Casablanca- I grew up understanding and appreciating the importance of teachers. I witnessed how hard my mom worked to help her students grow and learn. I was also fortunate enough to have inspiring teachers throughout school who left long-lasting impressions and who exemplified what committed educators can accomplish. As a result, I truly believe education, not just in the sense of going to school, but education about cultural understanding, accepting differences, and being more aware of others, is imperative in today’s world.
A year ago, I never would have imagined I would be in Morocco teaching students English. Since I have been here, I’ve moved from Marrakesh to Casablanca to teach at an English language center. While I have encountered difficulties and challenges throughout my teaching experience, it has been an eye-opening and inspiring experience. I teach students of all ages and backgrounds and, because of this, I learn something new in each class. For example, there are times when I leave class promising myself I will never do a particular activity or lesson again, and other times I want to share the lesson with everyone.
What I have come to realize is that every lesson that involves humanitarian topics, cultural exploration and hearing others’ stories are the classes that the students love and learn from the most. The students are enthralled by the differences between people and places around the world, and whether or not they understand it, they are being exposed to differences in a way that leads to curiosity and acceptance, rather than misunderstanding and intolerance. I am constantly surprised by the improvement in my students’ English skills when they discuss topics that are interesting and relevant to them.
An example of a lesson involving relevant topics is one in which I used the short film, “Change For A Dollar”, as a way to review the past tense and then the present continuous. The film is about a man in need who collects change to give to others that need it more. Initially, the short film was just a way to practice different tenses, but my students responded so well to the film and wanted to discuss the importance of giving back to others and helping others any way you can. During the discussions, I saw a huge difference in the vocabulary and fluidity of the students’ answers. It is difficult to cultivate discussions, especially with students who have not yet gained confidence in their speaking skills, but introducing meaningful topics gives students a purpose and encouragement to give their opinions to the class.
Students often spend more time with their teachers throughout the year than at home with their families. Having this much time with students should come with a responsibility to not only teach them math, science, and history, but to expand their minds about being good people, the importance of helping others and accepting differences. While it is important to teach students the fundamental educational criteria, teachers also have an amazing opportunity to combine different school subjects with relevant material happening in today’s society in order to foster acceptance, and compassion. There is an expectation of tolerance and compassion for others, but in order to see this come to light, compassion, kindness, open-mindedness and acceptance should be incorporated throughout a student’s educational experience.
Aristotle simply suggested that, “Educating the mind without the heart is no education at all.” Educators need to acknowledge that students have to be prepared to effectively use educational tools in the real world—a world full of different people, customs, and problems. Instead of shying away from these topics, educators should embrace the opportunity they have to educate the mind, as well as the heart. It is not only important to foster growth, but students seem to positively respond to these types of topics.
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