How to Use this Site

Global education prepares students to observe the world, make connections across content area, and empowers them to take action as global citizens whose skills, opinions, and perspectives are valued.  I created this site to motivate teachers to access resources for teaching a cosmopolitan approach to problem solving and appreciation for diverse perspectives. These teachers can empower students to take action on issues of personal, local, and global significance. This site archives resources and information gained while studying on my Teachers for Global Classrooms fellowship in Morocco. It is my hope that teachers in the Baltimore, MD area and beyond will be able to easily navigate resources to support increased global education in our area.  Check later for final dates on a free workshop I will be offering this October in Baltimore on how to use this guide and plan globalized lessons in your classroom.

Scroll down to read my travel blog, and click on heading above for more information and resources regarding globalizing your classroom.

Please feel free to reach out to me with questions, comments or connections!

 

Disclaimer: This is not an official U.S. Department of State site. The views and information presented are the grantee’s own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program, IREX, or the U.S. Department of State.

Old and New Again

Morocco is firmly grounded in its cosmopolitan past and the old cities, located on the hilltops, are still inhabited and lively. One hour out of Rabat, Fez is a nice weekend destination with a lively and crowded market and many cafes. It also hosts the tomb of Muhammed  the V and one of the oldest schools in the world, a medressa which is still functioning as a koranic school.  The city is known for its market or souk. Parking near the market and the King’s Palace can be challenging, but a local administrator will assist you to parallel park and charge a fee for watching your car.  Inside the walls of the old city, tourists come from Morocco and abroad to purchase goods which are made by local artists or imported from other parts of Morocco.  These may include leather goods, wrought iron lanterns, beaten copper cookware, traditional platters and tagines, carpets, handmade cosmetics, finely engraved basins for washing hands, traditional sweets, and more.  Visiting a one thousand year old city in a bit awe-inspiring, but the business and bustling crowds of the souk today are just as striking as the beautiful architecture.

Awareness of history allows us to be more compassionate to those with different backgrounds and more relaxed in our  desire to control the present moment.  People, relationships, social structures, and the environment shift over time, as is evidenced by the history all around us.   Knowledge of the constant ebb and flow helps us to keep a flexible mindset as it reminds us there are greater forces that our individual will at work.  Fez is grounded in local history and culture through stunning architecture, traditional handicrafts and food, and ongoing rituals of prayer and study that are easily visible during a short walk.  This collective memory builds a community identity  which allows for diverse expressions without excluding change and growth.

In Fez, leather workers may be tanning hides with the traditional urine-based ammonia to make drums and bread baskets; or selling handmade leather jackets in western styles that form part of the popular local fashion.  Metal workers may be working with a hammer to beat copper to a shine, engraving a date on a memorial platter, or haggling over prices with a housewife looking for a practical drinking cup for guests.  Local residents may go to Fez for a weekend trip to shop and enjoy the sites; they may stop in the outdoor market for tea and traditional donuts or go across the street to the mega mall and purchase a Whopper with fries.

Awareness and respect for a cosmopolitan history and culture doesn’t interfere with the perusal of the new customs. The four story mall a few blocks away modern wonder that could really be anywhere in the world. The Carrefour has a wine cellar right by the entrance, there is a McDonald’s outside, major retailers include stores from Turkey, Italy, France, and Spain.  The biggest ‘tell’ that one is in Morocco is the local fashion.  If I had more time I would love to spend a week as a fashion blogger, documenting the beautiful combinations of local, Eastern and Western fashion.  Women are in Djelleba; some of the Djellaba have contemporary patterns such as leopard print.  Women are also in skinny pants, long sweaters, leather jackets, flowered shirts.  You can shop the sale rack if you’d like a bargain.  Store displays are in French and English.  Some women wear hijab that perfectly match their djelleba; or others may have a contrasting pattern or color with the Moroccan flair for baroque ornamentation.  Younger women wear jeans and flannel shifts that say “I don’t care what you think” on the back after a song by Blurry.  Belted, knee-length dresses are popular though they are usually worn with pants – this is partially due to modesty and partly due to the 45 degree weather.

 

At the oratory contest yesterday the Common Core (10th grade) students were presenting expository speeches on the generation gap.  Informed by internet research the students talked about mismatched visions of the world. They stated that the older generation needed to take time and listen to the young and be open to new ideas; but that the young should respect their elders and understand their heritage.  The 2nd year Baccalaureate students (12th grade) expounded upon family values. They presented arguments that spending time with the family, observing family customs, and learning morals and manners builds a sense of connectedness and roots which protect the next generation from isolation, depression, and character flaws. This is part of why there is a push for Arabic and Tamazight instruction in schools – to connect more to the mother language spoken in the home.  However, Moroccan youth are very excited to learn English and incorporate contemporary concepts into their lives – Facebook is very big here, as is What’s App, Google translate, and English language music (you can make fun videos on the ap musical.ly -I’m going to try when I get home!)

