Saturday, March 9, 2013

working 9 to 5 (this subject is full of lies)

Back in early June last year, I went to Gibraltar and Spain for a week on vacation and came back to find that my students had taken their final exams and stopped coming to class. Which, fair, it's summer vacation. I spend a week or two sitting around the Dar Chabab (my last lesson plan is dated June 12, but I don’t think I actually taught it).  After a week or two of spending an hour every evening sitting in front of the Dar Chabab, I gave up and told my mudir I’d be back in September. The Dar Chabab was closed for July and August anyways, and I didn't see the point of walking across town if nothing was going to happen. Also, mid-June was the first of the really bad heat waves and I started spending my days in my apartment, refusing to wear pants. Pants were the worst.

I weathered the summer, mostly by refusing to wear clothes and drinking, I kid you not, about eight liters of water a day.  When September rolled around I started periodically visiting my Dar Chabab again, only it was never open.  I knew there was a regional meeting for PCVs and mudirs at the beginning of October though, so I waited until then to press the issue.

At the regional meeting, I gave my mudir a tentative schedule.  He said it sounded great and also, the Dar Chabab was going to be under construction for the next month.  Apparently, the solid walls surrounding the center, yard and soccer field were giving the Dar Chabab a bad reputation, and so the walls were being knocked down and replaced with a metal slat fence.  Come back in November.

I went to Italy at the end of October, came back with the plague (actually bronchitis and the start of four months of respiratory issues) and by the time I could stand up without getting dizzy, it was mid-November.  I drug myself out of bed and across town to Dar Chabab, only to discover that it was still under construction.  Very under construction.  Well, maybe they’ll do something about the bathroom situation (it was mostly used to store bikes), I thought.  By mid-December, I had been assured that the Dar Chabab would be opened by early January.  Or else.

My family came to visit over Christmas, and once they left I, once again, walked out to the Dar Chabab, which was no longer under construction, but was also not open.  I talked to my host family, who told me that the Dar Chabab would re-open after the Prophet’s Birthday.  A few days later, I ran into my mudir at souq and we hashed out a tentative schedule and I finally – finally – started classes February 13, eight months after I taught my last class.

Jesus Christ.

It wasn’t like I didn’t do anything during those eight months.  I worked at a camp over the summer and helped Peace Corps write a manual about language immersion camps.  I did a couple of projects at a friend’s school and helped my sitemate with her classes.  But the longer I went without working, the easier it became to just not leave my house.  I started skipping Couscous Friday and dodging invitations to tea and started to have more and more trouble speaking Arabic.  I wasn’t bored, because I don’t really get bored, but it wasn’t healthy and I wasn’t exactly happy.

I started out teaching three classes: a beginner’s class, an advanced class and a Bac class (high level grammar class for students preparing for the high school exit exam).  My core group of students from last year graduated, but I have a few return students and a whole crop of girls from the local high school who are absolutely fantastic and really dedicated.  (Of course, there’s also Fouad, a return student from last year who comes to every class, whether it’s the right level or not, asks me to teach him communication and then refuses to talk.  *sigh*)  I have a tentative schedule drawn up through early June and I’m really excited about my classes.

Then last week, two guys came up after my “advanced” class, which wasn’t super advanced (four students spoke zero English) and asked if I had a more advanced class.  Like, one that was actually advanced.  And conversation based.  And maybe not so full of children. 

“I *can* have that class,” I told them.  “Let’s ask the mudir when there’s a free room.” 

So Yassine, Abdallah and I went to the mudir’s office to schedule another class, and when the mudir started to make noises about how the Dar Shabab was too busy for another English class, Yassine took over and argued until we had a classroom.

pkane says whaaaaaaat?Our first conversation class was yesterday.  I printed off an article about the effect of linguistic diversity on the Moroccan education system, wrote a bunch of questions in a vain hope of keeping the conversation flowing and hoped for the best.  I tried to teach conversation classes last year, but it was like pulling teeth to get the kids to actually talk and I was skeptical of actually getting students to talk for a full hour, much less have an actual debate, but we had an hour-long conversation about the roll of French and Amazigh in the Moroccan education system, the possibility of a secular government (Morocco is a theocracy; it’s possible to watch the King at Friday prayer on TV, I know because I watched him yesterday) and evolution (which isn’t taught in Morocco).

You can’t see my face right now, but it looks a lot like this. -->

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Spelling Bee Morocco

Last year a PCV down south ran a spelling bee for his region.  He got local English teachers involved, and ended up having a regional tournament in Ouarzazate for seventeen schools.  MATE (Moroccan Association of Teachers of English) loved it and what started as a small regional tournament for just a few provinces is now a Morocco-wide competition.

My host sisters started telling me about the spelling bee back in December.  MATE and Jim Dana (the PCV) sent out a packet of information to schools across Morocco, including sample lesson plans, word lists and a copy of Akeelah and the Bee.  In January, schools across Morocco held individual tournaments, and last weekend was the district spelling bees.  The coordinator of the district spelling bee asked if my sitemates and I would help out, so last Saturday I was the pronouncer for the Kelaa District Spelling Bee.  It went really well, except for the one teacher who kept complaining about my lack of a British accent (which, sorry dude, I can get the southern out of my voice, but me trying to fake a British accent isn't going to make anything clearer), and I was really impressed by how well-run the spelling bee was and how well the students did.

There were three parts to the spelling bee: the novice team spelling bee (which was limited to ninth grade students), the general team spelling bee and the solo spelling bee.  In the team spelling bee, groups of three had thirty seconds to write down the correct spelling of a word, while the solo spelling bee was a more traditional spelling bee.  The winning word was typhoid, which I can spell, but it was the only one of the final round words I could spell.  The top six solo spellers and the top two groups will go on to the regional spelling bee in Marrakesh later this month, and there will be a national spelling bee in Rabat later this spring.

El Kelaa District Spelling Bee  
Team spelling bee

El Kelaa District Spelling Bee
Solo Spelling Bee
El Kelaa District Spelling Bee
The winners of the novice spelling bee.  They got metals, a trophy and an English dictionary for their school.
El Kelaa District Spelling Bee
All the spellers from the eleven participating schools.  It was a pretty good turn out.