s socioeconomic realities, many people in the U.S. are entering the teaching profession because there are not too many job choices left, since big corporations are outsourcing the high paying jobs overseas.
A specialized school of education in every state, where aspiring teachers can learn advanced pedagogical principles, could be a wonderful improvement to our educational systems. Such type of school, however, must have a curricular equivalency to universities. It is a fact that teaching certification procedures are not always perfect in several states, and the Department of education should revise it. Perhaps more research will show the need for strong requirements, and especially to make universities the only academic authority to certify aspiring teachers. We observed a total disconnect between Mexico’s universities, the Escuela Normal, and UPN (National Pedagogic University), especially in terms of researching about the conditions, performance, and school’s progress. Every educational institution we visited was eager to exchange experiences with our university, and inquired about our educational system. Mexican teachers have a perception that our educational system is better, teachers more remunerated, and learning English is as condition for economic advancement.

The Historical Factor

According to SEP functionary and Professor Alfredo Galindo:
The main difference between Mexico’s and the Unite States is that the first was conquest, while the second colonized. Conquest mean that everything is taken away from the country; stole entirely. Colonization means the transfer of resources to the colonized country. That is important, because Spaniards took everything away from Mexico, while early American settlers move to the country and made it their homeland. In order to understand Mexican educational system, we have to search into the history of the country, since both have a close link: For example, Mexican President Porfirio Díaz was thirty years in power, and during this period, education was not for the poor. The country had strong French influences, especially around social structures. When the revolution of 1910, many secondary students become teachers overnight, without any academic degree, to solve an urgent national need. Education in Mexico is a work in progress, and every political administration has played a role in shaping it. In 1917, the Mexican Constitution prohibited any religion influences in public schools. Consecutive democratic governments have opened educational opportunities to the people. Still, Mexican centralized educational system needs to allow each geographical region to apply its own regulation, since the country it is not a monolithic entity. In Coahuila, and Nuevo Leon, foreign investments from the U.S. has soared in the last Twenty years. Transnational corporations are demanding employees with a higher educational level, and even English language skills. However, this is not the whole country’s reality; in the south, there is the indigenous problem, poverty, underdevelopment, etc. The educational system in northern Mexico needs to be compatible with the U.S. educational system. Many universities do not have coherent curricular equivalences with their American counterparts. (Personal communication, June 16, 2007)
We noticed how people from Saltillo and Monterrey are very open to the American culture and language. U.S. corporations have moved many of its operations to these two cities. This fact has influenced Mexico’s idiosyncrasy in the northern region. No wonder in Saltillo alone there are eighteen universities and the city is nicknamed the “Athens of Mexico”. It is very easy to drive around the city and discover a proliferation of bilingual schools and language academies. In the curriculum of most local higher education institutions, the mastering of English is a requirement for graduation. Mexico’s schools are imitating our educational systems. Recently, they are considering to implement standardize testing similar to the ones we administer in our schools. Even Mexico’s school grades are similar to ours. According to Tamez (2004), the following is a description of Mexico’s grade levels:
Level / Grade, Age (Years old)
· Pre-School, Nursery School
· Kindergarten, 5–6; beginning of "basic" education (educación básica).
· Primaria (Primary School)
o 1st Grade, 6–7
o 2nd Grade, 7–8
o 3rd Grade, 8–9
o 4th Grade, 9–10
o 5th Grade, 10–11
o 6th Grade, 11–12
· Secundaria (Middle school)
o First grade, 12–13
o Second grade, 13–14
o Third grade, 14–15
· Bachillerato or Preparatoria (High school)
o First grade, 15–16; beginning of "middle higher" education (educación media superior).
o Second grade, 16–17
o Third grade, 17–18
· University; beginning of "higher" education (educación superior)
o Four or five years leading to a Bachelor's degree (licenciatura)
· Postgraduate
o Two to three years leading to a Master's Degree (maestría)
o Three or more years after the completion of a Master's degree, leading to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D., known locally as doctorado).
The two institutions that are completely unequal to a similar institution in the U.S. are the “Escuela Normal”, and “UPN” (National Pedagogic University).
“Escuela Normal” has been the school for aspiring teachers for over a Century. Before the year 1994, students enroll after finishing secondary school, at fifteen or sixteen years of age. After four years, they become public school teacher without a bachelor degree. Then they could enroll in UPN to earn a bachelor degree and continue graduate or doctorate studies in education. The government implemented a law giving a financial reward to those teachers that graduated from Escuela Normal and later earned a bachelor degree at UPN. However, after 1994, aspiring teachers entered Escuela Normal after finishing “Prepa” or High School, approximately at the age of seventeen. After four years, they graduate with a bachelor degree around the age of twenty-one. To continue with higher education, they can enroll at UPN to pursue a master degree in education, but will not earn the government financial incentive. If they enroll in UPN to earn another bachelor degree, they qualify for the financial incentive. When we inquired UPN Coahuila’s State director, Professor Gustavo Villaseñor about what sense does it makes to earn two bachelor degrees the answer was ambiguous: “To earn more money, because without a bachelor from our institution, the teachers don’t qualify for the government incentive” (Personal communication, June 17, 2007). Our conclusion was that they implemented the incentive for the Escuela Normal graduates before 1994, which did not have a bachelor degree, and the government never changed the law to accommodate the newest graduates with higher educational levels.
Pairing Mexico’s educational history to ours is impossible, because we have sharp differences in our political and social origins. While the Mexican Constitution protects secularism, here in the U.S. schools still are debating about sex education, Darwinism, o praying in classrooms. Puritanism is the ideological foundations of the U.S., and religious fundamentalism has influenced our academic curriculums since the beginning of our educational system. Sadker (2003) explains:
Early colonial education, both in Mew England and in other colonies, often began in the home. (Today’s home schooling movement is not a new approach.) The family was the major educational resource for youngsters, and the first lessons typically focused on reading. Parents and grandparents taught values, manners, social graces, and even vocational skills. (p. 306)
American democracy evolved and public education prevailed as State’s responsibility. Each State regulates teacher’s professional requirements for certification. With the adoption of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, commonly known as NCLB, anybody with a bachelor degree who pass a teaching certification competency exam, administered by the state in the area of teaching, become a public school teacher. Most private schools do not require its teachers to be certified. An Escuela Normal, or a similar purpose school of educators, or even a UPN (National Pedagogy University) in the U.S., could be subjects of further study. Obviously, the highly industrialized economy of the U.S. forces educational institutions to adjust its curriculums accordingly to corporate demands. Unfortunately, big corporations are having more and more dominance over our school system.


