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A Special Guest in a US Classroom

A classroom in the United States welcomed a special guest last week: the Program Coordinator from the Experiment in Morocco, Fairouz El Hamdaoui.

Social Studies teacher, Casey Deane, arranged the visit for his highschool students at Brattleboro Union High School in Vermont, where they were studying the geography and culture of Northern Africa.

“The students had been practicing the use of a geographer’s tools: data analysis, observation and mapping,” he said.  “But they hadn’t had a good chance to practice interviewing.”

Casey was delighted when Fairouz accepted the invitation to SKYPE into two of his classrooms. “The students got to work developing good questions, quickly realizing that to gather valuable information, they would need to focus in on specific topics.”

“They were shy at first,” Casey said, “But once they got started, the questions really flowed; and afterward, they were very excited about the experience.”

“I was happy to be their first exposure to this part of the world,” said Fairouz, who was projected onto a large screen during the interview. “Their questions varied from language to food, music to sports, holidays to dating, and from the political system to jobs in Morocco. Some of my favorite questions were: What is meaning of your name? and Are there cellphones in Morocco?”

Many of the students were surprised with what they had in common with Moroccan youth, and how willing Fairouz was to respond to their follow up questions candidly. Others appreciated how she compared her country with theirs.

Given some of the misconceptions in the United States around Muslims and Muslim women, Casey was delighted to have them meet Fairouz–a young professional woman from Rabat. “She broke many stereotypes,” he said.  “The interview now comes up in class as a reference point–a solid personal place from which to discuss culture and world issues.”

Casey was extremely grateful to Fairouz. “My students not only had an opportunity to practice interviewing, they also created a real-time connection with someone in Morocco. It shifted their sense of the world and shrunk not only the geographical distance, but more importantly–the human distance.”

About Fairouz El Hamdaoui: Fairouz is the Program Coordinator for Thaqafat Association (EIL Morocco)  and serves as a member of their board. Her work involves developing new educational and cultural programs, as well as coordinating and administering programs, such as: Volunteers for International Partnership (VIP Program) and City College of New York’s Study Abroad Program. Fairouz also volunteers with various Moroccan associations, and is a youth worker and leader on behalf of youth rights in Morocco. 

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