I felt embarrassed about even going in. But the teacher smiled and waved us forward, and so, hesitantly, all glancing around as if to ask each other's permission, my three friends and I slowly filed into the classroom.
What we saw there was unlike any classroom I'd ever seen before.
Many things I saw on my trip to Morocco two years ago were a shock to my senses, but this moment sticks with me, especially as I analyze ideal classroom settings in my Master's class right now.
It's difficult to describe if you've never had this sensation, but in that moment I felt a sharp stab of guilt at the privilege I've known my whole life. Those of us who live in the first world spend most of our lives ignorant of how the majority of the world lives. Even when we travel to poorer places and that veil is lifted, it can be difficult for us to come to terms with how truly rich we really are.
But something about that moment, being invited into a cramped and dirty classroom in the middle of Fez's bustling medina, interrupting a group of preschoolers chanting a lesson, being invited to take photos of them, all because the teacher was hoping we would give her some of our spare change, will stay with me forever.
Before that moment, I had never felt the ridiculousness of my privilege. But the incongruity of what we were being invited to do, the desperation necessary for such an act to be permitted, really struck me. That dingy classroom full of staring faces, with decades-old wooden desks and peeling walls, is still in my mind, even now.
When we discuss appropriate classroom settings on Friday afternoons at university, the ideal setup for learning, and how Spanish classrooms often do not measure up, I must force myself to remember this classroom in Fez. I need to think that no matter how annoyed I get that there is no floor area in my preschool classes, that the playground is so small, that the students are confined in desks 8 hours a day, I (and they) are still so privileged to be at the school we are, in Spain, learning English in a building with electricity and heating and even Smartboards.
We are SO lucky to be where we are, and we should never forget it.