10 April 2013

Inequalities Between Schools

Public schools in Morocco seem to suffer from the same types of issues as those in the United States.  Inequalities in funding.  Differences in achievement based on the socioeconomic level of the parents. Differences in the maintenance of the facilities and the equipment available to teachers and students.  Look at the images of the schools below.


This is the outside of a public school in the city of Sale.  Everything looked tired.  The school needed to be repainted.  The garden areas looked as if they were not cared for frequently.  A few students were strolling along the promenade, braving the rain.  The rest seemed to be huddled in a shelter area near the class buildings. The director did not seem enthusiastic about showing us his school.  We met no students.  We met a few teachers in a fairly comfortable teachers lounge.  It was not an exciting place to visit.

We visited a private school in Sale as well.  The school was clean.  Although the classrooms seemed crowded with students, there was student work on the walls.  The students seemed to be very engaged in lessons.  They were on task, attentive and ready to respond to the teacher when there was any request for information made.  The English class we saw was of a typical audio-lingual design.  The materials were obviously from Great Britain.  (Evidently, Great Britain and the United States spar to provide teaching materials to the schools of Morocco.)
Additionally, the staff greeted us and served us milk and dates which is a traditional Moroccan offering of welcome to guests.  Later, after a continued tour, we were offered sweets and mint tea in a faculty room, where we were allowed to ask questions of the director of the school and to discuss issues she felt were of consequence to the school. 


The school I spent a week studying Lycee Ibn Khaldoun has well kept grounds.  The school has been freshly painted. The classrooms, although not extravagant were clean and well organized. The students who attend the lycee are not wealthy, but seemed fairly well off.  They were bright, interested in learning and eager to ask questions.  The English speaking faculty seemed interested in talking to us.  Most of the teachers seemed satisfied with their student progress.  The lycee is located next to the regional administrative building.  So, perhaps there is an official eye on the lycee. 

Our colleagues in Beni Mellal told us that the school they visited had issues with vandalism.  It seems that in an effort to force teachers to cancel classes, the students will remove light bulbs, remove electrical wiring, damage windows and doors and more.  It is a shame.

Overall, there seems to be a great deal of respect shown to education and to teachers in Morocco.  At least this is what I saw.  However, there were some teachers who said that there is an issue with student violence against teachers.  It is horrible that teachers feel they have to deal with that.  It must be unnerving for teachers to have students return to their rooms after a violent altercation.  When I asked about this, other teachers said that there are teacher who humiliate students and the students react.  I don't know if that can be true in all cases.  I wonder if there are not some students who are simply out of control.  It is disturbing for teachers to think about.  Additionally, it was the female teachers who mentioned this to me.  I wonder what the incidence of violence against female teachers compared to male teachers.

It is also interesting to note that we have similar issues in our schools.  We are preoccupied with funding.  Due to lack of funding, we worry of maintaining our buildings and upgrading our materials and supplies.  We teachers are very concerned about student achievement, especially those of us working in impoverished settings.  We all seem to be asking the same question, "How do I teach my students what I know they need with the resources available to me?"

31 March 2013

Language Learning in Morocco - Cultural and Linguistic History

While in Morocco, Teachers for Global Classroom participants were engaged in three primary goals. One goal was to study the structure of the Moroccan school system.  We had general introduction while in conferences in Rabat and then we were assigned in groups of two or three to travel to various parts of Morocco to look closely at a school and the teaching there.

I was fortunate enough to travel with an ESL and social studies teacher named Bruce.  He's from Tacoma, Washington.  We were hosted by an amazing English as a Foreign Language teacher named Mifdal Bouchaib and were stationed in his home school of Lycee Ibn Khaldoun.


Lycee Ibn Khaldoun is located in a nice neighborhood in El Jadida.  The streets there are clean and lines with well kept walls and gardens.  Like many of the cities along the Atlantic coast the buildings tend to be painted white although a few are the deep terra cotta red typical of Marrakesh.  As you can see, the school is painted in soft pinks and terra cotta red.


Morocco is an amazing place for anyone interested in learning about language acquisition. I was amazed by the level of English language proficiency Mifdal's students after less than one year of study. They were able to discuss most issues of interest to them and to respond to my questions.

Why do students in Morocco display such aptitude for language learning?

I think that there are several factors and each require more depth of study than I can devote in this blog today.
  1. Cultural History and Development
  2. Worldview and Moroccan Cultural Identity
  3. Curriculum Design

Morocco has been a crossroads of cultures and language for as long as there have been people there.  The first group known to inhabit the area are called the Amazigh (more commonly known as the Berbers).  The Amazigh inhabit primarily the Atlas and Riff mountain ranges.  They met the Phoenecians, Cathaginians, Romans, Arabs, French, Spanish and Portuguese during the course of their history and development. (If I am neglecting a group, please forgive me). A few of these various groups left an indelible mark on the increasingly ethnically diverse people of Morocco.  Of course, the arabs brought with them language, religion and cultural influence.  The period of European colonialism left it's mark with Spanish speaking enclaves in the north and south.  The long period of French colonialism  left the Moroccans with French. In the end, the Moroccan people retain a pride in the understanding that they are a cultivated bridge between the Christian west and Islamic east.

Morocco now enjoys three official languages, French, Arabic and Amazigh.  Amazingly, they each have their own alphabet.