It is the firm foundation of tradition that allow youth to participate fully in global society, virtually and “IRL,” without facing an identity crisis or losing their connection to their families.  Stability, calm, and adaptability are  culturally transmitted.  While contemporary buildings favor a fairly severe modern style which recalls France in the 1960s, the buildings always include small details of Islamic heritage, including mosaic tiles, inscribed patterned, arches, and elaborately decorated doorways. It would be gauche to neglect heritage in new constructions.

Many Americans have historically been encouraged to assimilate into mainstream culture and neglect their cultural heritage.  Consider that I’m third generation but don’t speak any Italian; as late as the 1950s, American Indians were literally kidnapped from their homes by government agents and sent to boarding schools designed to make them forget their home cultures.  Even today many Americans are harsh in their insistence that all new Americans speak English only – despite the fact that many Hispanic families have resided in the southwest and spoken Spanish for hundreds of years.  As the students stated yesterday, disconnect from tradition causes a rift between the generations, which can lead to social problems such as conflict, substance abuse, and a sense of isolation.  We can all benefit from the Moroccan perspective of honoring, preserving, and cherishing history and culture, while exploring and embracing the modern world.

 

 

Gateway to the world

 

Morocco is known for its beautiful doorways; and on the flipside, many riads, medressas, and mosques may have simple wooden doors, but once the visitor passes beyond the vestibule they are overwhelmed by elaborate mosaic, carved and embossed wooden ceilings, harmonious archways, illuminated skylights or open courtyards, and richly ornamented carpets or tiles.  Some private homeowners value the doorway and entryway enough to purchase decorative tiles that are inset to the sidewalk outside of their home.  Geographically, Morocco is situated at the very north of Africa, close enough to Spain that people can swim between the two; and bordering the Muslim world as well.  It is no wonder that culture here is polyglot, and that Morocco is a natural trading center.  The empires ruling the area have been strong for over  a thousand years, building fortresses that overlook the sea.  Morocco is nutritionally stable and is an exporter of many types of food including oranges, nuts, olives and dates.   The cultural emphasis on hospitality, the multilingualism, the access to the Atlantic Mediterranean, and West Africa, and the political stability of Morocco place it strongly as a trading center.  Morocco is a gateway between East and West, North and South.  This strength in trade is not only historical but also shows great promise for the future. We need Morocco to help broker treaties and exchanges between different standpoints of global society

While visiting the school of applied technology yesterday, I was lucky to be included in a debate between two professors at school of applied arts – one taught accounting and the other taught web design.

The first professor was showing us the financial reports and proposed businesses his students are submitting as part of an internship at Credit Agricole.  He shook his head and stated: “Moroccans are highly intelligent but a lot of their intellectual strength is absorbed by constant translations between at least four languages. Even when they go to school they are not learning in their home language, they must translate, which slows them down compared to their peers in France, England, Spain, or the United States. They must learn the vocabulary in order to learn the content and then they are bogged down by translation. School is not even taught in the same language throughout the day!  This keeps them from developing the proficiency they should have.  A French student learning in their native tongue would be able to complete twice as much work in half the time. Further, everyone especially Americans expect to be able to conduct business in their own language and following their own systems.  Moroccans must learn English and American software and paperwork to keep up with this economic goliath. It will be difficult for Moroccans to rise to the top because they are disadvantaged conducting business in their fourth language.”

The second professor posited his counterpoint: “Moroccans’ multilingualism is an advantage because with globalization we are moving towards a pluralistic society and Morrocans are so skilled at translation they occupy a privileged position in international trade.”

Language is then a type of currency in Morocco, with those who can speak fluent and unaccented French and English particularly given access to economic opportunities.  Over a million Moroccans live and work in France; there is sizable population in Boston as well.  Many Moroccans will travel to visit their relatives, especially as young adults, in order to improve their language skills.

I really should work on my accent. In my five years of French classes, two were with a Spanish teacher, one was with a teacher who had studied in Quebec, and one was in Mali. Only three courses were taken with professors who had even studied in France!  Fifteen years later while I can communicate I sound I bit like a Bambara Quebecoise!  Were I not already an American with fluent English, I would be at a class disadvantage here. I sound uneducated in a nation where students start school in French and continue through the university level!  As I am an American, and there is a strong anticolonial sentiment, some people prefer that I don’t sound French.  85% of Moroccans polled prefer to switch to English as the first foreign language taught in schools.

America should be investing in its relationship with Morocco, as having a stable ally with close ties to Africa and the Middle East will put us at an advantage in both trade and politics.   The Morrocan American Foreign Exchange Council (MACEC) oversees 8 programs for Moroccans to come to the US and 6 for Americans to come here.

How are we globalizing our educational system to prepare students for increased globalized communication, trade and collaboration?  I am strongly convinced we should be teaching foreign language in elementary schools (and start with Spanish).