We all know the educational system in the U.S. is in very bad shape. It will take a long list just to mention countless deficiencies and shortcomings; but the solution it is not necessarily south of the border. Instead of focusing our research into administrative procedures or educational philosophies, we need to recognize that educational differences between Mexico and the U.S. are the result of historical, sociopolitical, and economic factors. For the same reason, improvements and solutions will come from major social changes, and not from simplistic operational adjustments. For example, a recent study found big discrepancies in standardized test results across different states. “Several groups have called for national standards to be written into the education law in light of the discrepancies in state standards, but Congress is unlikely to go that far because states see education as a fundamentally local prerogative” (The AP, 2007). What could make a lot of sense, and even sound like a rational procedure, adjusting national standards for testing, a similar approach to Mexico’s “Enlaces” test, will imply a complex legal encroachment: The U.S. Constitution does not provide education as a legal right, and leave to the states its administration.
Another factor has to do with our American idiosyncrasy. We believe it is up to individuals, and not to the collectivity to pursue our goals. We have been raise with the concepts of the “superhero”, while in Mexico; children learn group’s survival skills. For us, the term “collectivism” is synonym of “communism”, which brings back memories of the cold war and McCarthyism[5]. Even the corporate world promote a cutthroat philosophy of competitiveness and individualism “Greed is good”, is a common phrase for CEO’s and top company executives.
What American schools have been promoting for over a decade is a feel good philosophy under the label “self steam”. According to Sykes (1995),
It is impossible to understand America’s public schools without appreciating the extent, to which educationists will go to enhance, protect, shield, and inflate the self-image of the nation’s students. This therapeutic mindset (which often has more in common with the self-help movement than with academy) underlies much of the hostility toward what educationists imagine was the excessive intellectualism of traditional education. It also drives the attack on grades, on academic standards, and increasingly defines the peculiar personality of American education. (p. 49)
In Mexico, schoolchildren relate to their socioeconomic realities; they live their lives neither playing videogames nor watching television. From a very early age, children value the little they have, and learn that education is important to their future. Careers and vocations pass through generations. You can ask a youth student about what he or she want to be in life, and chances are will give a very intelligent answer.
In Mexico, despite a shortage in material resources, we saw smiling faces, disciplined children, learning motivations, good social behavior, and great academic achievements. In the U.S., poor academic results are because of lack of money, and low motivation due to school environment, or bad teachers. We always find an excuse to point our fingers onto external factors. It is impressive how much there is accomplish in Mexico’s schools with so little resources.
The bottom line is that Mexico’s educational system works for them, because it is coherent with its socioeconomic structures. At the same time, we share many similarities. Mexico it is not a monolithic country and neither the U.S. That is why education cannot function from a central bureaucracy without considering regional characteristics, like in our states. Mexican society was under the dictatorship of a single ruling party for over seventy years. Its people are accustomed to a paternalistic government. Here in the U.S. we do not like the government to patronize everything. Unfortunately, powerful corporations and big interests groups have total control of our politicians and of our educational curriculums.
In every exchange, there are many opportunity of learning, and we cannot ignore the amount of immigrant children from Mexico that come to our schools. Analyzing Mexico’s educational system will help us to teach these kids better. Undoubtedly, Mexican teachers have unsurpassed experiences, teaching philosophies and classroom strategies, which can be useful to research. Before we run to classify anyone educational system better, it must be in context to our cultural and socioeconomic system. Eventually, Mexico will be adopting much of our educational strategies, like standardized testing; and a handful of editorial houses will be in control of schoolbooks and teaching materials. It is a sad reality: Powerful American corporations will take over Mexico’s educational system. It is just a matter of time…

Evers, W.M. (Ed.). (2001). School reform the critical issues. San
Francisco, California: Hoover Institution Press.
Gispert, Carlos. (Ed.). (2005). Diccionario de Biografías. Barcelona:
Editorial Océano.
Kohn, A. (2000). The case against standardized testing: Raising the
tests, ruining the schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
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Ohanian, S. (1999) One size fits all: The folly of educational standards.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
Sadker, M. P., & Sadker, D.M. (2003). Teachers, schools. and society.
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feel good about themselves but can't read, write, or add. New
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[1] José Vasconcelos (1881-1959): Mexican Politician, writer, and philosopher; appointed in 1920 rector of the National University. He founded the “Secretaría de Educación Pública SEP (Public Education Secretary) and also was the National Library Director (Gispert, 2005, p. 974).
[2] Acronym formed by the Spanish words “Evaluación Nacional del Logro Académico en Centros Escolares” (National Evaluation of Academic Achievements in Scholar Centers).
[3] Secretaría de Educación Pública (Public Education Secretary).
[4] For public school teachers whom graduated from Escuela Normal before the year 1994, when admission requirements was only secondary schools, and did not earned a bachelor degree.
[5] McCarthyism is the term describing a period of intense anti-Communist suspicion in the United States that lasted roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. Originally coined to criticize the actions of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, "McCarthyism" later took on a more general meaning.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Welcome to Saltillo

Welcome to Saltillo

My day started a little slow due to the fact that I was up late last night waiting for my family to arrive here, in Monterrey. They had actually reached their destination as scheduled, however my husband decided to take the scenic route unintentionally. He accidentally ended up about ten minutes away from Saltillo. I guess he couldn’t wait to get there. They arrived safe and sound at about 1:00a.m. We started a new day saying goodbye to my cousins Luis, Delia and Carolina, who so graciously opened the doors to their new home.
WE arrived at the hotel on time and sooner than we could blink our eyes, we were on our way to Saltillo. It was so impressive to see the majestic mountainside travel alongside with us. My children admired their beauty and took in the sights along with everybody else. I was so happy to just be surrounded by my new ENLACES family and my husband Gus, and children Gustavo, Carolina, and Jonathan. Being in the country I love so much and surrounded by beautiful friends and family is the most gratifying feeling. As the bus traveled, I took note of all the places and people. I saw a cement company accompanied by roadside vendors showcasing beautiful strands of “ajos”, (garlic). There was enough garlic to keep an entire colony of vampires away!
Finally we arrived at the destination that would lead us to the path of authentic Mexican, culture, fauna, flora and hospitality. As soon as we arrived to the Galindo Cabana, Santa Lucia, which was so appropriately named after one of the family’s matriarchs, we were received by warm smiles and enticing Mexican cuisine. We started with a surmountable amount of appetizers ranging from tostadas to champiñones con cebolla y tomate. Every morsal of food was to die for! Todavía faltaba el plato fuerte….la carne asada (arrachera, T-bone, y chorizo). Everything was delicious! Cerramos con broche de oro…. para apretar…frijoles charros and then an appropriate dessert …una Gloria de leche quemada enrollada alrededor de una colección de dulces y salpicada con nuez. GLORIA…heaven! It truly was.
We also enjoyed a stroll where we enjoyed the beautiful scenery full of nopales, horned frogs, and pines. The opportunity to learn the history of Mexico’s educational system was priceless. The Galindo’s knowledge, wisdom, and experiences fed the hunger that accompanied us since we arrived to Mexico. Accompanied by a tantalizing coffee we took in as much information as possible. This answered the many unanswered questions that lurked in our minds.
We then headed to the main plaza in front of Saltillo’s cathedral. We were greeted by rich colors and vibrant folkloric Mexican dancers. We strolled around the plaza and the old colonial neighborhood for a while. We witnessed the exiting of a bride from the cathedral, as well the multiple loving couples that enjoyed the fresh breeze of Saltillo. We finally finished our evening with more food. We went to a delicious restaurant called Las Brasas where we enjoyed live entertainment. My daughter Carolina had the opportunity to share her voice alongside a young man that was kind enough to share the stage with her momentarily. We enjoyed each other’s company until it was time to head back to our hotel to get some rest and get replenished for the day to come.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Our last day at the escuela primaria was an eventful one. We were invited to attend a program that was put together as a farewell to the Enlaces group.

