Friday, July 3, 2009

The Little School Outside of Essaouria

The bus came to a sudden stop. I was in the middle of reviewing the Arabic numbers from 1 to 10 when I noticed that Beate and Yunes, our guide, got off the bus and walked over to a small school on the side of the road. According to our agenda, there was no mention of this stop. I thought Beate wanted a picture of the school and the school kids playing in the courtyard. So, I waited for about two minutes before I got off the bus to see what the plan was. I knew something was up since it normally does not take that long to take a picture.

Upon rounding the corner as I entered the school. I saw Yunes talking to the man in the tie. Beate was inquiring if the group could look around for a few minutes. We were curious about a Moroccan school. Classes were not in session since the kids are on summer break. In fact, the few kids that were at school were helping the teachers clean up. Even though the principal had things to do, he graciously allowed us to walk around the school and talk to students and faculty. As long as we did not take pictures, we pretty much had access to the school. (After the tour, we were allowed to take pictures)

I toured some classrooms and noticed a few details that are very different from my own classroom. First of all, the classes are much smaller than my spacious portable. I was informed that classes range from 35-45 students. No more grievances from me about large class sizes. I also noticed that in front of the class there was a picture of the King. I also saw the same picture in the principal’s office. The classes were simple with a slab concrete ground, barred windows, a roll-away chalk board, and a teacher’s desk. Each room was decorated with various posters such as a mosque, animals, various people working different professions and the Moroccan flag. The student and teacher I spoke with said that the school provides the books but all other supplies are the kid’s responsibility.

For having limited resources, there was a lot of pride in the teachers and students. The principal explained about the olive tree garden that the students plant and the fact that out of the 730 students, only five did not pass their regional exams. I was blown away by this. Here you have a modest school with no library, computer labs, fancy gyms, tracks, and athletic fields yet there were no feelings of “can’t do” attitude. Rather, the teachers and principal were already planning on how to reduce the numbers of non-passers for next year. I wish our students could see the drive in these kids. To know that if you want to get a head in live at an early age can be intimidating for a young person. With all the poverty, it must be even more challenging. I came out of this encounter energized and even more committed than before because I should be able to work wonders with what I do have.

I also have to say that I felt special, along with my colleagues, who happened to show up unannounced and have the principal and staff welcome us with their hospitality. They were eager to answer our questions and show us around. They invited us for tea where we engaged in an informal exchange. I wish I could say that people feel special when they walk into my school. I appreciated the reminder that I am so lucky to work where I do and that my kids are very fortunate as well. I only wish that the Argon oil that this area is known for could motivate my more unconventional students. This little detour turned out better than anyone of us expected. I am embarrassed to admit that I do not recall the name of the little school outside of Essaouira. But I will never forget the impact it had on my soul.

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