Sunday, March 24, 2013

Teaching the Teachers in Fez

A training program for English teachers in Morocco shows how to motivate students.
Rachida Guelzim instructing Moroccan English teachers

A classroom at the American Language Center in Fez is buzzing with excited chatter. A headline is projected on the wall: 'Mystery disappearance of an American teacher trainer in Casablanca'.

“It’s your job to find out more. What are the questions you need to ask?” instructor Rachida Guelzim tells her students.

Later, she explains, “The headline, of course, is a fake one, but the idea is that they become reporters, gathering information quickly. Each group creates a ‘down and dirty’ newspaper article. Then they see their product on the wall.”

Yet these “students” are actually teachers themselves. This is just one of the many exercises taking place as part of a five-day workshop last week to improve the skills of teachers of English in Morocco; sponsored by the British Council and the Moroccan Association of Friends of English (MAFE).

Instructor Mrs Guelzim, widely known as “Mrs Rachida", says, "This is a quick course for people who have done English language training on how to apply it,” . It’s primarily for English teachers in the private sector, and aims to raise the level of private school education.

From next year, new Moroccan government rules reducing the number of hours that teachers employed in the public sector can work at second jobs in private schools will create a gap in the market for new teachers of English. Given the demand for learning English in Morocco, it’s vital to ensure that novice teachers are aware of the latest student-centered learning methods.

“We pack everything into a few days,” says Mrs Rachida. “We tackle the four skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking, and also look at how to give instructions; classroom management and how to give feedback.”

“Rachida is a ball of energy,” says Richard Kahn, English language fellow from the US Department of State, who is sitting in on the course. “She's changing attitudes to make it a much more active classroom. Normally people just read in a school, and Rachida is really shaking that up.”

Rachida Guelzim’s usual job is as an inspector of English teachers for the Ministry of Education in Rabat. For the past 17 years, she has also been working with the British Council to improve the level of English teaching – and not just in Morocco. She also presents workshops in Tunisia and Algeria, and will shortly be visiting Libya.

“I have seen these people when they come in on Monday morning, and over the few days they become completely different – they become full of beans,” she says. “I try to give them activities that make the class as motivating as possible. We begin and end with games, and there is a reflection on every activity they do.”

Two of the participants, Fez based Asmae El Fakir and Redouem Ettaleb from Beni Mellel, (pictured above) say they feel “very lucky” to have done the course.

“It makes learning fun,” says Ms Fakir. “I’ve discovered many things which make students love the language and love their English class. If they feel bored, or don’t like the way of teaching, they can’t learn and won’t attend lessons regularly.”

Mr Ettaleb started tutoring English just this year, and says, “I’ve been exposed to a different approach to teaching and have come to understand more of the practical side.”

Ms Fakir says that it’s very important to constantly look for ways to update teaching methods. “The world is changeable, so we shouldn’t teach in same way all the time.”

In June the Teaching Knowledge Test program will be run at the American Language Center. Dates to be announced.

Info: British Council training courses for English teachers CLICK HERE. 

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