Note: “9” denotes a throaty “K” sound in Darija, or Moroccan Arabic.
“Simu gal, 9is nose dyalk,” I shouted at the roomful of eager-looking teenage girls.
Glancing at one another through bashful giggles, they shot their hands to their noses.
Immediately noticing how quickly they learned the words I taught them, I attempted to trick them:
“9is head dyalk,” I exclaimed.
A few girls touched their heads, then immediately realized I didn’t say, “Simu gal.”
Through hysterical laughter, the girls who didn’t touch their heads immediately pointed at the girls who did, and shouted, “Gilsi,” or “Sit down!”
“Simu gal, 9is [body part] dyalk” roughly translates to, “Simon says, touch your [body part],” and the girls were astonishingly good at the game. Seeing as how I’ve known this game since early childhood, I can personally attest to the girls’ ability to pick up American games with ease. Their ages range from 11 to 18, and their levels of English all vary. However, one thing is overwhelmingly clear: these girls are exceptionally smart.
They live and study in Agourai, the town where my Community-Based Training (CBT) group is located. During the week, between twenty and thirty girls live in a facility called a Dar Taliba, which literally translates to “House of Female Students.” Agourai is a larger town in the midst of vast swaths of farmland, and many of the smaller farming villages don’t have middle schools or high schools. Because of this, many students—both female and male—must live in Agourai during the week so they can attend school. Girls live in the Dar Taliba, and boys live in the Dar Talib. These facilities are government-funded, and parents generally pay small fees for insurance purposes.
My CBT group has worked with the girls at the Dar Taliba before, and we LOVE them. Never before have I met so many young people with the same insatiable thirst for knowledge, and as a fierce advocate of girls’ education, I’m physically moved by these young women. When I was given the option to work with them on my first practicum activity, you bet I said, “YES.”
Practicum Activities: Background
The Pre-Service Training (PST) practicum is a set of activities that allows trainees to apply what was learned in class to a real-world context. PST is ultimately competency-based, so these practicum activities allow us to self-assess our own progress, and allow staff to provide feedback for our own benefit. At the beginning of training, we were given a Trainee Assessment Portfolio, and one of its requirements is the proper facilitation of a learning event using Peace Corps’ teaching rubric.
In Morocco, Peace Corps staff considers the following activities to be part of the practicum of applied learning:
Teach at least one content-based English lesson
Lead at least one activity/session
As long as we implement both of these activities, we are allowed to design our lessons however we please. For this activity, I took an approach that subtly reflected biology, my college major. Using the game, “Simon Says,” or in Darija, “Simu Gal,” I taught the girls a number of body parts in English. I originally hoped this lesson would help them learn more about their bodies, but it ultimately proved a great way to get them up and moving.
I initially taught them the English names of standard body parts, then performed an example game of “Simu Gal” with my CBT group. However, the girls caught on quickly and soon took over:
The winner of the final round got to play it in Darija with us:
As I mentioned before, these girls are brilliant, and working with them is such a treat. They don’t judge us for our infantile language skills; they encourage and lift us up. They appreciate that we’re learning their language, and they’re genuinely excited to learn ours. The acquisition of new perspectives is a crucial part of the Peace Corps experience, and these girls have shared with me a part of their lives that can truly only be attained through grassroots work.