How do dialects and access to standardized academic language promote access to class privileges and social and economic opportunities?

The headmaster of the school on our interview posited a strong treatise on the need for lifelong learning and the expansion of knowledge and information in the world; the students in the course we observed declared that each society has tools and machines it uses to accomplish various tasks; as society’s needs change, the technology that is utilized continues to evolve. The students developed a multilingual site, info parc, that assess what technology is being used for various business tasks and makes recommendations for your company as to what technology you may want to purchase for your specific business so that you can make wise investments.

The headmaster declared:  We don’t train our students to innovate; we help them to pass the national assessments to prove they have employable skills (some will travel to France for further assessment to work in the French industries).  However, innovation requires three things: First, the inspiration and motivation to create something new. This inspiration comes from contemplation, perhaps it is given by god. Second, the individual must have the knowledge and skills necessary to actualize the idea in real life and actually design or create something; Finally, the social and economic capital needed to allow him to persevere until the task is accomplished.

Education is a great aid in obtaining the skills; inspiration is an individual gift;Language is the key to some of that social and economic capital, particularly when the largest investments in the nation are from foreign banks and businesses.

After all, I would have  understood none of this conversation if I didn’t already speak French.

Living Room

Moroccan living rooms are incredible! The largest room in the house with the nicest view is reserved for guests.  The room is flanked with long couches and many pillows, often with chandeliers, rugs, tablecloths and elaborately embroidered and embellished surfaces, and often an elaborately decorated case for the koran. It is very important to have seats visitors and when guests stay over, the couches can double as beds.  Our host teacher Mohammed and his family and friends have been so welcoming! I drank at least 8 cups of tea today, and each time it is punctuated with conversation.  Even Moroccans who do not know you will invite you to have a cup of tea while they are picnicking.  Much time is spent visiting and talking over tea and sweets.  Unlike the food, which is traditionally prepared by women, tea is usually prepared by the male head of household as a sign of hospitality.  The Moroccan sweets are so delicious in part because there are plenty of local delicacies, including figs, dates, nuts, oranges, apricots and more that are available as raw material; but also because the Moroccans value this time with friends and relatives.  Who you are connected to is an essential part of your day and jokes, small talk, pleasant memories fill this time.  Souhalya, a niece of our host teacher, visited with us – she is a first year high school (10th grade) student enrolled in a specialized science program (linked with research in wheat production and breeding based in Canada) located in Casablanca. Casablanca is a large city of 8 million or so, and although she is staying with relatives there her grandmother, aunts and uncles were all counseling her on safe practices in the big city.  Connecting with others is of primary importance, and this stress on tolerance, connection, and hospitality in Moroccan culture positions them well as they sit at the intersection of the Arab world, Africa, and Europe.  Many Moroccans prefer urban living, with apartments offering the opportunity to connect with many neighbors.  Each greeting is typically accompanied by a warm handshake, an inquiry after each other’s health, in several languages. A salaam alaykum, ca va?

The groves of planted olive trees serve as windbreaks and soil conservation on the steep hillsides, but are also an example of community property. The olive trees provide olives for consumption as their own plate or as raw material for the production of olive oil.   Multiple families may have trees in one grove, and the land is also used for grazing sheep and goats.

Food in Morocco is traditionally served in large platters in the center of the table, with bread for utensils.  All eat out of the same dish. Nowadays there are so many variations including individual tiny tagines, the regular availability of silverware for serving and eating, but the orientation to food is still communal. As an American visitor I’ve received tremendous hospitality, with many brand new acquaintances inviting me for tea, or offering to take me on a personal tour of Casablanca, etc.  Ethnically, Morocco is incredibly diverse, with a mix of Arab, Berber, French, Roman, and other groups.   Several people in explaining this attitude towards heritage have expressed “We are all Moroccan.”  In a region which has faced a lot of conflict and strife over the past century, Morocco has remained calm and stable.  The recent protest against the UN position on the West Sahara featured 3 million people peacefully assembling in Rabat on the right to retain this piece of land, roughly the size of Montana, as part of Morocco. It was annexed by the Spanish and Moroccans moved out but resettled recently in the 1970s with 350,000 Moroccans walking into the region peacefully.  This piece of land was part of Essouaria and historically part of the kingdom of Morocco. 1 million Moroccans live there today and want to remain. Things remain peaceful in Morocco. More info here: http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2013/11/111413/facts-about-the-sahara-conflict-that-you-should-know-part-i/

 