The program was one of the most cultural events I have had the pleasure of witnessing. One of the first events was called El Baile de los viejitos. It was done by a group of first graders and the funny thing was that I recognized the first child. Even though he was wearing a mask, I knew right away that it was a boy in the classroom that we observed and taught a lesson to. He stood out in a class of 39, he was talkative, not shy about coming over to say hello and enjoyed sharing ideas with me. Just from observing him in the event, this child is a natural and will hopefully go far as he continues his education.

Other activites were folklorica type dances done by a group of fourth graders. They were all beautifully dressed and danced well. The young girls, in particular, looked proud as they danced.

Our final day at the escuela primaria was eventful, but at the same time somewhat emotional at leaving a place that welcomed their arms to us and were most hospitable while we were there.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Una verdadera experiencia

Durante esta semana hemos estado sin parar recogiendo todo tipo de conocimientos que acrecenten nuestro aprendizaje. Desde el lunes, cuando acudimos a la escuela secundaria No. 50 Jose Vasconcelos. En esa ocasiòn, fuimos recibidos con bailables tradicionales y modernos realizados por los mismos estudiantes del plantel. Anterior a esto, fuimos todos testigos de la ceremonia al saludo a la bandera, un evento que para muchos fue una grata sorpresa, mientras que para otros un evento lleno de nostalgia y dulces recuerdos de nuestra infancia.
Lo màs destacado fue el bailable que los estudiantes hiciern vestidos con los trajes tìpicos del estado de Veracruz.
Despues de esta visita hemos ido a la Universidad Autònoma de Nuevo Leòn, donde fuimos bien recibidos por catedràticos de la instituciòn quienes nos presentaron a traves de un video lo que la Universidad ofrece a su alumnado. Esta fue tambien una interesante experiencia. En mi caso tambien con un toque de recuerdos cuando acudìa, como estudiante del Tec, a la Capilla Alfonsina a consultar la hemeroteca para realizar los trabajos del semestre cuando estudiaba Ciencias de Informaciòn.
El lunes tambien marco el inicio de una semana maratòn en gastronomìa, en la que hemos degustado todo tipo de platillos tìpicos de la comida mexicana que nos han dejado por demas satisfechos.
El martes acudimos a la escuela primaria Prof. Alberto Jauregui Lòpez, de la colonia primavera. Ese dìa fue para observaciòn y fuimos tambien excelentemente recibidos tanto por las autoridades del plantel como por los niños y maestros. A Eduardo y a mi nos toco el Tercer A, con la Profra. Lupita, y donde ademàs conocimos a Victor, un niño nacido en California que en abril se incorporo a esta escuela junto con su hermano Andy, que esta en segundo año. Tuvimos todos la oportunidad e preguntarle a Victor sobre sus impresiones sobre la educacion en Mèxico y en Estados Unidos a lo que el niño nos contestò que en Mèxico era mejor porque los maestros eran mas exigentes. Al dia siguiente regresamos para leerles el cuento bilingue Victor My Pal-Victor mi amigo. Los niños estuvieron muy atentos a la clase, muy receptivos y contestaron varias preguntas que les hice relacionadas con las imagenes y lo que decìa el cuento. Despuès de eso, les encargamos hacer una carta a un amigo o persona especial a quien le contaran lo que aprendieron del cuento que se les habia leido. Los niños, al final de la clase, nos hicieronuna serie de preguntas sobre nuestros estudios, UTSA y como fue que decidimos ser maestros, entre otras. De igual manera, estuvieron muy interesados en una platica entre Eduardo y Victor, en ingles, mientras yo les traducia. Todos mostraron un interes particular en aprender otros idiomas, en particular el ingles, y para sorpresa de nosotros nos dimos cuenta que casi todos tenian nociones basicas del ingles, diciendonos oraciones sencillas o palabras. El jueves regresamos a la escuela primaria para terminar, algunos con sus actividades frente a grupo, y otros con la observacion del entorno de la escuela y la comunidad, para despues el viernes culminar la visita con una hermosa y muy significativa ceremonia de despedida en la que hubo bailables, como el baile de los viejitos de Michoacan y el jarabe tapatio de Jalisco pasando por un son huasteco de Nuevo Leon. Al final nos tocaron las golondrinas no sin antes cada uno de nosotros leerles nuestros deseos que fueron sembrados en un arbolito con tronco entrelazado que da vida al Enlace que inicia entre la escuela primaria y los estudiantes de UTSA.
Todas estas actividades y los eventos culturales que hemos tenido oportunidad de disfrutar a lo largo de esta semana, dejan gratos recuerdos y conocimientos sobre lo que es la educacion en Mexico reafirmandose muchas ideas y descubriendose otras tantas cosas que no se conocian. Gracias a todos los que nos recibieron en Monterrey y esperamos que esto crezca como el arbolito que dejamos en la escuela primaria Prof.Alberto Jauregui Lopez.

