Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lessons Learned

Tonight is the last night I will be here in Tiznit. Tomorrow morning I take the bus to Casablanca. I feel fortunate to have been sent to this amazing place where I learned many valuable lessons.

1. “If you are a host to your guest, be a host to his dog also.”

2. “If you want your dreams to come true, don’t sleep.”

3. “If three people tell you you’re a donkey, put on a bridle.”

As far as global education, Morocco’s globalization of education is top down. The curriculum has language built in as mandatory. Students must take French in addition to French, in addition to another language in high school. The teachers try to teach not only a foreign language but also the culture of English speakers.

They create multiple opportunities for extended learning through organizations such as Drama Souss, English Success Aglou, IEARN, and their participation in ACCESS. Many English language teachers are members of MATE and seek opportunities to grow through participation in Fulbright programs. They are very effective at maximizing their time with their students and teach English through instructions in English and their curriculum includes discussion of global issues such as the conserving the environment, brain drain, and virtual diasporas.

Day 12: Fun and Games

The students decided to organize a party for us today. It was so sweet. They wore their traditional clothing, sung songs, and played music…and of course every party has cake! It was so beautiful to see how much they really appreciated sharing with us and how eager they were to hear what our impressions were of Morocco.
After school we went to a school in Aglou where Mr. Brahim teaches and volunteers to sponsor a group called English Success Aglou. This group basically has English enrichment afterschool on Wednesdays. The students shared presentations on the importance of keeping the environment clean, Moroccan culture, clothes and music. The presentation on music discussed specific artists. We also played “Game Show,” a trivia game which I cannot wait to try in my class. After the game we took a group photo and the students wanted to take pictures with us which was very touching. We went inside to have cake and say a few parting words.

For the second time today I found myself fighting back tears as I had to say goodbye to so many wonderful and genuine people. The students were so generous and gave us tokens of their gratitude which I will forever cherish and the teachers were all so generous and willing to open their classrooms for and letting us learn from their experiences. They also opened up their homes and made us feel “most welcomed.”

Yesterday as well as today we taught several classes on American slang at their teacher’s request. The students new many of the terms already thanks to television and movies, however they were delighted with the new ones they learned. I observed Mohamed teach a lesson on brain drain. I was so amazed at the fact that the entire class was conducted in English. All his student directions were in English and they were discussing brain drain and virtual diaspora. The students shared their ideas of “the American dream” and I shared what I have heard my students refer to as “the American dream.” Many see America as a land of opportunity for getting an education and work.



Monday, March 18, 2013

Hey horse!

A friend might greet another by saying hey horse? Apparently Mr. Karim’s sense of humor went over my head because no one else seems to have heard of this.

Today in Philosophy Karim’s students were sharing with their classmates about the values of friendship, tolerance, respect, and love. His students were so shy and hesitant to respond to his question, what is love? He clarified love does not only pertain to relationships of dating, even so they could not help but giggle. Karim’s class is taught in Arabic but he was kind enough to not only invite me but to translate for me as well.

Through the course of the lecture he clarified many things I had observed. Men and women live in completely separate spheres. Women do not have male friends that they would hang out with and vice versa. He explained that while younger people are more accepting of friendships between the sexes the older ones are not.

I had the opportunity to see Mohamed deliver instructions to his students and it was great to watch the interaction between them. In Madiha’s class I learned about a new holiday in which children jump over fire as part of the celebration. I learn something new every day about the culture.

I also went to the gym with Madiha. The workout was challenging, I cannot even remember the last time I worked out. Once again I got to see how women behave in a private space just for us. They wore gym clothes and after aerobics we danced to some traditional Moroccan music and that part was awesome…these women have some serious moves.


Morocco’s got talent

Drama Souss students
The teachers’ have such high level of dedication for their craft and their students. I have seen so many examples of authentic learning. Saturday we had the opportunity to present to ACCESS students, their eagerness to learn and curiosity is amazing, even more impressive is the high level of critical thinking. One student said “you say you are peaceful people, but you carry guns with you everywhere,” wow! This was a challenging concept to explain. I could have stayed there for hours talking with these students and learning from them.
ACCESS students

Our day continued with a visit to Drama Sous an organization that teaches English through the use of drama. The students put on skits and we got to see clips of the highlights from the year. Students are learning practical things such as cooking and visiting with the city council. The students also put on a fashion show were they showcased the various clothing from the different regions.