I am reflecting on this idea of the commons, community property, and how can reflect that more effectively in America today. We have a shortage of public spaces like the Mexican zocalos where people gather to simply relax, enjoy street performances, and socialize. The coffeeshop culture of relaxed conversation that became prevalent in the 90s after the European model has fallen to more of a grab-and-go culture, or work-on-your-computer model.  East Coast culture seems to be marked by a constant rushing to complete an endless list of tasks.  Our schedules are overfull as technology allows us to work from ANYWHERE. As a result even children are over scheduled, shuttled from school to sports to homework to bed, with little time to socialize and strengthen their imaginative faculties.  We had a trilingual conversation about this over tea and harrira late last night, and this is an emerging problem in Morocco as well as the United States. As a result students are consumers of culture and media, not producers.  I think we need a little more living room in our schedule. More downtime to connect and relax, and spaces strategically dedicated to this activity.  Rituals that take time and promote patience, such as the careful preparation of a pot of tea by the head of household; something which allows us to savor the sweetness of life and experience it so that time is not constantly accelerating us past the present.   How do you create living room in your life? Do you have a contemplative space; is it social? Can you create relationships which support this more reflective, connected, and peaceful way of living?  The olive groves which are community property have after all become the international sign of peace.  We will begin a mural of an olive tree at a school tomorrow morning.teachers tree muralmen tea in the countrymemory cafe.jpg

Feminine Mystique – Morocco style

 

Many Americans are unfamiliar with the variety of approaches to femininity in the Muslim world.  Morocco is a very liberal environment with women wearing many different styles of clothing; from the traditional djellaba, which is a long shift dress, to jeans and a t shirt, to formal caftans or modern work uniforms and suits.  Many women in Morocco work outside of the home; women often hire help in the kitchen for large events; education is largely integrated; girls play sports and attend college.   While many women wear hijab, many do not, though being conscious of modesty so as not to offend others is a good consideration when travelling.   In Morocco, tolerance of different beliefs is emphasized.  International women’s day is celebrated with flowers everywhere, speeches and commemorative posters of famous women in Morocco and abroad – the schools we visited even included students who placed highly on the exams on this wall of important women! There is still some division of social circles between women and men, and as a woman visiting Morocco I am invited into the women’s world.  Parts of the moseques and some tea shops are traditionally reserved for men; but women’s spaces, though separated, are also valued.

The hammam or public bathhouse is an important destination for Moroccan women, who often visit  once a week for beauty and relaxation.   Some Moroccans say you have never been to Morocco unless you have visited the hammam.  Morocco is a leader in the spa industry, with a 1000 year old tradition of the heated bath house.  The hammams are separated by gender, it goes without saying, but the men’s and women’s hammams are located in the same building, in order to take advantage of the water source and the large oven used for heating it. The ovens are multi-use, and can also be used to heat community ovens where bread is baked, and pots of slow-cooked stew can be left for three or four hours.  I have a mental image (which may or may not be correct) of a Moroccan woman dropping off dinner before she goes to bathe and picking it up when she is done! Women of all ages, backgrounds, and sizes attend the hammam.
Inside the hammam, there is a small store where one can purchase any necessary soap and small gloves used for scrubbing.  Typically Moroccans will bring all of the toiletries they want to use, except for a black soap made with the moisturizing argan oil, perfume, and exfoliants like walnut shells. There are cubbies to put your things, and a proprietor who keeps track of whose bags are whose using a numbering system.  The wall of the first room is lined with tiled benches, and after disrobing (except for briefs), you place your soap and supplies in a bucket. It’s possible to enter the hammam on your own, but more luxurious to hire a helper; women who will give a light massage, exfoliation, and shampoo and haul the hot water for you. The particular hammam we visited had two chambers, the first filled more with women bathing on their own, and the second farther in with assistants.  We communicated with hand gestures as most of the conversation was in Arabic and other languages. But the women that were there were engaged in extended, relaxed conversation the whole time. The space is tiled, windowless, and steamy, with inset drains and a central faucet for warm water, filled with buckets (pink for hot water, blue for cool, white for personal effects).  Those missing body wash, shampoo, or soap freely borrow from neighbors.  The black soap is a special exfoliant, and after lathering one up, the assistant uses the glove to thoroughly exfoliate the skin all over the body, then shampoos the hair.  With a few final rinses, the attendant braids your hair and sends you back out into the world.   Women wrap their hair with towels on leaving to keep from catching cold.

The old city of Fez afforded me the opportunity to visit a women’s cosmetic store. There is a renaissance of traditional artisans happening right now in Morocco, and this particular store had some women in the store demonstrated how argan nuts are processed to produce the argan oil used in cooking and cosmetics.  There is a sense of national pride in the tradition of Moroccan cosmetics, featuring ingredients such as argan, henna, rose, jasmine, almond, and honey.  Some of these secrets are sought after in European spas.   I received a facial treatment of clay, exfoliant, and argan oil followed with a rose water spray and purchased a few gifts to take home! My cosmetologist spoke perfect English, having attended middle school in Cleveland, Ohio before returning home to Morocco with family.

