In Moroccan Classrooms

Monday, March 18, 2019

This was the first official day of my field experience. It was about to get real! On my first day visiting schools in Tangier, Wyatt Pedigo, the Irex program officer, tagged along, and Rachid gave us the grand tour.

The Big Banner at CPGE Lycée Moulay Hassan

It started off a little awkward, as the administrators at the regional delegation were not able to meet with us due to the teacher strike. However, it was a completely different story when we arrived at Rachid’s school CPGE Lycée Moulay Hassan. (CPGE schools are part of the French-style secondary school system, and the initials stand for classe préparatoire aux grandes écoles.)

The staff and administration at Moulay Hassan had prepared an extravagant welcome, complete with a cookies, tea, and an insanely huge banner. I got the grand tour and lots of warm greetings from everyone I met. Rachid had afternoon classes, so he had us scheduled to tour other facilities before returning to observe his class and give presentations.

One stop was at the Ibn Al Abbar school, a junior high. We visited the classroom of Yassine Harrak. This was so awesome! Junior high kids… Well, if you teach junior high on purpose, and I do, then you are completely energized in their presence. This classroom was bright, cheerful, and dynamic. Yassine’s students were so excited about learning English and about showing their American visitors what they could do. We even got a full-class musical performance of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect!” Using art to teach content? I was loving it!

Students at Ibn Al Abbar

After lunch at the beautiful Tangier marina, we went back to Rachid’s classroom for the afternoon. I got to observe Rachid in action, teaching about cultural intelligence in his English class. Then he invited me to present to the class, and I did. I introduced myself with a slideshow and integrated a message about 21st Century Skills.

My guiding question for my work in Morocco involves so-called soft skills or 21st Century Skills. How do educators in Morocco support skills in areas like communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation? I know we struggle in the United States to teach these skills. How do Moroccans do it?

One of Rachid’s lovely students (and one of a thousand selfies I must be in!)

I ended up learning a lot from Rachid and his students. They understand the importance of skills such as creativity and collaboration. What I observed, however, is that, like most concepts in Morocco, it is taught through lecture and observation. Hands-on, interactive learning seems rare. Just like at home, you might say.

Before calling it a day, Rachid and I visited some ancient Roman tombs and then stopped at the iconic Cafe Hafa, on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. What a day…

Cafe Hafa, established 1921


Most of the time, I am simply "Mrs. Olmos," a busy classroom teacher in a rural district in Southwest Washington State. I teach English, WA State History and Drama to students that range from grades 7-12. I believe in allowing students to use their own creativity and individual voices to enrich learning experiences in my classroom. A typical day in my room includes student-led conversations, collaborative projects, and art supplies. Beyond the classroom, I dedicate myself to many areas of educational leadership. Currently, I am a Fulbright Teacher for Global Classrooms and a member of the leadership team for the Washington Teacher Advisory Council. I am proud to be a National Board Certified Teacher, and a facilitator for National Board Candidate cohorts. Over the years, I have served on committees, panels and cohorts at the district, state and national level. My areas of interest include English Language Arts standards, curriculum and assessment, teacher preparation and certification, equity in rural education, project-based learning, and arts-integrated instruction. In my spare time, I have dogs, horses and and a husband to share my life on a small farm surrounded by green hills and rivers. It's a beautiful life.

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