Nuestra clase

Ayer fue un día muy especial para el equipo de trabajo que formamos Sandra y yo. Preparamos una clase para alumnos de tercer grado de la escuela primaria Prof. Alberto Jáuregui López. Ya el día anterior observamos que en la clase había treinta y siete alumnos, los cuales se sentaban apretados en sus correspondientes filas y algunos hasta se escudriñaban por debajo de pupitres para poder salirse de sus puestos. A pesar de las penurias materiales, estos niños reciben una excelente preparación por parte de sus profesores, los que denotan una profunda vocación magisterial. La maestra nos explicó que estaban realizando repasos y que el énfasis del programa escolar estaba enfocado hacia la lectura y la composición. Al principio del curso, ya los alumnos habían aprendido a escribir una carta, por lo que entendimos pertinente el preparar una clase que reafirmara los conocimientos adquiridos.
Para entrar en materia y familiarizarnos con los alumnos, le asignamos a cada fila un número, el cual debían de escribir junto con sus nombres en una etiqueta adhesiva que repartimos previamente. Asimismo, recibieron sobres y sellos de correos, ya que utilizarían el formato epistolar para expresar todo lo que recordaran de la historia que leeríamos en clase. La misma se trataba de un niño llamado Víctor que tenía un amigo con capacidades especiales; él relataba como las limitaciones físicas de su amiguito no le impedían compartir muy buenos ratos juntos. Los alumnos prestaron mucha atención y la maestra aprovechó nuestra clase para recordarles que emplearan todos los conocimientos adquiridos a priori.
Los alumnos tomaron un receso de aproximadamente treinta minutos, y cuando regresaron al aula, le pedimos que escribiesen una carta relatándole lo leído a algún amigo o familiar lejano. Los niños depositaron sus cartas en un buzón que habíamos confeccionado al respecto. Paso seguido, llamamos a algunos alumnos para que extrajesen una carta y la leyeran. Fue muy edificante observar el nivel de aprovechamiento, así como la calidad de redacción en lengua española que habían alcanzado. Las cartas estaban escritas siguiendo las reglas de la retórica epistolar, así como una gramática y sintaxis correctas.
La evaluación se centró en torno a la participación, por lo que todos recibieron una estrellita como premio al esfuerzo y excelencia. La maestra nos ayudó a controlar a los niños, ya que estaban un poco alborotados porque todos querían leernos sus composiciones.
La clase llegó a su fin, y nos sentimos compungidos por no quedarnos a formar parte de esta excelente escuela y de un grupo de alumnos tan cariñosos y aplicados. Estas son de esas emociones y de esas experiencias que trascienden más allá de todo lo cognoscitivo para adentrase en el mundo onírico de las rememoraciones perecederas. Creo que utilizar la expresión: ¡muchas gracias!, no es lo suficiente explícita como epítome de esta relato, por lo que espero concatenar otros escritos relacionados a esta maravillosa vivencia. .


Si los niños conocen a los San Antonio Spurs, díganle que ganaron el campeonato mundial gracias a varios jugadores "transnacionales Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili y Tim Duncan.

Go Spurs Go!

Dr. Cortez


¿Cuál es el significado cultural de la frase que utilizó el niño que mencionaste en tu narración basado en tu propria cultura?

Dr. Cortez

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Today was another interesting day in Monterrey. We returned to escuela primaria and finished up our lesson. It has been such a wonderful experience. The children have been outstanding, so cordial, and most repectful. They were all very excited to see us this morning and were most eager to finish the lesson. I was especially pleased when one boy looked up at me as I entered the classroom and said to me, "hola Maestra Castillo". This child is only about 6 years old.

Later in the day, we returned to the hotel and met with James, a scholastic director. That was an interesting meeting and very informative.

After our meeting, we drove to the Marco museum, that was one of the most historical museum I've had the opportunity to visit.


Second day in the classroom

We finished your lesson plan today with excitement and joy. Some of us received gifts from the kids, kisses and hugs.
We visited the Museo de arte conteporaneo de Monterrey - Paula Santiago's exposition was very interesting.


Me parece bien interesante lo que me vayan a platicar acerca de la tecnología proporcionada por el gobierno. ¿Cómo se llama la escuela primaria y por donde esta? Me estoy tratando de hubicar. ¿Ya hicieron el "community walk"?

Dr. Cortez


Today we have to leave early since we did not have time to finish the presentation that the Primaria was giving to us yesterday. I was very impressed with their technology (offered by the Mexico government to all public schools) -At this Primaria, they have been using this system for only 2 years.
I'll send more information latter since I am running out of time.


I am finally able to get in and post my blog from yesterday.
Yesterday and today I had an amazing experience in the classroom with one of the best class in the world. Respect for the teacher was impressive and the warm way of communication between teacher and student is something that we do not see anymore in many schools.
The children were very interactive with the activities we did in class using the playdough to shape tortillas from the Magda’s tortillas.
I believe that the time we are spending here are going to be so valuable, I am sure we are going to have a lot to share when we come back to San Antonio.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

por fin

No había podido entrar al blog, pero por fin ahorita lo pude hacer, ustedes saben problemas técnicos. Me encantan las narraciones acerca de sus experiencias en Monterrey. Lo más interesante es que cada uno de ustedes tiene un enfoque diferente y pueden ver las cosas de diferente manera. Me interesa saber si encontraron maestros "transnacionales" al igual que niños en la escuela primaria. Tambien me interesa saber acerca de el plan de estudios para las escuelas primarias y la diferencia entre las escuelas primarias públicas. ¿Han tenido la oportunidad de hablar acerca de la educación bilingüe o la educacón especial? Creo que Sandy mencionó que una asistente de maestra trabajaba con una niña pero no entendí si tenía alguna discapacidad.

Las fotografías me traen muchos recuerdos. Y la comida..... todo menos chapulines (estaban cubiertos de chocolate?)

I can't wait to read more entries.


Dr. Cortez

En Primaria de nuvo

Fue fascinante mi visita a la primaria. Las directoras y maestra fueron tan amables. Compartieron muchos de sus conocimientos con nosotros. En mi visita a la aula de primer grado con la maestra María Angélica aprendí como el respeto se manifiesta en esta cultura tan bella, que es la de Méjico. Los estudiantes demostraron una disciplina ejemplar y una inteligencia impresiva. Me encanto la oportunidad de platicar e entrevistar a los padres de familia. Ellos tuvieron tanto que compartir con nosotros. La visita a la universidad en la escuela de filosofía y letras también fue sumamente informativa y nos ayudo a aprender las diferencias que existen en la preparación de maestras entre los Estados Unidos y Méjico. Finalmente cerramos nuestra aventura del día con broche de oro. Comimos en el restaurante Coliseo que imparto una mezcla de comida Mexicana igual que diferentes especies de mariscos. Estuvo sabrosisimo. Termine mi día con una visita a la casa de mis tíos donde platicamos un poco de la familia y nos cenamos unos tacos callejeros d bistek...mmm...mas comida. Creo que mañana voy de compras...por unos pantalones con cintura de elástico, jiji :)

Welcome to Monterrey!