In the old market at Fez there is a district which is known for the purchase of linens for the home before the marriage. Traditional Moroccan marriages feature a dowry system, and a parade of goods purchased by the groom for the newlywed home is paraded through the festivities before the marriage. The bride and groom are dressed elegantly in light colored, elaborately beaded in clothing often sewn with real crystals and pearls, and paraded through the guests on palanquins carried by the bridal party before the ceremony and the feast. Wedding rings and gowns are also sold to the groom’s family in this part of the market. Moroccan weddings are elaborate and beautiful, with the couple featured as if prince and princess for the day. Many celebrities are coming to Morocco for their weddings, including relatives of Hilary Clinton.

Across the street from the old market and its labyrinthine streets is a modern shopping mall. Many of the stores are European or Turkish, and sell a wide variety of contemporary clothes.  There is a food court, an amusement center for children, an attached grocery store (Carrefour) and a Nike store which featured an English advertisement of a woman running with text stating she can achieve her goals.  Near the escalators, as part of the movement for the recognition of women’s handicrafts, sat several tables of embroidered tablecloths and napkins for sale, and the woman artisans who crafted them.  Moroccans are consciously working to preserve their cultural heritage, elevate the status of women, and present women’s voices in the national dialogue.  Maternelle, similar to the crèche system, is a public preschool which starts at age 3-6.

The world has much to learn from these practices. In our communities, what are we doing to ensure women’s rights, celebrate their traditional roles, and amplify their voices? Do we value the feminine enough? Do we tolerate differences or expect others to share our views on the question of gender?

I expect to visit a local tailor with my host family if we have time before I go.  I may write again just about fashion – can you imagine the intersection of Medieval roman clothing, local Tamazight fashions, Muslim dress, subsaharn African style, and French couture?

Conservation

I woke at 6:30 to stretch and get ready for a lengthy hike this morning to the old city of Taza, walled and mounted on the overlook on a nearby hill.  We walked by numerous cultural and government associations, many of which contribute to the preservation of the historic city, which is at least 900 years old.  There is still a large market, numerous schools and families living in the city and the typical friendly well-fed feral cats that are par for the course in Morocco.

I was enjoying the view from the 7th floor panoramic restaurant while I dipped bits of bread in a pot of jam and drank a café au lait when I overhead the gentleman behind me asking the waitress about the local birds. She said there were martins, gulls, and a number of others but she didn’t know all the names.  The conversation was in Moroccan Arabic for the most part but in casual conversation enough French is mixed in for me to follow the rough strand of the conversation sometimes. .. we began chatting about the birds and it turns out he is a professor of linguistics who used to live in Wisconsin and is running a local mural design project with some university students! He is currently organizing summer language camps for students and is very interested in establishing international language camps where speakers from diverse backgrounds can learn English, Spanish, Arabic, etc, together, to build international understanding.  This desire to connect and learn about each other is a big part of the national culture.  My host family encouraged their middle school aged niece to take another language class at night after her rigorous science courses – which are held in Arabic, French, and English already.

Today it was our pleasure and delight to be personally escorted to Taza National Park. (Tazekka). Located In the Atlas Mountain Range (across from the Rif), the park contains waterfalls, forests, the famous (and stunning) Friaoutou Cave, numerous scenic overlooks, picnic spots, and the playgrounds for families.  There is a hotel, snowcapped mountains, and a nature center as well.  Our guide, regional director for the equivalent of the park service, took us to a nursery which is raising seedlings for reforestation all over the country; to the home of a good friend whose family lives a traditional lifestyle in the park region, and to the caves and waterfalls. Moroccans very aware of the concerns of desertification and environmental conservation.  On a forested mountainside, surrounded by trees, our luncheon host fed us rich, fragrant foods raised on the land itself – couscous with milk, chicken tagine with olive oil, herbs, fries and eggs; tea and milk; bread and local honey.  There was so much food and it was all delicious – we were urged to eat more and more and more so that the host wouldn’t be offended; so that we would keep our strength up for the hike; so that we would show how much we appreciate the food and perhaps our intentions to return to Morocco for another wonderful meal!   The extraordinary host of our uber local lunch is himself actively involved in leading some groups to advocate for more government support of environmentally conscious grazing practices; and conservation as opposed to reforestation.  He stated that environmental conservation and climate change is one of the key factors that will change the world and by necessity lead to global partnerships.

How can we inculcate this sense of stewardship in the next generation, so that we are able to maintain our environmental heritage? The park boasts a conservation easement for the berber stag, a species facing extinction with less than a hundred individuals left.  The stipends given to herding families who participate in a strategic grazing program assist them in sustaining a traditional way of life but aren’t as effective as other possible interventions (our friend mentioned building stables) at preserving the landscape and native shrubs.  Some literature distributed by the head of the regional department featured articles written in French and Arabic by local school children about the causes of environmental depletion –  for example, deforestation to stoke the fires for boiling water in thousands of hammams nationally! The park service is distributing many fuel-efficient stoves to help households reduce wood consumption.  Many of the trees selected for reforestation are carefully selected for altitude and climate, but they also tend towards the commodifiable resource – species such as cork and cedar which can be harvested. This may be one reason why our friend in the countryside prefers local, national and regional actions which preserve our environmental heritage instead of attempting to replace it.

