JACK IN MOROCCO
To teach English for three weeks at a school in Ben Msik, Casablanca, Morocco on their summer programme. I was one of several volunteers there, some from England, others from Spain and a few Moroccans, all teaching either English or French to children of various ages and degrees of ability.
MY FIRST THOUGHTS
I was initially apprehensive and concerned about the language barrier. I prayed that my stomach would tolerate the strange food..!
THE PROJECT IN DETAIL
I taught English to 15-18 year olds (both boys and girls) from 8.30am – 1.30pm, Monday to Friday. I had three lessons in the day. The first two classes were each 90 minutes and for students with a fairly basic level of English. These I taught more conversation English, trying to give them an enthusiasm for the language. I had soon realised that the classes I had been given were made up of various abilities, so I gave them tests (both grammar and oral) and sorted them into two groups. I had the lower ability group (of two classes) and Qing, the other volunteer I worked with, had the higher ability group (one class). My third class was an extra class I gave for the more advanced students, and lasted an hour. For this class I focused on grammar and expression.
MY HOSTING SITUATION
I stayed with a lovely family, two brothers of which were volunteers at the school, each about 30 years old – Mohammed and Rachid. I shared a room with Mohammed and Luis, another English-teaching volunteer. The mother and sisters of the family served fantastic food, and they were all so kind and helpful.
WHAT A TYPICAL DAY INVOLVED
I woke up early, at 7am. I did some last-minute preparation for my lessons and ate breakfast with everyone, before setting off to school, a 5-minute taxi ride away. The students were usually there before us, some of them in the playground saying goodbye to their parents, the keener ones already in the classroom. I started the lessons by taking a register, which was very useful in attempting to learn their names (which I achieved by the end!). There was a half-hour break between the first two classes for tea and pastries with the other volunteers, and I had a 15-minute break before my last lesson (which I taught as an extra class). Then we went back to our host’s house for a big lunch. The rest of the day involved a mixture of relaxation and lesson preparation (including marking students’ work). Sometimes we would go to a café or to town. In the last week of teaching it was Ramadan and their lifestyle changes, so the school day started later at 11am and the afternoons were shorter as a result.
WHAT I DID OUTSIDE OF VOLUNTEERING
The first Sunday before school began, the volunteers and some students went to the Mohammedia beach, where I (as a typical English tourist) inevitably got burnt. That was a great way to socialise and to feel more settled. The second weekend a few of us (including my host Mohammed) went to Marrakesh, which was fantastic, and to the local waterfalls at Sidi Fatma, which were just stunning. I bought a djembe (a West African drum) which provided a great source of entertainment. We also visited El Jadida, originally a 16th century Portuguese citadel and a stunning city architecturally.
THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT MY TIME IN MOROCCO
The most difficult thing was the teaching, as it takes a lot to keep a class of 35 entertained for 90 minutes. At the same time however it was incredibly rewarding, and gave me a real taste for it. It felt great to have a good rapport with the students, to be able to teach knowing that they wanted to be there. I can’t stress enough the importance of trying to get to know each student individually. The language barrier did not prove a problem – you can say a lot with facial expressions and gestures, smiles and laughs.
The other difficult thing was Ramadan, since everyone, being Muslim, goes without food and drink for all the daylight hours and most of the shops are closed until the afternoon. However, we quickly got the hang of it and made sure we had nibbles and water at hand. Besides, our hosts were extremely accommodating and allowed us to eat in their presence during the day.
THE BEST THING ABOUT MY TIME IN MOROCCO
The people! They are all so friendly and warm. In the first week I was invited by one of the student’s families to have lunch with them, and I ate the most delicious couscous I’ve ever had with many of their relations gathered round. It was fantastic. The Moroccans have a great sense of humour. The culture and way of life are fascinating, and I intend to learn more.
FROM MY VOLUNTEER PLACEMENT I LEARNT…
…how to have fun in a very different culture, as well as a taster of how enjoyable (as well as challenging) teaching can be. I learnt that different cultures can learn so much from each other, and that this is vital if we are to live in a harmonious world. If that sounds slightly corny, it is at least true.