8:05, Wednesday October 5, 2022, World Teacher’s Day
I’m an English teacher in an expensive private school in Casablanca. I was hired a month ago as Head of the English Dept. I arrive at school early and punch the clock, none of the material in the classrooms work, but there’s one thing that works, the digital employee time clock that they installed at the start of the school year, just one month ago.
I go to my office and open the old run-down laptop that they loaned me, I go onto the ‘koolschools’ platform and check the names of the students in my 6th grade B section. They had their first quiz yesterday and one of them had a sprained right wrist. I had found a solution; he told me the answers and I wrote them on his quiz paper, except I didn’t know his name. Now I do. I write it on the top of the quiz with a note ‘couldn’t write.’ Usually I know all the kids’ names by this time in the schoolyear, but here the teachers don’t take the attendance. I just logged onto the platform a week ago for the first time and saw that all the kids’ photos are there, they’re not recent ones but I can make out who they are.
I have some time still so I do the synonym and antonym match up games on thefreedictionary.com as per my daily routine and share a memory on Facebook, it was from 3 years ago, I had just been awarded teacher of the month in another even more expensive private school. I add a note on the memory: Teacher of the Month for September 2019, fired one month later for refusing to pay 10000 dirhams for a work contract. The story is in my 5-star memoir "In the Lion's Den".
Time for class, it’s the 6th grade B section. I notice there’s no chalk and ask the coordinator to bring some. I make the rounds high-fiving all the kids, when I come back to the front of the classroom the chalk is there, I didn’t even notice the coordinator come and go. I write on the blackboard “I was correcting the quizzes when I spilled coffee all over them.” I draw a timeline with the past continuous and the past simple. I get everyone’s attention and point to the board, reading the sentence. Now I have everyone’s attention. “Just kidding everyone, it’s not true, I didn’t spill coffee on them, but before anyone asks, no, I didn’t correct them yet. This is today’s lesson.” I go on to explain the way we set the scene with the past continuous and then something happens in the past simple. The first exercise is listening, with a storyboard in their books, but since I don’t have any audio tools, I use the teacher’s manual with the audio text and turn it into a sketch, all the class plays it our three by three in front of the others by reading the text. I ask comprehension questions, and then use a series of question prompts on the board to get them all to write an imaginary story using the structure. They read their stories. End of class.
I have my next class at 11:30, the 6th grade A section. The director’s personal assistant has confirmed a meeting with him at my request between classes at 10, so I go to a small café next door to the school and have a tea and rolls to wait. Chaima comes in, a teacher that I hired to teach preschool English. She started just after me.
“Good Morning Ali, how’s everything?”
“Good Morning Chaima, Al Salam Alaykoum, Fine, thanks, Hamdullah. Everything alright with you?’
“Alaykoum Salam, I’m OK. Are you going to the party tonight?”
“I don’t know. It’s a bit far from my home, and they only sent us the invitation yesterday. I have a meeting with the director at 10. The deputy director told me Monday that there are some structural changes, but said the director would inform me. By the way, I sent the director a long email Sunday evening listing all of the things that aren’t right. There are interactive boards in all the classrooms but not one of them works. Everyone’s been using blackboard and chalk for the last month. There are no tools for audio or video. I even have the interactive digital books, but no way to use them in class.”
“It’s the same in the preschool. We really need the audio and video and we don’t have anything to work with. I’m worried, they’re doing a class observation this week. What can I do? I don’t know if I’ll stay. What about you?’
“I don’t know either. I’m loving the teaching, but that’s the only part I love at the moment. We’ll see, God knows what’s best. Did you get your pay yet?”
“Yes, I did.”
“That’s good. I didn’t get mine yet.”
“That’s right. I have to go now. Salam.”
“Salam Ali. Good luck in your meeting.”
“Thanks Chaima, but you know that luck doesn’t exist. There is only destiny, in which we have our part to play.”
I’m waiting in the school’s reception area. I see the director coming and going, not acknowledging my presence.
The director signals that he’s ready to see me. I enter his office and say “We have 5 minutes, I have class.”
“Oh, I’ll see you after class then.”
I go and teach the 6th grade A section, same lesson as earlier after a high-5 all around. In the middle of the lesson a woman comes in and hands me an envelope marked with my name (with a mistake in my name) and ‘Happy Teacher’s Day!’. It’s my printed invitation to the Teacher’s Day party tonight. I say to the kids “When you invite someone to a party, do you wait until the day before the party to send out the invitations?”
I’m waiting in the school’s reception area again, the director signals that he’s ready to see me. I enter his office and close the door.
“So, I’m listening, what did you want to see me about?” the director asks with a smirk.
“Monday morning the deputy director told me that there were some structural changes and that you would convoke me to inform me."
“Oh, so no one has informed you?”
“No. I don’t know anything. I’ve been waiting for three days to find out what it’s about.”
“We’ve decided to end our collaboration with you. We don’t like the way you manage your classes and we don’t like your methods.”
I blow up. “My methods! How can anyone talk about methods when we don’t have the proper tools!”
He glares “Don’t you dare raise your voice with me. You don’t have the right.”
I’m staring him in the eyes, with just as strong a glare. “Good bye.”
I go to my ‘office’ (just a little cubicle with a shitty old chair and desk) and pick up the uncorrected quizzes for the 5th and 6th grades that are on my desk. I pack my backpack leaving everything that is theirs except for the laptop. I go to the coordinator’s office and slam the uncorrected copies of the quizzes down on her desk. With a “Good Bye”.
Crossing the deputy director on my way out, I say, I’m keeping the laptop until I get my pay”.
When I’m in a taxi I call my wife to tell her the news.
“Don’t worry” she tells me. I know you’ll find work again. You’re a great teacher.”
At 62, having worked the last 4 years without taking a vacation, I’m wondering. I do love teaching, but perhaps it’s time for a change.