Sunday we attended the end of term celebration for the ACCESS students who shared about the culture of the region with presentations of cuisine, clothing, as well as wedding rituals. The M.C. told jokes between student presentations which consisted of skits, proverbs, and sung songs all in English. The fact that these students are showing up on a Saturday and a Sunday to learn speaks volumes of their teachers who make learning fun and relevant to their lives.
ACCESS Students

Drama Souss

Drama Souss students

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Genie is out of the bottle


Face of the genie

The past two days have gone by so quickly. Saturday Mohamed and Madiha gave us a tour of the city. We had the opportunity to visit silversmiths and the souk (market). We came across this odd looking mask and the shopkeeper told us it is the face of the genie. Women in the city wear traditional clothes from the various regions of Morocco. To my surprise the women who wear the veil raise it when they are only in the company of women. I also found it interesting that what one wears in the home can be very different from what they wear out in the street.

Entrance to the tomb of a saint

Visiting Wiam's grandparents' farm
Sunday morning began with a visit to the hammam, a public bath house for women. In the hammam we were scrubbed by a washer woman…this was a very interesting experience for me needless to say, but Moroccans seem to have a special way for making people feel at home, before I knew it I was filling up buckets of water. Mohamed arranged for us to have lunch with his in-laws on their farm and for us to get henna. Our day ended with a visit to the beach were I got to see the sunset and realize that next week I will be looking at that same sun from the other side of the Atlantic.

Aglou beach

Friday, March 15, 2013

Day 7: You are most welcomed!

Madiha taught us today that Moroccans say you are most welcomed and those of the same gender greet each other with several kisses on the same side of the check to show love. I have felt so welcomed here in Tiznit, a student greeted me this way and it was so touching. Some of the students created beautiful artwork that they gave me.

The people of Tiznit are amazing. Mohamed and Madiha have been extremely hospitable. During the classroom visits this morning the students prepared excellent presentations that showcased their pride in their city. Madiha prepared a delicious lunch for us and was great at calming my nerves before the presentation to MATE (Moroccan Association of Teachers of English).

We had a great group of teachers with wonderful questions. The teachers were extremely welcoming and friendly and they had a lovely reception following the presentation. It was such a privilege and honor to be able to pass on some of the strategies others have share with me to these wonderful and dedicated professionals.

Day 4: Stop, drop, and pray?


Today was the second time I heard the call for prayer and to my surprise no one that I saw stopped to pray but rather carried on with their day.

The first call came as we were visiting the schools. The visit began with a meeting with an inspector at the district office; he took us to visit a public high school. The Principal runs the school which houses anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 students by himself. I was asking about what are some of the challenges he encounters from his students and the issues are the same world over apparently: attendance, lack of motivation, large classes, and lack of resources.

The teachers have class sizes of about 50 or more students. The students are leveled by ability (the students are not made aware of which is the lower or more advanced group) which led me to ask if they use groups in the class and differentiated instruction, and what surprised me was the response I got from the inspector who said we want to see groups and encourage groups, however it does not happen often. The principal interjected the teachers prefer to put them in rows because of the large number of students…for those who oppose small group instruction there is no escaping the push for it.

The private school which cost about $150.00 a month is attended by upper middle class students. Their class sizes are much smaller and they are provided with a bus. It was funny to see all the students raising their hands saying “teacher, teacher” hoping to be called on. The students in the English class welcomed our group formally and sung a Katie Perry song for us.

After lunch at a Syrian restaurant the group visited a teacher training school. The foreign language department puts so much effort in preparing and providing ample opportunity for their students ranging from exchanges abroad to participating in conferences hosted by professional organizations all across the country.

ACCESS Students
The scheduled day concluded with a visit to an English language learning center were students go afterschool to learn English. It was wonderful to see their enthusiasm about learning the language. They were all actively engaged and eager to respond. The students had a chance to ask us questions before carrying on with their review. We met with teachers of the institute after the classroom visits one of the instructors, a young guy, is from Tampa, FL.

After returning to the hotel Libby and I walked to the palace. We stopped to ask for directions and of all the people the city we found a man from Spain who was able to direct us. As we made our way we ran into the director of the language institute, unfortunately visiting hours were over but I got to see more of the city. Tomorrow Leanne and I head out for Tiznit, in the south of Morocco, seeing as how we will be taking a bus we should get to see a lot of the country.