Moroccan Schools - from public IB schools, to the University Mohamed V, to our host high school in Sale
Day Four: Wednesday, March 9th
Today our cohort began the day with a rather inspirational visit to the International Baccalaureate School Abi Dar Alghiffari where we toured their high school, met with their principal, teachers, and students, and sat in on a half-dozen classes in different subject areas to get a feel for what education is like in one of the highest performing public schools in the Rabat region of Morocco. As a foreign language educator, I was especially interested in the presentation of English teacher, Khalid Said, as he gave us a unique look into his classroom and teaching methods. I felt right at home as I watched his lessons using music, movement, and interactive play to teach students English. Much of what he does in his classroom is what I have been taught over the years using quantum learning strategies to do in my own lessons/curriculum. We then had a chance to meet and mingle with his students for awhile and observe a lesson on interpretive communication in English. I had been wondering what made Morocco's world languages programs so strong, but when observing a teacher like him, it was clear that schools in Morocco are no stranger to innovative and creative language teaching strategies!
After a brief lunch and time to reflect about the morning, we were transported to University Mohamed V-Agdal where we participated in an International Seminar with University Professors, students, and educators regarding curriculum development, pedagogy, and ICT integration in Global Education. To be honest, I was a bit jaded about the symposium, and frustrated that we were spending so much time sitting in a hot room listening to college kids present about educational theory when they were yet to enter the classrooms themselves, or had barely just begun, for the most part. However, after a couple of weeks to reflect, I am grateful that we had the opportunity to listen to those passionate young Moroccan future educators discuss and debate what seems to be cutting edge instructional topics for them. It made me realize, above all, that the U.S. is really ahead of the game in terms of normalizing educational strategies and best practices in our public education system - well out her in Wyoming for sure at least. It felt to me that Morocco might be on the verge of a big shift in educational philosophy - there seems to be a serious amount of tension between the traditional and the progressive for public education reform in Morocco. Those young men and women were so passionate about introducing new technologies and strategies to the classroom - so it gave me a lot of hope for them, and confidence in myself that I work in a school district that has long ago indoctrinated so many solutions to the problems facing Moroccan public schools today!
Day Five: Thursday, March 10th
Today we began our program with a visit to the Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchanges (Fulbright Commission as well). We were received by MACECE officials and engaged in dialogue about what we had seen so far in Morocco, and educated about cultural exchanges between Morocco and the United States. We learned a great deal more during this meeting about the various regions of Morocco and what we should expect while out doing our field work in our host schools.
Later in the day, our cohort split up to travel to our host communities and host schools. Because my host school was a mere 15 minute drive from Rabat, my partner-teachers, Kit Harrison & Tricia Kapps and I, all simply transferred to another cheaper hotel in Rabat. By 2pm, however, we were already in our host school, meeting and greeting students, answering questions, getting to know the staff, and observing four engaging classes filled with student presentations in English regarding Moroccan culture. Our host teacher is a lovely woman, Houria Kherdi, who is dynamic and engaging, and so very welcoming to everyone. She runs an orderly and engaged classroom with class sizes at an average of 38 students. She works with very limited resources and/or access to technology or teaching tools, yet her students are excelling. All in all, watching her teach four classes today was inspiring for me - as I hope that I can inspire the same love of learning languages within my own students back home! We finished school at 6pm today, and then met up with two other teachers who were staying in Rabat as well in order to go out to eat at a local Moroccan restaurant.
Moments of note: Observing Houria's classes was definitely the highlight of my trip up to this point. Her students were shy, but curious, confident yet reserved. They epitomized a lovely dynamic of the traditional educational system juxtaposed in a media-rich globalized society. One defining moment for me today was when Houria asked her classes how many students had ever even met an American - only about five students had. That surprised me because I had made all sorts of assumptions about how often Americans travel to places like Morocco - and figured that the students had certainly met Americans before. Realizing that Sale was a rather isolated and homogeneous community (much like my own back home, only in different ways), I began to understand the rich classroom dynamics even more. A few more points to note are that the students in Sale all walk to school - there is no public transportation for them. A large percentage of these students are from police or military families where their fathers serve their country or city. Also, students are very respectful in their classes - never blurting out, challenging authority, or moving from their seats. I am sure I will discuss these traits quite a bit more as I progress, but for now, I am still just in awe of their respectful and engaged demeanor in the classroom.