Teacher explains her time in Morocco as part of the Teachers for Global Classroom fellowship program
Editor's note: A Bellefonte Area High School teacher had an opportunity to enhance her knowledge of global education while on a trip to Morocco. This came for English teacher Ashlie Crosson, who was approved last year as one of 76 teachers nationwide selected for the Department of State’s Teachers for Global Classroom yearlong fellowship. She applied to the program more than a year ago, with a letter of recommendation from Superintendent Michelle Saylor, and was accepted last summer. Crosson, who’s been with the district since 2012, said the program required her to take a 10-week intensive online course implemented by the International Research and Exchanges board. She was then asked to reflect on how what she learned fits into her class and the Bellefonte Area School District. Its mission was to help provide a foundation for implementing global education initiatives into teacher classrooms. In February, she headed to Washington D.C. for a two-day symposium, accompanied by high school Principal Mike Fedisson and other fellows, to create research questions and collaborate on ideas with others heading to the same country. That was followed by a 16-day field experience in a foreign country.
In a time zone that’s five hours ahead of Bellefonte, Crosson explains her TGC experience that took her to Morocco.
I taught in Africa. I don’t know how many other American teachers can cross that off their bucket list, but I can. This year, I have been involved in a Teachers for Global Classrooms fellowship and through this opportunity, I spent two weeks in Morocco with a dozen other educators.
Before Morocco, I had been to 12 foreign countries, so I wasn’t worried about homesickness or culture shock. I should have been because 1) Africa isn’t Europe and TGC isn’t a vacation. From religion to lodging to restrooms, each day presented an unfamiliar cultural perspective; and 2) teaching is different than being a tourist, and being in the classroom made me quickly miss my students.
How did I hit my Moroccan curve balls? The student part was easy: I made a teacher Instagram account and within minutes my kids were following. The cultural adjustments took considerably more grit. For the second week, I was stationed in Taza with a gifted teacher from North Carolina. Taza, set at the base of the Atlas Mountains, isn’t a tourist town — it felt like we were the only Americans in the city, and the environment was cold and stark compared to the coastal sunshine we had experienced in Rabat, Morocco’s capital. It was extra hard because we were only in pairs rather than with our large group. We did all we could think to do at the time — we leaned into our discomfort. With a wonderful host and some perseverance, we made Taza our temporary home, and its people became our forever friends.
It’s no surprise Morocco impacted my perspective. While there, I was somehow simultaneously proud and humbled — proud of how incredible our district is; proud of the opportunities we give our students. At the same time, I was humbled by how much Moroccan teachers can do with so little and by how sincerely their culture shows gratitude and respect. While Morocco may learn from us about educational innovation, Americans could stand to learn from Moroccans about what it really means to be grateful for privileges and how to show kindness to strangers.
I think, now, the hardest part of my trip ending is simply that it’s over. The food was great, but best part of the trip was interacting with all these bright-eyed, eager, ambitious funny, talented, curious students, and it saddened me to say goodbye just as I was starting to get to know them.
Despite my bittersweet farewell, I’m beyond excited for the opportunities ahead of me. TGC has active alumni and offers grants available to make global competencies a prominent part of our schools. It’s been a lot of work this year, but the rewards have been tenfold. TGC has taught me an invaluable personal and professional lesson: while taking risks may lead us down uncertain roads, adventure starts at the end of your comfort zone.
*You may also find more information here: https://www.basd.net/Page/13486