Today was our first full day! It was incredible. First we visited the “secundaria #50”. We were greeted with gigantic smiles and were made to feel right at home as walked onto the campus. We soon came to find out that the principal was notified about our visit just this past Friday afternoon. However, they prepared a moving and impressive program. First the students walked onto the school courtyard in an orderly manner. They soon began their weekly ritual of the pledge to the flag. It’s nothing close to what we do in the San Antonio. The students begin with a drum cadence that captivates your attention immediately. They marched military style, around the courtyard quadrant where the Mexican flag was carried and displayed with a sense of respect and pride. Next, they sang the Mexican national anthem and finally, very vigilantly and respectfully the flag was recollected. This is similar to how we fold our flag when it is taken down from the flagpole. Afterwards we were pleasantly surprised by the students as they performed two dances. The first was a medley of diverse types of music, Spice girls, Jerry Lee Lewis and Selena. They were followed by a distinct group that performed a traditional “Veracruz” folkloric dance. My favorite was “baile de la bruja”…I think that is what it’s called. The young ladies were clothed in a beautiful white-lace dress with a flower embroidered apron, while balancing a candle on their head. The young boys were dressed in white “Guayaberas” and white pants. We completed our visit with a candid interview of the school’s principal. Our next stop was at the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon. There we learned about their various programs as well as the university’s goal. We then visited CASA San Antonio in Cintermex where we met Raul Rodriguez, whose goal is to provide support in the exchange of commerce between San Antonio and Monterrey. I was truly impressed with his passion for helping others and his high work ethic. We finished our evening at Madre Oaxaca, a delicious haven of Oaxacan food where I ate grasshoppers for the first time in my life….mmmmm delicious. I had a great day! The warmth of the people in Monterrey is beyond belief.

Nuesta visita a la primaria

Our visit to the primaria showed us how a teacher is the central agent to the process of education. A teacher makes all the difference between success and failure of a student's education. As I sat in the tiny, ill-equipped, modest classroom I thought of my beautiful, air-conditioned, brightly decorated, newly renovated classroom and realized what my students and I are blessed with. I looked around this first grade classroom and saw 35 students sitting in rows using minimal amount of materials. The floor was concrete and the walls were painted brick. Two fluorescent lights hung from the ceiling and wires were exposed in various places but yet this magnificent young teacher held the attention of the students as she had them make words on magnetic boards. Among these 35 students was one little girl with obvious health problems being helped by an assistant teacher. This assistant does not stay in this classroom all the time. The children were normal 1st grade students with eagerness for attention and praise. The teacher connected with the children and while providing them with a richness of education also gave them the attention that all children need.

A New Awakening

Today was a very special day because we got to view a local secundaria that was in my opinion exceptional in every way. Our warm and hospitable welcoming was a great surprise because we were greeted by some students who got to practice their English skills on us and it was amazing to see just how fluent they were. Then we got to see how Mexican students saluted their flag and recited the country´s oath with such conviction and pride that was very different in comparison to U.S. schools where students recite the pledge in an automatic, almost robotic way with little to no meaning, but these students seemed to have a genuine appreciation for their flag. After the great assembly, where over 900 students listened attentively and watched with glee the performances of their fellow classmates, it was very obvious to me the great discipline and repsect that these students had not only for their teachers, school, and country but for themselves as well. We then proceeded to debrief with la directora and some of the coordinators del SEP where we had an open question forum and discussed serveral primary issues that contribute to the schools success. It was evident that leadership skills, organization, teacher support, proper alignment of curriculum, as well as guts and ¨ganas¨are what motivated the school´s principal to transform this once runned down school into the shinning star of Monterrey. Something that stuck with me after visiting the school was something that la directora said, which was that the school´s priority was in emphasizing ¨calidad¨and that the students ¨tenian una concencia¨which was poignent to me because I also agree that in order for any school or program to work there must be an optimisitc consiouceness to fulfill the task of offering all students an adequate, fair and positive learning experience that will contribute to them becoming life long learners who will help shape or even reshape their communites for the better. After visiting the secundaria we then went to La Univerisdad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (UANL) and got to interact with some of the members from the university who presented some stats on student enrollment, demographics, educational programs, etc. as well as other innovative approaches that they are trying to establish in order to be the next university of the future in Monterrey. They also allowed for us to ask questions on their programs, becas offered to students, induction requirements, etc. and the implementation of such things. We spent the afternoon there and after absorbing so much of the misson and goals that la UANL has for its students, we left wanting to establish this ¨Enlace¨with UANL´s faculty, staff and students where UTSA´s faculty, staff and students can exchange not only ideas but acutually have site based programs to go experience first hand what it´s like living, working, and learning in both cities. After a long informative day we enjoyed a nice walk and had a fulfilling dinner. So I can´t wait to see what else is in store for us!!!

Por fin aquí estoy reportando sintonía


Blog 1 lunes junio 11, 2007

Transnacionalismo y Realismo mágico

Hoy iniciamos nuestro trabajo en la ciudad de Monterrey. La jornada ha sido muy ardua pero fructífera. Visitamos: una escuela secundaria, la Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León; La casa San Antonio que promueve el intercambio comercial entre las ciudades hermanas de Monterrey y San Antonio; la catedral metropolitana de Monterrey; una galería de arte y centro cultural alternativo dirigido por expreso político; cenamos en un restaurante de comida de la región de Oaxaca donde ¡comimos tacos de chapulines (grasshoppers), eso mismo, los insectos! Y nos contaron de unos huesos de dinosaurios que se encuentran en las montanas de Saltillo y la gente se los lleva para adornar las casas. Además hablamos de arte Mejicano y Chicano, de la próxima visita que Sandra Cisneros, quien donó sus libros autografiados para darlos como obsequios en nuestro viaje.

La primera visita fue a la escuela de secundaria Lic. José Vasconcelos, más conocida como la “secundaria numero cincuenta.” Las escuelas de secundaria en Méjico equivalen a las escuelas intermedias (middle school) de los Estados Unidos. Esta escuela tiene 900 estudiantes en los grados séptimo, octavo y noveno y cuenta con 45 maestros. Todos los estudiantes usan uniforme. Como un detalle curioso la rectora de la secundaria nos informo que las niñas deben de usar el pelo recogido durante toda la jornada escolar. Mientras se desarrollaba el programa, nosotros mirábamos a los estudiantes constantemente; su comportamiento fue ejemplar. Yo diría que muy bueno, demasiado bueno para su edad. La visita a la Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León fue muy placentera e informativa. Desde el recibiendo nos hicieron sentir que éramos invitados VIP. Los directivos, magistrados y jefes de programas explicaron desde la filosofía, metas y misión de la universidad.