In Baltimore there are a number of initiatives working towards environmental conservation, including the Healthy Harbor project, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Living Classrooms. Your students can help to restock oysters, measure water quality, plant native plants, compost, and enrich soil.

Working locally is the first step – now plan: How can students share this data or these procedures with students in other countries, compare results, and develop hypotheses or design solutions for the next step?  Working in partnership students can learn from each other and help to ameliorate the damage to the environment and develop more efficient means of supporting human livelihoods.

Where does the time go?

How does time reflect cultural values?

Time varies geographically in more ways than one! This weekend American clocks will “spring ahead” but Moroccan time remains continuous!

The schedules are very different.  Moroccan teachers work either the morning or the afternoon on weekdays, for four hours, and then have the other half of the day free to plan. For teachers, time is capped at 21hrs.  Teaching posts are granted by the government and are lifelong appointments until retirement. Student coursework is capped at 32 hours per week.

School begins at 8 am; classes are one hour long and punctuated by the bell.  Each day there is a 2 hour lunch break. Lunch is not served at school, but students go home to enjoy lunch with their families. From 12-2, parents leave work to pick up children (many children attend private schools to learn more English!)  and serve a family meal. Students and teachers resume classes at 2 pm, and remain at school until 6 pm.  Between or after classes, there are optional clubs, coach classes with teachers, and also tea served in the faculty lounge.  Families return home at 7 pm, have a late dinner, and by the time dinner is over it is 9 pm – almost time to go to sleep!  Still, some students find time for extracurricular interests – the host family I visited today has two girls who have won awards for swimming, and they enjoy singing English songs via internet karaoke videos, as well as drawing and reading. For those teachers who are returning home after the four straight hours of teaching, grading and planning are done at home. Students must prepare for the regional and national baccalaureate exam (with the international option) to earn their degree. Scores on this exam, and not essays or activities, determine college eligibility and tracking.  Colleges in Morocco are free of charge.

While a 21 hour work week sounds envious to American teachers, many Moroccan teachers point out the difficulty  finding time to complete research, coach clubs, grade papers, and plan courses.  In addition, private schools are very popular to help students prepare for the bac exams; they are expensive, so many teachers teach extra sessions at private schools in order to increase their earning potential.

As 98% of Moroccans practice Islam, the day is broken up by the five calls to prayer, the muezzin calling from the minarets as reminders.  People practice to varying degrees and koranic teachers emphasize tolerance for other religions and different opinions.

These are in fact quiet long days, but breaks from instruction, including the ten minutes between classes, teachers’ off periods, and lunch, are very social!  Drinking tea with colleagues, having a family meal, etc. This time reflects how important relationships are to Moroccans; socializing and visiting are built into the schedule. When visiting with someone, a traditional greeting is exchanged, A salaam alaykum,  hamdullah, ca va, a handshake, and a kiss on the cheek or a hand over the heart to emphasize sincerity and heartfelt gratitude.  Small talk is important and Moroccans are warm and welcoming; the school environment is as a result very nurturing.  As an American visitor, I am in response more aware of the amount of time I have to myself at the end of the day.  I am going to pay more attention to how that time is used and make sure it reflects who and what are important to me.

The sense of time expansion and contraction also has to do with:jet lag, shifts in movement patterns; shifts in mealtimes; shifts in location/light/weather, my fitbit not registering the new time zone, and the rare experience of having a very full itinerary thoughtfully planned FOR me. My mind is shifting languages often, and I think I met over 300 people today, so I’m not always remembering the details! Our host teacher Mohammed, an experienced International Leaders in Education Program fellow, has been so considerate in planning cultural events for us, introducing us to his family, and tomorrow taking us on a tour of Taza National Park!  I’m learning to relax into the time shift and Bill and a student were chatting about Alan Lightman so feeling contemplative.  Time here is slower in some ways but enriched by the enduring presence of over 1200 years of civilized history – we will visit two castles and drive by other walled cities this weekend.

How does the organization of your time reflect your values?  Do you devote the most time to the things that are most important to you?

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Welcome and Wonder

In Morocco, our welcome has been warm and courteous everywhere we go; formal greetings from principals and ministers; platters of dates and milk or tea and cookies served ceremoniously; personal translators and cultural liasons to smooth over any bumps in cross cultural communications. We were roundly scolded with hand gestures outside of the US embassy when I got a little too excited about the enormous nest of Marabout Storks right outside the entrance. Apparently as we were still within the gates it is forbidden to have any electronic devices such as a camera out.   The guards are Moroccan and had enjoyed a few hours with our passports while we met with officers of the embassy and US AID, so they knew we were Americans and scolded us with hand gestures and patient smiles, instead of yelling at us in Arabic or Tamazight or French . . . but would this reaction have been the same if the situation were reversed?

