Samantha Fuller - General Teaching Projects in Morocco
Although I was having an amazing time on my year abroad studying in Bordeaux, France, around March 2008 the itch started. The travelling bug had struck again. I was due to return to Cambridge and work in a language school doing activities and trips with the children but I was worried what 3 months not speaking any French would do to my level. Of course around this time would you believe it, Projects Abroad sent me their brochure. I had already had a fantastic 5 months with them in Bolivia during my gap year and had since helped at Open Days so I knew the company pretty well. They had been wonderfully supportive when I lost my bankcards and when I needed to change my travel details whilst in Bolivia.
So, the plan started germinating, August, one month, where could I go? And more importantly where could I have an absolutely amazing time whilst speaking French and getting some teaching experience? MOROCCO! One month, check, August, VERY hot but what a tan! French speaking, check, teaching experience, check! The idea came together pretty easily but actually pressing that button and paying the deposit was a little more difficult as being a student is not the most financially viable position to be in! In the end, my parents paid for the flight for my birthday and both grandmas gave me money instead of presents. The rest was paid for by working devilishly hard throughout July (and getting my rent deposit back which nicely covered spending money!)
Morocco is a North African country which spreads from the Sahara in the south to the mountains in the middle and a more Mediterranean climate in the north. Projects Abroad is based in Rabat, the capital which is on the coast about a third of the way down. Although Morocco in the summer is very hot, Rabat was a good place to acclimatise as it benefits from the sea breezes and is a little bit cooler (although it was still around 35°C).
Rabat itself is a large city, but the majority of volunteers are housed with families who live in the medina at its heart. The medina is the centre of the old town and is essentially a walled part of the city with meandering (and confusing at first!) side streets and alleys. In Rabat, the souks (or markets) are within the medina walls so there is never an excuse not to go shopping! The medina can be daunting at first as it seems confusing and bustling with people but you soon start to recognise a road here or an alley there and before you know it you can navigate quite easily. I was definitely surprised that this only took a few days!
I was on a Teaching placement in Rabat as I'm considering doing a PGCE after I graduate so I decided this would be the best way to get some actual teaching practice. I was a little worried about how this would go as I literally had no teaching experience, and I won't lie - I did do quite a lot of preparation to start with, but I soon settled into it. I shared classes with another girl, and along with another volunteer who was on the Care programme we all worked at Centre Amal Shabab Takaddoum. Situated in a suburb of Rabat called Chateau Takaddoum the centre took about 25 minutes to get to by collective taxi.
Amal Shabab Takaddoum is a centre which provides internet access, day care for disabled children as well as free language classes in English, German and Spanish. As an English teacher I taught a beginners class for 1.5 hours in the morning (10am-11.30am) and then a class of upper intermediates from 4pm-5.30.
Sharing classes with another teacher meant that we could discuss the best way of teaching different grammar points and new idea for games we could play but hangman, alphabet races and memory games were always well received. We found it challenging at first but soon settled into a rhythm of planning some things separately and some things together. Projects Abroad gives new volunteers a teaching seminar/ workshop session with a teacher at a local English school which is a useful introduction to structuring and planning lessons. There is also a wide range of books in the Projects Abroad office, on the theory of teaching as well books with exercises, lesson plans and games as well as work sheets for in class or homework.
I found the teaching very rewarding because the students were (for the most part) very enthusiastic about learning English, we were running classes every morning throughout the summer holidays and quite a number of students actually turned up every day! The levels we had in each class were quite varied and having two teachers on hand definitely helped with this as we could give extra help to the less able students without holding back the more able students. The upper intermediate class we held in the late afternoon was more challenging as we had some very intelligent students who had an extremely good level of English. For them, we tended to focus the class on fluency and confidence in speaking aloud so we tended to pick a weekly topic and base the classes around that. We'd find a few newspaper articles, maybe showing different points of view, look at vocabulary used, do some dictation practice as well as speaking aloud, then get them to do some of their own writing around the subject, be that a presentation or a writing exercise.
Although I speak quite good French I was worried it would be difficult teaching students whose first language in Moroccan Arabic (or Darija) but you realise it doesn't really make that much difference. Of course there are times when you wish you could give an easy translation of a word, but explaining it, acting it out and drawing pictures on the board means that the student is much more likely to remember what the word means as they have had to make their own associations with the word.
Overall, I had an amazing time in Morocco, teaching was at times challenging but the students who turned up to the classes learnt and practised English with native English speakers, which will undoubtedly help them with future studies and job prospects. The Moroccan family I lived with were experienced with volunteers and welcomed me into their family, I learnt a lot about Moroccan culture and practices through them. Travelling to different cities at the weekends meant I had a chance to see other parts of Morocco whilst having a safe base in Rabat to return to each week whilst I was teaching. I would definitely recommend a Teaching placement with Projects Abroad as I believe learning English can really make a difference to people's lives and Projects Abroad provides good support to volunteers away from home.