Quizás la historia mas interesante de transnacionalismo yo diría también de realismo mágico, puesto que la realidad supera a la fantasía, es la que contó en el restaurante Raúl Rodríguez de la casa San Antonio acerca de su tío torero, que cundo fue a torear a San Antonio nadie le dijo que en San Antonio se podía torear, pero a diferencia de Méjico, no se podía matar al toro. Al matarlo fue encarcelado durante seis días. Las ciudades hermanas tan cercanas, con tantas raíces y lazos en común pero a la misma vez tan diferentes y con mundos tan intrincados.

Blog 2

Grandes diferencias

En la escuela primaria que visitamos hoy tuvimos la oportunidad de hablar con administradores del plantel, delegados de la secretaria de educación pública, profesores, padres y alumnos. Otra vez el trato fue como si fuéramos personajes muy importantes, (VIPs) Me pregunto si esto seria posible hacerlo en San Antonio y pienso que se nos facilito el proceso en Méjico ¡que dicha, definitivamente éste enlace si esta funcionando!

La rectora, la secretaria, la subdirectora estaban usando uniforme de color verde. Algo inusual para nosotros. Después vimos a más maestras usando uniformes de otros colores. Los estudiantes también estaban uniformados. La primera impresión fue que en esta escuela reinaban el orden y la disciplina. Lo más interesante de la reunión fue que se nos aclaro que las maestras que se reciben de normalistas exclusivamente trabajaran en escuelas públicas. Una vez son asignadas a una escuela se afilian a un sistema independiente supervisado por la secretaria de educación publica para ascender en su escalafón docente. Su formación académica, desempeño profesional y entrenamiento profesional le dan puntos que serán para un posible ascenso e incremento salarial.
En la tarde durante la reunión con docentes de la facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la UANL vimos que la formación de maestras es un tema más complejo de lo que esperábamos: Los maestros de escuela pública no son formados por la universidad y los estudiantes de educación que reciben licenciatura no pueden ingresar a trabajar en las escuelas públicas sino que en su mayoría se dedican a trabajar en escuelas particulares, con la misma universidad o entrenando maestras. Que diferencia tan grande.
Nos confundimos tratando de desenredar el enredo pero salieron cosas muy positivas de estos encuentros como la necesidad de las universidades de involucrarse más directamente en la formación de maestras y en investigación con temas relacionados con la escuela pública. En medio de este diálogo, la doctora Clark nos hizo pensar acerca del uso de uniformes por parte de las maestras y directivos. Nos preguntamos si será una cuestión de identidad profesional, de respeto por la profesión, para fomentar una cultura de respeto hacia las personas que trabajan en la escuela. Pero pensamos que este tema es tan complejo que también amerita un estudio.
Particularmente, entrada al blog acerca de la visita al salón de clase la dejaré para mañana después de que hayamos dado la lección.

Nota: No había podido entrar al blog ni siquiera crear la cuenta por problemas técnicos. Hasta llegue a creer que las computadoras de aquí no me quiere jaja!!!!. Gracias Jesús, Sandy y Liza por venir a mi rescate. ¡No contaba con su astucia!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Segundo dia

Today was an interesting day. We visited the primaria and we were allowed to visit a first grade classroom. It was amazing to see how many students one teacher deals with on a daily basis. This praticular classroom had 39 first graders in it. Some of us complain because we have 21 little ones, imagine dealing with 39 and one of them was a challenged child. Needless to say, the teacher had her hands full, but she dealt with them excellantly.

After that visit, we met with parents. They seemed pleased to meet with us and also seemed to share the same concerns about the testing that their children must endure.


Nuestro primer dia en Monterrey

Our early morning ride to the secundaria was our first real look at the beautiful mountains of Monterrey. We saw the hustle and bustle of the busy streets with their passangers in cars, taxis and buses. Everyone from our group was still a little asleep as we made our way to our adventure in the schools of Mexico. We arrived at a secundaria where we had an informative and entertaining visit. The students were exceptionally well-behaved and attentive. We were treated to a presentation of dances both from their jazz dance group and their ballet folklorico. The principal of the middle school gave us a very informative interview where the success of school was presented. She demonstated scores and graphs to prove how well this award winning school is doing. She gave us information on how she has been successful in turning this school around from the ill-kept, graffiti tagged school that she was sent to six years previous. Information was given to us on how teachers are prepared in Mexico and what credentials are required to work in a middle school. Information was also given to us on the national exam that middle school students must take and the success that this particular school has had on the exam. While this was an exceptional campus and very informative it did not give us a glimpse into what a typical Mexican secundaria looks like. We were not able to visit in the classrooms and observe the students/teachers at work. However, it was a very informative visit on how we can be successful in turning a school around with hard work and dedication.
The remainder of the day was spent at the UANL where we met with a panel from the university that gave us information not only about the university but also about the training of teachers in Mexico. We learned that teachers in Mexico are now getting more credentials and degrees to be able to work in the schools. The panel from the university gave us information on some of the programs that they are doing to help schools in the communities. Information was also given about the other programs and degrees that are available at UANL and the exchange program through different universities around the world.

Lunes lunático

Our first day was wildly busy and incredible enlightening. We visited a junior high school where we met transnational students and had a very frank eye-openning discussion with the principal. We conferred with representatives of UNAL that made us realize the vast gap between the teaching profession and the university setting as well as some of the steps the university is takinhg to bridge said gap. And we ended our official tour with a stop at Casa San Antonio where we learned how incredible linked the business communities of San Antonio and Monterrey are.

A very mature junior high
The group left for the Secundaria Jose Vasconcelos. Boy was I gald I wore a tie! The ceremony for los honores a la bandera were an example of pageantry at its best. The 900 students of the school participated wholeheartedly and respectifully through out the entire ceremony. That alone signalled how different San Antonio and Monterrey´s educational system are. Imagine 900 San Antonio junior high school students orderly sitting through a lengthy pledge of allegience, a color guard and two dance performances, not to mention the various bilingual speeches presented by students.

The principal, Irma Villafuerte, presented us to a bilingual ambassador student group. About a dozen students were on hand to answer our questions whether they be in Spanish or English. I had a chance to speak to one student in particular, an 8th grader named Fernando Salazar. Fernando is an ambitiouse transnationa student who lives in Monterrey but spends summers in Austin Texas where he works in his aunt and uncle´s restaurant (Mr. Naturals, where I´ve eaten on several occasions). Fernando hopes to attend high school in Austin and after obtaining his university degree would like to expand his father´s business franchizing it on an international level.

