Last night I returned to teaching after three days off. I haven’t had two days in a row off -- let alone three -- in quite a few weeks. Unlike my Moroccan colleagues, who routinely work 6 days a week, I am a spoiled American who craves long weekends … one day to do household chores and prepare for the upcoming week, and one day to play or do absolutely nothing productive and the occasional third day off to read, see a movie or treat myself to some shopping.
But I was glad to see my students and with many shops still closed for Eid, I had found myself doing more household chores than usual with the time off -- I actually even cooked some meals in my new kitchen … something I have not done for almost three years! My return to work was kind of a relief.
My students routinely give me pleasure. I was teaching a more advanced English class last night and our discussions are always enlightening. We were discussing the topic of plagiarism and drawing lines around ‘acceptable’ cheating and other questionable behaviors. I asked them if there was ever a situation when not telling the truth acceptable. We talked about stealing – would their principles change if one person stole 20 dirham from them and another stole 200 dirham? Most said 20 DH would be acceptable. What if it was their child who stole 20 dirham. Would that be acceptable? No one could accept that but first, they said, they would have to verify with absolute certainty that their child had, indeed, stolen the money. Good answer.
Finally, I asked my students if it was a teacher’s job to help educate students about these matters. Or should a teacher just stick to the curriculum and let students learn from their own social network. My students were quite adamant that a teacher should broach these subjects. “You are more experienced than we are and we need to learn from you.” I can hardly imagine American teenagers responding in a similar fashion.
When I stand in front of the classroom and look out at all the beautiful and open faces of my students I am often filled with gratitude. Mind you, they drive me to distraction many times, chatting away in Arabic while I’m trying to teach them the difference between a defining and non-defining clause and furtively checking their cell phones for text messages or taking note of how much time is left before they can bolt out the door. But there are those times when what I say captures their full attention. I can actually feel the atmosphere change in the classroom and I am aware of the responsibility and trust I hold. When I speak from my heart they, too, can feel it and always give me their full attention. More than once it has brought an incredible fullness to my heart and tears of gratitude to my eyes. I cannot recall feeling so honored for my years of experience in my own country.
What a rare and wonderful honor.