Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Fondation

Since around the beginning of December I've had the experience of teaching English to Moroccan kids. The place where I'm teaching is called the Fondation Occident-Orient and it mainly educates sub-Saharan African immigrants. It's located in a poorer neighborhood called Manal, about 20 Dh west of here.

The Fondation
It has, as you might expect, been difficult and rewarding, impossible and fun, pointless and educational.
I teach two hour-and-a-half classes each Wednesday afternoon. Both groups consist of anywhere between 3 and 25 kids ranging in age from 4 to 15, but generally there are around 15 of them, roughly 9-10 years old in the first class and 6-8 in the second. In each class there are two or three kids who can already speak English pretty well, and there are also always a few whom I've never seen before and who don't speak a word of English.

Normally I hold class in a room in the library, which is fairly nice but has the downside that we're not allowed to make any noise—that means games, videos, and songs are doable but difficult. Recently, though, I've been moved downstairs, into a room where the dusty chairs are falling apart and there's a dog (that is, either big and scary or highly distracting) on the other side of the glass wall. A few times there hasn't been any room for us at all and I've conducted my class outside, around two or three small tables and with no whiteboard.

Discipline is always an issue; I feel like a substitue teacher and they know it. They really only respond well to authority if it acts like a stern parent and speaks Arabic to them, and, well... Occasionally I've had an assistant, a Moroccan student about my age who either keeps them completely in line or just spends the class chatting with the older students in the back.

But when they are willing to listen, it can be a lot of fun. Many of them are motivated and learn the material pretty well, and of course young Moroccans trying to speak English are awfully cute. There's no set curriculum, and so we (another student teaches them on Saturday) just come up with things to teach them. There was one time a few weeks ago when a bunch of Americans from some NGO walked into the center and came to see what we were doing. The kids in my class did fabulously: every one of them said, in English, their name, age, and "Nice to meet you." It was great.

Two weeks ago we had the most adventurous and fun class yet. I had been told the week before that a group  of Belgian "Scouts" (pronounced "skoots") was coming. What it turned out to be was a group of Belgian students, here for a school project, who brought activities, games, and waffles.

(Only the Moroccan ones are my students.)
They had sports for the boys and a photo shoot for the girls, as well as Musical Chairs, sack races, painting, and masks. 

Playing in the off-limits garden
A bit of music: accordion and African drums 

So that's been an adventure. It's certainly frustrating sometimes, but I'm sure this is a valuable experience for me and all of that. And the kids really are fun.

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