After the opening ceremonies and dance performances, we met with the principle, Irma Villafuerte. She spoke very candidly about her successes and challenges. For the last five years, Jose Vasconcelos Junior High has won the ¨Premio Mérito Escolar¨. It is something akin to an exemplary certification. She realted to us the inspirations story of how she turned a graffiti-ridden, low-performing school into the best junior high in all of Monterrey, even when you include the private schools. Her secret is organization. Ms. Villafuerta shared with us the dtabase and charts she uses to track student and teacher performance that she uses to encourage her teachers to excell. An interesting difference between San Antonio and Monterrey schools is that parent participation in Monterrey is limited to contact wtih the principal. Parents do not visit classrooms. They put their children in the hands of the schools and trust that they will do a good job. I imagine that in principal Villarfuerte´s case, parents could rest assured that she will do an excellent jopb given the numerous awards the school has earned.

Principal Viallfuerte also talked to us a bit about the teacher preparation. All teachers who are certified through the normalist program must begin with a basic education that prepares them for elementary school. If they want to teach junior high, they must continue with 2 more years of education. For high school, it is more years of training. This is different from the Texas system where teachers go through a university. That´s right, the normales are not universities.

We learned about the differences between the normal and the university traing during our visit to the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo Leon. More on that in a later blog because we are off to visit an elementary school.

El primer dia

Eduardo gracias por las fotos y por la entrada al diario del blog que fue bastante interesante. No se les olvide de hablar acerca de las semejanzas o diferencias entre San Antonio y Monterrey en cuanto a la economia, geografía, población, servicios sociales, la educación, etc.

Espero que alguien me cuente acerca del primer dia en la UANL y la secundaria. ¿Qué les pareció la ceremonia del saludo a la bandera? ¿Tenemos algo parecido en las escuelas de Texas? ¿Cual es el significado?

Saludos a todos y espero las entradas en el blog.


Dr. Cortez

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hicimos buen viaje y ya a las 10:00 PM estábamos entrando a nuestras habitaciones en el hotel. Fue muy interesante observar como el paisaje con su vegetación iba cambiando paulatinamente, según nos adentrábamos a tierra mexicana. Para algunos de nuestro grupo fue emocionante observar por primera vez el tristemente famoso Río Grande/Río Bravo que separa nuestras fronteras. El pase por la aduana se realizó sin muchas dificultades, a pesar de que a nuestra compañera Claudia le tocó la luz roja. Resulta que cuando uno llega a la aduana, tiene que apretar el botón de un semáforo con dos luces: una verde y otra roja. Si sale la verde, uno tiene paso franco; pero la roja conlleva a la incomodidad de descargar todos nuestros equipajes para que sean revisados. Tanto Luís como Claudia demostraron un excelente manejo de las relaciones públicas, o dicho en buen léxico cubano, se los comieron con la “muela”. En resumen, nos dejaron pasar sin mayor contratiempo y enfilamos proa hacia Monterrey. Claudia hizo una observación sobre la diferencia de las vallas publicitarias, y para todos fue sorprendente la cantidad de industrias que se han asentado en el lado mexicano.
La ciudad de Monterrey es preciosa, con su ambiente urbano y su marcada influencia norteamericana, que se observa en la proliferación de franquicias de comida rápida y tienditas de abarrotes estilo “seven-eleven”.
Después del viaje y con nuestra osamenta un poco anquilosada, tan pronto descargamos las maletas en nuestras habitaciones nos fuimos a cenar en un restaurante contiguo al hotel. Mañana nos espera una agenda de trabajo bastante apretada, ya que a las 6:00 AM estaremos de pie y preparándonos para visitar a las 7:00 una escuela secundaria en donde seremos testigos de la ceremonia a la bandera. Más tarde partiremos a la Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, para participar en una serie de actividades, entre las que está una entrevista con el rector de dicha institución.
Quisiera contarles muchas más cosas de nuestro viaje; compartir infinidad de anécdotas jocosas y de todas las experiencias que recién comienzan a aflorar. Ya son casi las tres de la mañana y necesito dormir por lo menos un par de horas.Arriba están las primeras fotos para que sigan acompañándonos durante nuestro periplo. Mientras tanto… ¡Buenas noches!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

¡Que emoción!

Estoy esperando con anticipación que llegue el domingo. Hace rato hablé con mi prima que vive en Monterrey. Se las quiero presentar llegando allá. Es una persona super divertida y muy chistosa.
Estoy ancisosa de conocer a los pequeñuelos con los que vanos a trabajar. Ayer al platicar sobre la lección que estamos preparando, me recordó a cuando yo di clases en la escuela Storm por 10 años. Como extraño alos niños.
Me da mucho gusto tener la oportunidad de trabajar con mis compañeras Rocío y Gracie. Yo se que vamos a hacer un trabajo estupendo al dar nuestra lección sobre el libro, "Las tortillas de Magda". ES un libro muy simpático.

Otra cosita...Sandra, me faltó una calcamonía del logo ENLACES. Tendré que hacer una de las bolsas llegando a Monterrey. Favor de llevarme una calcamonía el domingo.


Claudia "Yaya"

Friday, June 8, 2007

Casi listos

Ya es viernes y despues de todos estos dias en los que nos hemos reunido, para revisar lo que es el transnacionalismo y comenzar a darle forma a las ideas que tenemos para la clase que daremos en Mexico, la expectativa de lo que encontremos en las escuelas en Monterrey es grande.
Nos hemos pasado la tarde comprando materiales para la clase que daremos y al mismo tiempo aun nos quedan tantas cosas por hacer.
Siempre es interesante conocer la cultura y educacion de otros pueblos y el desarrollo de una vision con diferentes perspectivas es algo que siempre puede ayudarnos en nuestra profesion o en el futuro. El aprendizaje nunca esta de mas y siempre es una gota mas de energia para nuestra existencia.
Ya con los motores calentandose para el viaje, nos vemos el domingo para iniciar un muy interesante enlace educativo y cultural.

great idea sandra and eduardo

Como maestros siempre compartimos ideas. No se les olviden los objetivos de la lección, es bien importante y tambien el tipo de evaluación que van a hacer en la que verifican lo que aprendieron los niños en la lección. Puede ser que utilizen la observación, pueden tomar notas, pueden crear gráficas para organizar lo que discuten los niños, etc....


