Today I have completed my year as a Fulbright TGC. Although this part of the journey is over, my life and my teaching practice have been altered completely. The experience taught me so many things about myself, my students, my country, my world and my place within it. I hope that I can carry those lessons with me as I continue my journey, never assuming that I know enough, always looking to learn more.
Meanwhile, let’s review a few of my TGC lessons.
We humans have so much in common, wherever we are. Many times during my IFE (In-field Experience) I found myself in situations where I was very different from my companions. I spent some time being the only one in a room who did not understand Darija. Very often I was the only non-Muslim present. Sometimes I was the only woman. Despite the discomfort that comes with being the “other”, comfort and familiarity are always nearby when there is a commonality, something we all enjoy and can share. So what are these commonalities? Food, for one, is a bond between humans. We love to share it, to offer it to our guests, to show off our special dishes and traditions. Another is music, and then art. An appreciation for beauty in the landscape or in architecture is common among us. Humor is different from culture to culture, but we love to laugh. We love to make other people smile. My journey to Morocco led me to love the people I met, but, more importantly to love the basic goodness of humanity.
Despite our common humanity, those differences of culture are precious, full of wonder, and a great privilege to experience. My wish for the youth of the world is that they all get the chance to experience another culture firsthand. Everyone needs to step outside their comfortable space for a bit. They need to sample strange foods, visit exotic places, listen to the languages of the world. Only by experiencing some of the wondrous diversity of our world can we truly appreciate it. Besides, the attitudes that come with only understanding “us,” or “here” or “now” are damaging. Whatever rut we are stuck in, traveling and experiencing another culture is the cure.
Teaching is the best job on earth. Wherever I went, it was better with students. I saw some of the most beautiful buildings on Earth. I met some incredible adults all over Morocco. However, any time we were in contact with students it was like electricity. I always felt at home in every classroom we visited. Now that is validation of my vocation on a global scale!
Being multilingual is transformational. Multilingual people are incredible, flexible thinkers, and they communicate on a level that is nearly impossible for us monolingual folk. It is amazing to behold, really, as they switch fluidly between languages, mixing and bending them. Moroccans are the champions of multi-linguistics. I’m not sure that is a term, but I hope you get the idea. If starting young people out on multiple languages can impact their capacity for communication so much, it is high time we look to our own education system. We know it doesn’t work to force high school freshman to learn Spanish because it’s a required class. That is not effective. I hope the movement toward dual language courses and immersion can really take off. The benefits are far-reaching. Meanwhile, I will stay glued to my Duolingo lessons, as I try to improve my French and Spanish and learn the basics of Arabic.
Creativity is irrepressible. My guiding question in Morocco was concerned with 21st Century Skills. Both at my home school and in most Moroccan public schools, the arts and skills such as collaboration, creativity, and innovation are not emphasized or well-supported. I was wondering how Morocco was addressing this. In our global economy, employers need employees with creativity and soft skills. Where are Moroccan students getting these skills? I found that no matter the system, the human drive for innovation and creativity finds a way. I met self-taught student artists. I met an aspiring actor. I met a famous acrobat. I saw beautiful art everywhere and heard the music of street musicians, too. It’s irrepressible. Now, let’s be real. The world would be a better place if our educational systems put more emphasis on skills that feed our souls – like the arts. But, lack of support cannot kill our creativity and innovation. It’s part of what makes us human.