Students in Morocco are steered toward either arts or science tracks in their upper secondary years. Humanities and the arts are unfortunately underemphasized. Low achievers are pushed toward the arts track, and students are not generally well informed about what the different tracks mean in terms of their future level of opportunity.
Librarians and libraries, guidance counselors, school social workers and psychologists are lacking. This places a heavy burden on classroom teachers, especially in the public schools where classes may reach 40 or 50 students in number. The majority of public school students lack adequate emotional support in a very stressful environment. Yet, despite all of these challenges, those students I met were hopeful about their futures.
When I asked them about their dreams,
the answers varied from public to private. Popular options for public school students included police officer and soldier. Several female students mentioned wanting to do work of any kind that "would help their family," or "help to make a difference in the world."
Many students wanted to know about steps they could take to get to the U.S. for university studies. My teaching partner, Lilia ben Ayed, who grew up in Tunisia, has served as a wonderful role model for the students, and shares about her early years of hard work and study which resulted in her receiving a scholarship to the University of Missouri.
Students in the private schools shared dreams of becoming engineers, scientists and doctors. The students appeared every bit as stressed out as many of our American students about their upcoming exams. I gave them suggestions about time management and study skills, and promised to share hand-outs and videos on the topic as a follow up. I also shared about the importance of adequate sleep and nutrition, exercise and the benefits of deep breathing and meditation to combat anxiety.
We encouraged all of the students we met to stay open to all possibilities, to study hard but also to take care of themselves. At this suggestion, many of them offered us wide smiles of gratitude. I am deeply touched by how much our caring matters to them.