Hola, Si tienen alguna pregunta sobre las lecciones o algun trabajo por favor de escribirlo en el blog. Nos estaremos comunicando de esa manera. Las entradas al blog deben de ser acerca de algo interesante que hayan aprendido o que quieran compartir conmigo. Tambien pueden hacer preguntas sobre los trabajos que tienen que desarrollar. Que pasen buen fin de semana.

Lesson Plan Form

I just posted the Lesson Plan Form for Monterrey that Claudia sent. Please check often where it says "Downloads" on the right column for any new important documents. Remember that in Mexico you can access this blog by typing its address in any web browser. The hotels have a conference room with free internet access, and also in every room in case you bring a laptop.
If you need help with posting, you can find guidance and answers to all your questions by visiting the help center.
I'm very exited since we are just hours away from our trip... Today we went shopping for the materials needed for the class in Monterrey. We bought envelopes, one cent stamps, and a box that we are going to convert in a "mail box". The idea is that students write letters to imaginary friends and families living in "another place" as a way to keep ties with them. They will learn the fundamentals on how to write a letter while they keep an eye on sentence's structures, syntax, and communicative language in Spanish. I know we have a lot of more experienced teachers in our group, so I really appreciate any ideas and suggestions for our class.
Finally, let me thank you all for your enthusiasm in keeping this blog and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any question; and don't forget to post your ideas and experiences very often.

Hola class

Hola Class
Thank you Eduardo for helping me!!!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

My First Blog!

Hello everyone! Estoy muy emocianada de ser parte de un grupo tan especial!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Presentación por la Dra. Patricia Sánchez

Hoy tuvimos una presentación sobre “Transnacionalismo” por la Dra. Patricia Sánchez. Aprendimos la definición del término y analizamos un fenómeno que a veces no se toma en cuenta por los maestros: los niños que se educan forzosamente entre dos o más culturas debido a que sus familias se desplazan por motivos legales o de trabajo.
La Dra. se refirió a investigaciones realizadas con estudiantes y a sus propias experiencias, ya que cuando niña ella se educó en escuelas de EE. UU. y México.
Al finalizar la exposición, hicimos preguntas y abundamos sobre el tema. Aquí se puede la presentación de la Dra. Sánchez en su totalidad: CLICK

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Nuestra primera clase

Hoy fue nuestro primer día de clases y dedicamos mucho tiempo a llenar las planillas requeridas para los estudiantes que viajan al extranjero. Luego la Dr. Cortez, profesora que impartirá nuestras clases durante el tiempo que estemos en San Antonio, nos presentó el programa de estudios. Escribimos los conocimientos e información que tenemos en la actualidad sobre la ciudad de Monterrey y nuestras expectativas de aprendizaje durante el viaje. Al final del curso haremos una descripción de lo aprendido para comparar nuestro aprovechamiento.

La cadencia del curso será bastante rápida, ya que tenemos programado un calendario lleno de actividades. Me deleité haciendo una tarea para entregar mañana en clase que se llama “Conocimiento” y es un cuestionario que nos ayuda a reflexionar sobre nuestra conceptualización cultural. Aquí se los muestro:

Adapted from Josie Mendez-Negrete “Conocimiento”
Cultural Conocimiento

Name: Eduardo Valenzuela I like to be called: Ed or Eddy (My father was also called Eddy).

I was born in Havana, Cuba.

On my father’s side, I trace my ancestry to Canary Islands, Spain (both grandparents).

On my mother’s side, I trace my ancestry to Spain (grandfather) and Africa (great-grandmother).

The region(s) I associate with my ancestry is/are: The Caribbean, and Africa.

What is your ethnicity? Which box would you check on the census form? Hispanic.

Identify three attributes, characteristics, or behavior that tells someone about your culture:

  1. When I speak Spanish, I mispronounce the letters “R” and “S” which is a characteristic of Cubans and Puertoricans.
  2. I use body language, make gestures with my hands during a conversation, and my voice is loud.
  3. If I heard the rhythm of a “conga” I start moving, and if it is a sacred African song... I dance!

Culture is: What I have found through my life in different social surroundings that I had chosen to be part of, or to identify as mine. I don’t believe in a “cultural destiny” or in a preconceived set of standards that I’m condemned to accept. I see culture as a personal choice from a collective sociological experience to an individual psychological assumption.

In my family, culture means: To do the same that everybody else does; to think like everybody thinks; to perpetuate a generational idiosyncrasy that leave very little room for individuality.

Cultural Identity means: According to the latest definition given in 1997 by Encyclopedia Britannica it means "assigning to things and events certain meanings that cannot be grasped with the senses alone." That definition is also known by the term “symboling”. My definition of cultural identity is the self-acceptance of determined characteristics (at will) which provides a correlation between individuality and a group.

Surface culture can be expressed by: What some people believe is supposed to be a specific cultural identity. When surface culture is perceived as a dominant social factor of psychological repression, it may lead to stereotypes. It is very common for some individuals of an ethnic group to follow certain concatenated behaviors based solely on references from broad cultural information.

Deep culture implies that: A person consciously or unconsciously exteriorizes fixed behaviors as representation of learned experiences. Deep culture is equivalent to iconolatry in the sense that a person belonging to a certain group worships his cultural inheritance.

Sociocultural identities I accept: (There’s no right or wrong answer, please write those that apply to you)

Racial______________________ Ethnic______________________

Gender_____________________ Cultural____________X________

Social______________________ Political_____________________

Professional_______ X _______ Religious____________________


Monday, June 4, 2007

What is Enlaces?

Enlaces is a class that I'm taking at UTSA where we will learn, experience, and engage in language learning, language teaching, and cultural activities during the summer 2007 in Monterrey, Mexico. We will conduct field experiences in public schools and other cultural settings, and will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of cultural activities. We will visit museums, art exhibits, folk's artisans, and learn from Mexican teachers and students.
The main course objectives are:

  • To gain valuable teaching experience through the practical application of methods and strategies in classroom settings in Mexico.

  • To learn key aspects of Mexican culture and experience them first-hand in the country.

  • To gain valuable cross-cultural experiences and understanding.

  • To gain first-hand knowledge of a Mexican public education system.

  • To acquire an understanding of an appreciation for the field of teaching and learning.

Welcome to my blog... ¡Bienvenidos! I’m very excited about this opportunity to learn about the educational system in Monterrey. We will be visiting the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León and several schools in the area. I would like to invite each of my peers and other students to post their thoughts and experiences in this space. Todos están invitados a participar en esta bitácora y compartir vuestras experiencias e ideas. This is also a journal where I will be recording our daily activities and sharing some photos of our trip. If everything goes as planned, we will be departing on June 10 around 3:00 PM.