As we looked a bit forlorn we were told not to worry, the storks had nests everywhere. If you have never seen a Marabout, they are named for elder religious leaders because of their slight hunched back, red feet, and fairly grand size – they can stand about four feet tall with a 6 foot wingspan.  The birds make nests that are about 6 feet across and raise young in the Maghreb or along the Seine in France before migrating back to Subsaharan Africa.  The Bambara have some superstitions about their powers.  I have an intense recollection of being excited to read about the Marabout as the fairy tale stork in an early French lesson, and of seeing one in the wild in Samburu, Kenya, and seeing glimpses of numbers of them through trees in Marnay France. But I had never before seen them so openly in an urban setting, as many as four nesting pairs stacked in a slender pine tree like a high rise. Or nests behind embassies on top of a lamppost.  As a traveler, it’s preposterous that such an elegant and large bird can be seen as an everyday nuisance and not a marvel.  We saw at least 15 more nests while driving down the next few blocks, many with chicks in the nest.

Privilege is taken for granted by those accustomed to it.  I’ve been quite aware of it here, as we are shuttled from prestigious school to hotel boardroom; addressed in formal French and studied English; kindly escorted to local sites and homes.  As Americans, even when warned to keep electronics away, we feel safe enough to forget security procedures and draw cameras before armed guards just to photograph a bird.   Yet back in America, a middle school child in Texas was recently seen as a threat when he built an alarm clock for a science project – as his name was Mohammed staff feared his work might be a bomb and arrested the teenager.   http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/16/us/texas-student-ahmed-muslim-clock-bomb/

Why do Americans often see immigrants (and sometimes their children) as threatening figures?   These are individuals who, miraculously and against tremendous odds, have crossed oceans and learned languages and changed careers and evaded threats and done whatever necessary to come to our country for refuge, for opportunity, for a better life.  As “No one leaves their home unless the water is safer than the land.”  We should rightfully view recent immigrants with as much marvel as we view the wandering Marabout stork; with compassion and admiration for their resilience in the face of human strife.

Americans don’t need a visa to travel to Morocco; we have a longstanding relationship with the nation, which was the first to recognize our independence in 1777. Moroccans seeking entry to the US face more challenges to entry; yet the nation is producing fluent English speakers who have passed the IB exams as well as French-administered universities.  How can we increase our hospitality and welcome?  How can we approach others with a sense of curiosity and amazement and an open mind?
We are meeting with MACEA to plan the organization of more exchanges between our classrooms this morning.

Do you welcome students to your classroom as honored guests? How do you connect to others within your classroom to teach respect, curiosity, and wonder?

Welcome and Wonder

In Morocco, our welcome has been warm and courteous everywhere we go; formal greetings from principals and ministers; platters of dates and milk or tea and cookies served ceremoniously; personal translators and cultural liasons to smooth over any bumps in cross cultural communications. We were roundly scolded with hand gestures outside of the US embassy when I got a little too excited about the enormous nest of Marabout Storks right outside the entrance. Apparently as we were still within the gates it is forbidden to have any electronic devices such as a camera out.   The guards are Moroccan and had enjoyed a few hours with our passports while we met with officers of the embassy and US AID, so they knew we were Americans and scolded us with hand gestures and patient smiles, instead of yelling at us in Arabic or Tamazight or French . . . but would this reaction have been the same if the situation were reversed?

As we looked a bit forlorn we were told not to worry, the storks had nests everywhere. If you have never seen a Marabout, they are named for elder religious leaders because of their slight hunched back, red feet, and fairly grand size – they can stand about four feet tall with a 6 foot wingspan.  The birds make nests that are about 6 feet across and raise young in the Maghreb or along the Seine in France before migrating back to Subsaharan Africa.  The Bambara have some superstitions about their powers.  I have an intense recollection of being excited to read about the Marabout as the fairy tale stork in an early French lesson, and of seeing one in the wild in Samburu, Kenya, and seeing glimpses of numbers of them through trees in Marnay France. But I had never before seen them so openly in an urban setting, as many as four nesting pairs stacked in a slender pine tree like a high rise. Or nests behind embassies on top of a lamppost.  As a traveler, it’s preposterous that such an elegant and large bird can be seen as an everyday nuisance and not a marvel.  We saw at least 15 more nests while driving down the next few blocks, many with chicks in the nest.

Privilege is taken for granted by those accustomed to it.  I’ve been quite aware of it here, as we are shuttled from prestigious school to hotel boardroom; addressed in formal French and studied English; kindly escorted to local sites and homes.  As Americans, even when warned to keep electronics away, we feel safe enough to forget security procedures and draw cameras before armed guards just to photograph a bird.   Yet back in America, a middle school child in Texas was recently seen as a threat when he built an alarm clock for a science project – as his name was Mohammed staff feared his work might be a bomb and arrested the teenager.   http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/16/us/texas-student-ahmed-muslim-clock-bomb/

Why do Americans often see immigrants (and sometimes their children) as threatening figures?   These are individuals who, miraculously and against tremendous odds, have crossed oceans and learned languages and changed careers and evaded threats and done whatever necessary to come to our country for refuge, for opportunity, for a better life.  As “No one leaves their home unless the water is safer than the land.”  We should rightfully view recent immigrants with as much marvel as we view the wandering Marabout stork; with compassion and admiration for their resilience in the face of human strife.

