Lately, I’ve been trying to take on the idea of what it means to be, dare I say it, ‘Youth Developer.’
The term ‘Youth Development’ in itself is fairly vague and I think you’d be hard pressed to find volunteers in Morocco who find the Dar Chebab set up to be ideal to say the least.
When I first arrived in town, all I considered doing was teaching English. I didn’t really think I had anything else to offer and my lack of language skills scared me. My sitemate before me almost strictly taught English and didn’t seem to think that there was a whole lot of opportunity elsewhere.
“Kids in this town just want English,” she said to me one day.
But as I alluded to in the past, my apathy for teaching English has only grown within the last couple of months. There’s nothing inspiring about learning the Future Progressive tense or prepositions of location. Nobody’s face lights up when I say we’re going to talk about punctuation and comma splices.
And I can’t say that I blame them. I’m bored (and confused) just thinking about it.
The fact is that my most rewarding activities are not my English classes. (Although to be fair, I do enjoy teaching my Advanced English class where we can delve into more interesting topics. Last week for example I prepared a lesson connecting “Gangnam Style” to the concept of censorship. Thank you New York Times.)
Every Thursday for example, I teach a music class.
Despite my affinity for karaoke and knack for obscure song lyrics, I would never describe myself as musical in any sense. But when 4 girls from the middle school came to the Dar Chebab one day last fall and asked if we could have a music class, I said ‘absolutely.’
We’ve been meeting every Thursday for a couple of months now and it is often my most difficult class to plan for. First, because I lack adequate knowledge of music, second, our only instrument is a drum set, and third, I have to prepare the lesson in Darija.
But of all my classes, it’s my favorite. I have to work for it and therefore I find it the most rewarding.
On Tuesdays and Fridays I do activities with little kids. We often do music, arts and crafts, games, etc. Last week however, I decided that we would have a Valentine’s Day party at the Dar Chebab. I promoted it a bit and planned with the expectation of there maybe being 20 kids.
I was literally overwhelmed when I showed up yesterday afternoon and found about 50 kids waiting for me, some of whom brought me flowers, cards, and a cake. Even better however was watching my counterparts and high school students lead activities, take over games, sing songs, act skits, etc.
Youth empowering youth is a beautiful thing.
So I’m trying to take off my ‘English teacher’ hat. Other than my Advanced English class at the Dar Chebab I haven’t had much luck obtaining a following for any other classes. If I’m apathetic about teaching English, most of the high school kids are apathetic about learning it. (In fact if it weren’t for my involvement at the high school I doubt I’d be teaching more than one English class a week!) So I set my sights elsewhere. My work at the GLOW Camp, the turk project, and my non-English classes at the Dar Chebab have inspired me. I’m realizing that there’s so much more that I can do beyond just teaching English.
To just teach English would be an incredible waste of an opportunity to help affect real change, bring new ideas, and generally have more fun. I’m not sure how it will all manifest itself in my next 16 months here (Inchallah), but I can only hope that it would do so in a marvelous way.