August 13, 2013

Lessons Learned from Teaching English to Mothers of Visually-Impaired Children


Photo of English Language Fellow Participant, Marquita English Language Fellow Participant, Marquita Marquita worked at an American Language Center in Marrakech
When Marquita Green accepted the fellowship for the English Language Fellow Program in Morocco, she never imagined she would have the opportunity to work with such a dedicated group of teachers and staff. Through the program, Marquita has worked at an American Language Center in Marrakech, teaching English to the mothers of blind or visually impaired children, so the mothers are able to read to their kids and help them learn.

“The project was conceived by the Moroccan aide to the teacher of visually-impaired children’s English classes at the American Language Center,” says Marquita. “She felt the moms could benefit far more from English lessons than from two hours of gossiping while their blind children were in their own English class.”

Marquita admits that she was skeptical at first about this project since she thought that talking about raising one or two visually-impaired children was more important for the mothers than learning English.

“We began with greetings, weather, the alphabet, numbers, common objects, and parts of the body,” Marquita explains. “Sixteen weeks on, the moms’ English had not come far. Yet they were learning to read a simple children’s book, one that does not depend on lovely pictures to enjoy.”

One of the most rewarding experiences for Marquita was working with Khadija, the mother of two visually-impaired children.

“Khadija sees English as a way for her children to have a chance at decent jobs,” Marquita says. “Her encouragement shows in their enthusiasm. One of Khadija’s sons hopes to study English at university one day, and he teaches his younger, sighted brother. Khadija’s daughter wants to be a teacher. ”

Marquita is grateful for this experience and learned so much about the importance of personal interaction in Morocco.

“Far more than in the U.S., these connections make the difference between polite inaction and eager participation,” Marquita says. “In the end, I’m taking so much more than I’m giving in this exchange.”


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