- Parkin Fellows
By Djibril Branche
I, most like every other Parkin fellow (I imagine), was worried about two things. One is that you’d miss your flight and become stranded in a foreign country, and two is that you wouldn’t be able to accomplish as much as you hoped.
The first fear is still very present as I haven’t boarded for home as yet but the second one has gradually subsided over the past weeks and a half. In addition to my work for Au Grain de Sesame, I took an additional job at an NGO called Espace Associatif Al Amal, an organization dedicated to educational and cultural development, part of which involved open English language classes that I had the privilege to teach. The classroom was nothing like what you’d find at Shady Side, no whiteboards, no desks, no writing utensils saved for one marker, and most of the students had to bring their own material or go without.
Despite this, teaching these classes were some of the most enjoyable parts of my trip. There was no registry of attendance, so literally anyone who wanted to could walk in and learn some English, this made for some very unconventional classes. They included a 19 year old med student named Annes learning English in order to enhance his job prospects, a 39 year old unemployed gentleman named Muhammed learning English in the hopes of getting a job, and an 18 year old named Yassara learning English with the hopes of moving to America to practice journalism because America is less hostile to female journalists than Morocco.
My first lesson was abysmal, my teaching was unorganized and disjointed, and I far underestimated how strong the language and cultural barrier could be, but gradually, with the help of an Arabic phrasebook, some songs, and an English newspaper, my teaching skills gradually improved. Before I left for Morocco, I asked my English teacher and advisor Dr. Barndollar, for advice on how to teach. He said something along the lines of teaching a desire to learn English as well as the language itself. While that is very good advice, it was ultimately irrelevant as I've never met a group of people more passionate and dedicated to learning anything as my students were to learning English. Their devotion was what allowed us to go through the alphabet, past, present, and future tenses, prepositional phrases, irregular conjugations, and much more all in just 10 or so days. On one of those days, I was walking to Au Grain de Sesame from my teaching session at Espace Associatif Al Amal, and all I could think about was how much we could accomplish if we’ve put our minds to something as much as Annes did to learning the present continuous tense.