Maya is a NSLI-Y student in the Academic Year program in Morocco (2015-2016) administered by Legacy International. NSLI-Y Interactive sent Maya some questions about the Connect Program in Morocco, where NSLI-Y students teach English to underprivileged Moroccan public school teenagers, and asked her about how language teaching has affected her language learning. Below are excerpts from her responses.
In terms of English language learning, the Moroccan students in the Connect Program are at a disadvantage to their private school peers because they begin English much later, so the program affords them an opportunity to counteract that disadvantage. The students are selected through an interview and application process, and upon selection, they are awarded the scholarship covering ten weeks of language instruction, all materials, and a transportation stipend.
Maya writes, “My experience [with the Connect Program] has been very positive because I am constantly amazed by the seriousness and self-initiative of the students.” She mentions that in her own country it’s relatively rare for students to go out of their way to learn a new language, and she really enjoys seeing how engaged and fully participative the Connect Program students are. In addition, the program is a mutually beneficial experience because it allows for a natural cultural exchange between her as a teacher and her students. She adds,”The program is also very sustainable, and well-planned, which makes the experience that much more meaningful.”
Maya has never wanted to be a teacher, but this experience has made her see how rewarding it is to see students grow from the very beginning and to be a part of their transformation. She writes, “I am really grateful for the [English language teaching] training because it taught me very tangible skills and concepts that I can carry through into any setting I ultimately enter, not only teaching, because through this role you have to be a leader to your class, understand how to communicate and navigate through different people, and help facilitate their learning, which are concepts applicable to countless scenarios. Additionally, it is a great opportunity to explore a job I would have never explored, and see what it is like to be in that position.”
Asked about a memorable experience she had with the Connect Program, Maya writes, “One day, a student of mine went out of his way to go sit by another student and explain a challenging concept to her, and I was really impressed by the ability of the student to be able to teach the other student and the sentiment of wanting all of the students to learn and work together.”
Reflecting on how language teaching has affected her language learning, Maya writes, “I have a much better appreciation and understanding for all of what my language teachers do. I see how difficult their job is as you have to simultaneously create a good environment for yourself as the teacher and also for the students, staying aware of their needs and knowledge levels. Additionally, this experience has helped me to interact with more Moroccans outside of the various communities I normally interact, which is really valuable for my overall experience in Marrakech.”
Some challenges Maya has had to overcome as a teacher include: being aware of and controlling her language use, both the speed and her choice of words to make sure that it is understandable to her students, and continually checking in with her students to truly see if they comprehend what she is saying.
In the end, Maya says that the Connect Program helped her in terms of reaching her language goals for NSLI-Y. She writes,
It gives me much greater empathy for my teachers and encourages me to be a better participant in class, and truly trying to focus. They really want me to understand, and I need to do my part in being aware of how I am engaging in the class, and trying to give back to them as much as I know they are having to put in. I also have a much greater understanding of how difficult it can be to only explain something in the target language, and why a teacher may say that we will discuss something at a later point. Additionally, it has given me a different perspective on the process of language acquisition, and helped me to be more patient and aware of my own language growth, and how much of a process learning a new language really is.”