My finals have been graded, participation grades entered, and now, all that’s left, are the parent-teacher meetings and then my time living and teaching in Morocco will be at an end.
Nine months ago, I arrived at the Mohammed V International Airport, confident in my abilities to adapt to new things. I was leaping head first into an unexplored oasis of possibilities. Optimistic that my curiosity would be enough to sustain my happiness and comfortability in my new home.
Now, like at the end of most journeys, reflection is a required aspect and a major takeaway has been…
That curiosity alone is not enough for me to overcome the struggles that accompany living and working in a foreign country.
I need more. But what did I expect? The fact is, I don’t think that I have ever leaped this far out of my comfort zone before. What does my comfort zone include? Well, I now know with greater certainty than ever before.
The zone of “dealing” includes: shower fly and ant invasions, fluctuating wifi, 1-2 minutes of hot water, maintaining friendships both near and far, navigating the difficulties that accompany my language deficiencies i.e. not knowing Darija or French, daily street harassment (usually nothing too intimidating), the usual gender ratio of 15:1 on the street, and adapting to a new reality of time (i.e inshallah).
But, what I cannot deal with is food that I am not excited to eat and nature I cannot explore. From now on, these two realities must be realized wherever I plan to make my next home.
Unlike my unexpected love of Korean food, which I had never really eaten prior to living in South Korea, this same scenario does not apply to Moroccan food. I had never thought of food as something I would value when deciding my next move, but now it is no longer negotiable.
(For dietary reasons, with its lack of dairy and options of non-fried and limited ‘heavy foods’, I have found Asian food to be a wonderful option for my finicky digestive system. Plus it is freaking delicious!)
My connection to nature as a means of happiness and sense of peace is also no longer negotiable. I have also found that I can deal with almost anything if I know that explorable nature is nearby. Living in Mohammedia, the ocean has become that source.
Therefore, while applying to next year’s adventure, I chose to focus the majority of my job hunt in Asia and I made it clear, in all my interviews, that I needed to be close to accessible nature.
Superficial? Perhaps, but when push comes to shove, I know what I need to feel comfortable and happy and it includes hiking trails and a smorgasbord of delicious Asian food. And yes, I do mean the whole continent (with a slight emphasis on south-east Asian cuisine).
And that is what has made this year so significant.
It wasn’t so much about learning what “new things” I wanted added to my life, but rather it was a time that outlined and solidified my expectations and desires. It brought greater clarity, painful at times, but the isolation was helpful in clearing away the “noise”.
I just couldn’t know until I jumped in, headfirst, and swam in pho-less/nature-less waters.
Regarding teaching, my opinion hasn’t really changed. I have more confidence teaching teens and adults, but my heart will forever be with young learners. Something about their energy, willingness, and excitement to join me, as I create and imagine games, activities, and songs, inspires me and sustains my energy in the classroom.
I have taught in situations where I could speak as I usually do and classrooms where I had to significantly grade my language. In all cases, whether young learners, teens or adults, one thing remained constant, my determination to make lessons that were engaging and student-focused. Failed lessons were disappointing, and I was always painfully aware of the agony when the lesson plan crashed and burned.
I remember a particularly painful adult lesson this past term, where blank eyes and low energy were my only company for three hours, even with my efforts to switch up my own energy and the activities. I couldn’t figure it out. When the bell finally rang, I think we were all relieved.
But that is also what has made teaching so exciting. It was 3-hours where I had the chance to create a dynamic learning space, and each class was a do-over (for better or for worse). A place to constantly improve. I had to be on my toes, constantly reading and re-reading the room and I loved it.
I have always enjoyed school and this year was strange in the sense that I became the “expert” in the room. My name became “teacher”. It was a huge responsibility and it also led me to reflect on my own time as a language student. The expectations I had held of my teachers and all the times I had asked ridiculously nonsensical questions in my Spanish and Korean classes that my teachers were then made to answer.
Dear Brooke’s former foreign language teachers,
I want to take a quick moment to apologize. I now have a slightly better understanding of what it is like to be on the other side and all I can say is thank you!
Thank you for never giving up on me and for not becoming (or showing) your exasperation with my millions of questions that were usually worded as confusingly as my own confusion.
A new foreign language teacher
At the end of this reflection, I find that I am quite happy with my first year of teaching English as a foreign language. I may have a slight preference for the ages of students that I would like to teach, but I am still open to new experiences because how will I know until I try?
My imagination and innate enthusiasm have always been a safe space for my creativity, and fundamental sources of my confidence; however, I haven’t quite figured out yet how to get it in synch with teaching teens and adults. But I am willing to continue to try and perhaps that opportunity is on the horizon (more information coming soon).