Friday, September 19, 2014

From sea to shining... Sahara

Ifran, Northern Morocco
Work down south has been scarce this summer, since 50+ temperatures (Celsius) cause mass migrations to cooler climates and a near shut-down of activity. As disappointing as it was to arrive in site in April and hear "We'll talk about that in October" every time I suggested something, it was also very freeing. It meant that I spent some of my summer in site, but I spent a lot of it traveling around Morocco and working in various places. I worked camps, attended trainings, and got to spend weekends going hiking and seeing the gorgeousness of this place. And now that my traveling is coming to and end and it's time to get some work, I thought I'd share some photos of the place that is my home.

(Click on a red marker to see photos of each place I visited!)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Go Hug A Teacher

I started writing this post at 3 am on a Saturday morning, when I was still awake planning the lesson for my English class the following day. The idea I had wasn't going the way I wanted, so I was doing more sulking than planning. How am I supposed to teach with almost no supplies? When I can't print anything, when we have 10 crayons for 40 kids, when there aren't even enough pens for all my students? And this is at one of the more well-funded and well-supplied summer camps. When I start classes in my site this fall, how will I be able to teach effectively with so little to work with?

Thankfully, my whiny thoughts ended there, when I fell asleep at the table. When I woke up, I was a bit embarrassed to remember that particular line of thinking. Not only because I have access to far more supplies than many teachers in many parts of the world, but because I know perfectly well that supplies do not a good teacher make.

I've had many incredible teachers who have changed my life in ways I may not even completely see yet. There was my first grade teacher, who spent fifteen minutes in the hall with me while I finished writing the story I was working on and who clued me in on the fact that people write books for a living. Then and there, I decided what I wanted to do with my life, all thanks to Mrs. Schultz. There was the economics professor who tried to persuade me to switch majors and gave me a shot of confidence even as I said no, and the sixth grade teacher who let me study a more advanced textbook on my own because I was bored and tired of being asked to follow along with the class doing work I already knew. The soccer coaches, who helped me grow from a wimpy, skinny freshman to someone slightly resembling an athlete and who sat beside me when I cried in anger after a particularly frustrating game and reminded me gently that it was, frankly, just a game. The history teacher, who caught me reading Alfred Hitchcock under the desk and, instead of getting me in trouble, commended me on my literary taste and told me I'd better get an A on the next test. The English professor, who had us read Utopia and challenged my flawed argument instead of just letting it slide. The journalism teacher, who encouraged me to write articles outside the box. The debate coaches, who taught me to argue logically and to give a standing ovation to whoever beats me. 

That list could go on for ages, but more than anyone else, it is my mom who has become my role model. I worked in her classroom last fall, in a school is in a low-income area, where students come to class with far more baggage than I ever did. And yet, when they step into her room, she makes them welcome. They come to her with problems, and she listens. She designs individual curricula where they are needed, skips lunch to read a math test aloud to a student who struggles to read but knows the material, uses alligators to teach them to round numbers, spends I don't know how much money to build a classroom library for a group of kids who don't all have access to books at home. We commuted to work together for a few months, and it was amazing that after a forty-minute drive home, she would still be talking about one particular student.

None of that requires supplies.

Since I started teaching (and I use the term lightly, because my work load is minuscule compared to that of most teachers I know), I've come to understand just how much teachers put in to their work. It's not iPads or smart boards or even pens that make a student successful in school. It's the moments of connection, the displays of faith in a child's ability, the teacher who stays up late to finish a lesson plan because she knows that her students deserve her best. I've done that once. To all the teachers, in my life and in everyone else's, who have spent years and years doing that for us: thank you.

A few photos from camp:

Making masks
Trust falls
Scrabble riddles

Dance club!

*None of these photos are of classes I taught, since I was spending my time teaching, not being the photographer. These activities were led by other awesome PCVs, but I thought they showed the spirit of this post.