Americans don’t need a visa to travel to Morocco; we have a longstanding relationship with the nation, which was the first to recognize our independence in 1777. Moroccans seeking entry to the US face more challenges to entry; yet the nation is producing fluent English speakers who have passed the IB exams as well as French-administered universities.  How can we increase our hospitality and welcome?  How can we approach others with a sense of curiosity and amazement and an open mind?
We are meeting with MACEA to plan the organization of more exchanges between our classrooms this morning.

Do you welcome students to your classroom as honored guests? How do you connect to others within your classroom to teach respect, curiosity, and wonder?

Say it in English: Language as Social Capital

 

How do we police our own language and the language of others to express social capital?   

“Some expressions of language are valued more than others in a way that values some people more than others.”  – M. Lahrizi

I can honestly say I have never been anywhere as multilingual as Morocco; many citizens speak four languages fluently by the end of high school – Classical Arabic, Tamazight, Moroccan Arabic, French – and many speak English, Spanish or Italian as well. When speaking with each other Moroccans will code switch depending on the speaker and listeners’ social status. “Different languages and varieties afford a hierarchical social status. .. Such language causes an unavoidable social inequality when used with others.” – M. Lahrizi

Our teacher, LEAP fellow Meriem Lahrizi presented a summative overview as to why:

Multilingualism in Morocco dates back to the Roman occupation of the Amazigh people in 146, or the Arabic occupation in 680 AD; traditional Moroccan schools were Quranic until the French protectorate in 1911 transitioned the language of education to French.  In Morocco, one cannot attend college for science, medicine or law unless one speaks fluent French.

“The use of colonial language as the language of opportunity erected a barrier to those without access to this language, thus establishing an elite class,” Meriam points out that the colonial system affords access to power through education – more so in urban areas than rural.  In daily life, the choice of language communicates social values – the waiter correcting my French to  English is taking a populist stance common in former French colonies.  Nowadays, 90% of Moroccans would prefer to switch the language of the educational system from French to English. English is viewed as the language of the internet, international communication, and entertainment – but not the language of the local universities.

Teachers are expected to communicate in French at public schools, or in Classical Arabic in the Quranic schools.  They may code switch to make ideas clear to students -but then switch back to the “language of education.”

The concept of language and social capital are core issues in urban and ESOL education in America.  If we are teaching a standard English and our students speak a dialect or different language at home, are we devaluing their community when we correct their English?  Speaking and writing standard English are necessary skills to access power, privilege, and opportunity in the United States.  Who are the arbiters of  normal, appropriate, and correct use of language?

Use the following interactive game in the classroom to illustrate the effect of language and vocabulary on citizens:

Each student will be given a set of universal symbols to communicate – you can use graphic icons    or ASL pictographs  – except that half of the class will be given a set with  very limited cards (alternately – one group has cards and the other can speak).  Give the students with the limited cards a task to accomplish and see how long it takes them to communicate the task and get their needs met using only the cards at hand.  Then, allow the other students to accomplish a similar task using the fuller vocabulary.

Debrief with students after – how did it feel to have the limited tools of communication? Can you come up with a list of adjectives to describe this group of students?

How did it feel to be the students will access to the fuller vocabulary? Can you come up with a list to describe this group?

Close with ten minutes of silent writing connecting the experience to that of English language learners. Why is it important for students to learn standard English in school? Do literate/fluent/multilingual students have an advantage over others?

The next day, you can follow up with an activity that boosts vocabulary or uses vocabulary in context; or, an activity that builds empathy with migrants, depending on the focus of your class.

 

TAKE ACTION:

We had an informative interview with Thomas LeBlanc, director of educational initiatives for USAID in Morocco.   At the request of the Moroccan Ministry of Education, USAID is working on an initiative to produce early intervention reading materials in local languages which teaches “children in the language they understand and hear at home.”  Piloted in Egypt to great success, this program is locally informed by Moroccan teachers who are collecting folk stories and creating picture books and early readers that connect to students’ home experiences.

 

I was inspired to see if we can create a cross-cultural partnership with my high school students illustrating stories provided to us by Moroccan English students – and sending the illustrations and stories to Moroccan elementary schools for reading lessons!  I’ll be looking on iearn.org to see if there are any similar projects and discussing with my host teacher next week!

If you are an art teacher who is interested in using cross-cultural storytelling to promote literacy, contact me and we’ll loop you in!

 

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Bilingual signage  – do you see the arabic?