Check these out!

15 March 2013

Very Busy

El Jadida is a beautiful city on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.  It is about 45 minutes south of Casablanca. My hotel is located on the beach.  Check out the picture above.  Our very generous host, Mifdal, took us on a tour of the city.

Large fishing boats nestled together in the docking area.

Fishing boats in dry dock.

Boats anchored in the harbor.

The famous Portuguese Cistern.

A beautiful portal in the Portuguese Quarter.

A tower in the Portuguese Quarter. This is the only Catholic church in El Jadida.  It is currently being renovated.

14 March 2013

Great Food in Morocco

spiced olives

lentil soup in a gorgeous tureen

lentil soup

chicken tagine

fruit for dessert
Just check out the food.

12 March 2013

Welcome to Morocco

I met a colleague and new friend, named Marty, in the Detroit International Airport.  If you've never been to Detroit, I strongly recommend that you fly into the city.  The airport is worth the trip.  It is loaded with artwork of any kind, water sculptures, bronze sculptures, paintings and a lighted tunnel that felt like a mix between a disco and a space-age walkway. As I walked through it the walls lit and the colored moved to the beat of the synthesized Broadway hits playing.  It was very entertaining.  Marty and I got to hang out for a while before the long crowded flight to Paris.

Charles De Gaulle is not nearly as entertaining as Detroit, which I have to say is disappointing since Parisians they proclaim Paris to be the Western art capital of the world.  No artwork there.  Pas du arte.  Just stark beige colored walls.  The boutiques were very chic.  A cup of mediocre coffee cost about 9 dollars.  It would have been nice to have the time to leave the airport.  I'm sure the airport must not be representative of France.

Now, the Rabat airport is small, colorful and lovely.  

Morocco is a beautiful country.  It had been raining here so everything is lush and green.  The bougainvillea and trumpet vine are in flower.  The city reminds me of some of the places in southern Spain; whitewashed walls, modern apartment buildings and lots of small cars driving quickly.  There are various kinds of palm trees and pine trees and trees that look like a cross between a palm and a pine.  

We are staying at Hotel Rabat.  Look for it online.  Go to hotelrabat.com for photos.

The greatest thing about this country has been the people with whom we are working.  We are in Rabat for a couple more days in conferences of different sorts learning about Morocco history and Moroccan customs.  An English teacher from Morocco is named Khadija Rahaoui.  She had spent a semester learning how to teach English in Dodge City, here in the states a couple of years ago with a program called ILEP.  She is a fantastic source of information as are our two other Moroccan guides, Kawthar and Hamidi.  They are interested in responding to all our questions.  They have organized seminars on the history and culture of Morocco and offering us tours of interesting places and monuments.  Today we explored the Medina, which is the old walled city of Rabat.  .

The big problem with my experience so far is the functioning of the Internet here.  I have not being able to upload any of the photos I took.  I'm sorry about that.  I wish I could show you pictures of what I am experiencing.  Sadly, the Internet connection keeps quitting out on my and so I am having no luck with photos.  So for now, I'll stick to the simple blog.  Maybe the internet in El Jadida will be improved.

06 March 2013



I will be traveling to El Jadida, Morocco with a fantastic program called Teachers for Global Classrooms  (TGC).

Morocco is a fantastic location for study.  One might ask, “Why is a Spanish teacher interested in studying the culture of Morocco?”  The answer is both simple and complex.

 I am curious.  I saw Morocco for the first time in 1992 from shores of Spain.  I can’t explain why, but the fact that I could look across a body of water and see, not only another country, but another continent is impressive. I was struck by the closeness of the world. I sat on the sandy beach long minutes watching the trucks moving along the steep inclines and the whitewashed buildings of a town, name unknown, somewhere between Ceuta and Tangiers.  Someone told me later that the sand blows to Spain from the Sahara Dessert.
More pertinent to my classroom, I’d like to develop a curricular unit regarding immigration.  It is my understanding that despite the improvements in education and economic development, there is a history of Moroccan immigration to Spain.  Some of that immigration is illegal.  Of course, this is a situation that mirrors the illegal immigration to the U.S. from Mexico.  I’d like to learn more from the point of view of Moroccan people.
We in the States have such difficulty understanding  what is happening in Muslim North Africa.   And because we, as a nation, have not informed ourselves about the countries of North Africa, they feel strange and dangerous.  Except for Morocco.  Morocco represents an exotic country that bridges the cultures of Christian Europe and those of Muslim North Africa.
I hope my visit and this blog will provide a bridge between the people I meet in Morocco and my colleagues and students in the U.S.  I hope this blog will be a space for learning and collaboration.


“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
O.K. so I’m really not a Trekkie, but I love the mission statement.  I don’t know why more schools don’t adopt it as their own.  Something like:
The future; the final frontier. These are the voyages of Main Street High School.  Its four-year mission: to explore our world, to seek out the diversity of life and civilizations, to boldly explore where we have never gone before.
Don’t we as teachers hope to encourage a sense of wonder and adventure in our students? This blog is designed for teachers and maybe parents too.  I will describe my adventures in Morocco with Teachers for a Global Classroom and perhaps share my thoughts and insights about the way we educate our youth.
Welcome to The World is my Oyster