This week has been filled with education and educational experiences. For starters, I began teaching English in a conversational style at one organization in Sale, the sister city of Rabat. That has definitely been a lot of fun, and has brought me closer to Moroccan youth culture than I ever thought I would be. Each class is definitely an adventure as we go through topics ranging from geography to hip hop to religion and back again.
One of the most interesting discussions I have had since arriving in Morocco has been debating with one of my students, in English, that Gender Studies is a valid academic pursuit. We had been going through a list of occupations and disciplines in a university, since all of them are university age or older, and after they had come up with the obvious of math, physics, biology, history, and politics, I began to introduce some newer terms, like theology, gender studies, and international studies. One of my students, Mohammed, stopped to ask me what Gender Studies was. At first, he thought of Gender Studies as simply how men and women can have a romantic relationships. I quickly corrected this initial misconception, but he still was not convinced that it was worth studying. In order to get the idea of what this discipline actually was, I began to give concrete examples of how Gender Studies can be useful. First, I tried to explain that Gender Studies was important because it’s important to know how women and men live their lives. How they make their living, what types of jobs they perform at home, and what opportunities are given to each group, if there are discrepancies. However, this didn’t quite cut it for him. After hearing how much value they attributed to history, I explained another side of the discipline in terms of history. If you wanted to know how women lived in the past, you had to go through texts or other historical remnants and see how they lived then, since you could not go back and become part of that society. That was where Gender Studies could help. He completely conceded this point, and I believe I convinced him that it was an interesting and useful subject to study.
Another part of my studies here included teaching English at a local public school for a day. I was originally supposed to teach for an entire week, but my students at the organization and the director of the organization tried to convince me that I shouldn’t teach there at all. I was able to convince him that I could handle at least one day, and I am very glad I did. I arrived at the school with one of my friends from the study abroad program who had had some classroom experience, and had no idea what to expect. We were told to bring two forms of official identification and to arrive early, for what reason we had no idea. There was no “check-in” process for being new teachers, and we were shown to our classroom after a little wandering around the school ground. After a little bit, we settled into what was to be our classroom for the next two hours. The kids, who were the age equivalent to our middle school, began trickling in after the siren-like bell went off, and initially I thought we would only have one student. However, roughly 15 more students joined her, and I could not believe how much noise they could make in such a short period of time. It was definitely a challenge to get all of these pre-teens to be quite at once, but we managed during the entire hour we taught, with some help from the director of the organization, who insisted on accompanying us. We managed to get through a review of the pronunciation of the alphabet, numbers, colors, some food words, and sports in the time before the siren-like bell went off again. It was definitely a challenge at certain times, particularly when they didn’t seem to want to pay attention at all, but I had much more faith in them as the period went on. They all seemed very enthusiastic about what they were learning, and were genuinely attempting to learn English. The challenge of teaching such a rowdy group of students together with the joy of hearing them finally pronounce “a” as “a” instead of “ah” (like in the French alphabet) made the entire experience extremely rewarding, and pushed me more towards my love of teaching and learning.
Everyone learns differently, but the Moroccan system is a much more “one size fits all” mentality. The students I happen to teach, however, understand this, and aim to push the boundaries of their dictated education by learning English. There are many places where Moroccans can learn different languages, but the frequency and quality of lessons always varies from place to place. This makes each of my students’ attempts to learn English even more special to me because they are taking the time, and money in some cases, to learn a new language that will not necessarily help them in their careers at all because of the prevalence of French as opposed to English. Insha’allah, they will succeed at their goals.