A Reflection from SCALI 2010

Upon my teaching of elementary Arabic at the Summer Cooperative African Languages Institute (SCALI) hosted this past summer by Michigan State University, I was able to enjoy, learn, and add together a  great deal of experience to my professional development. A week before the institute started, I participated in a professional workshop that dealt with issues related to teaching and learning African languages. I mostly enjoyed the mini-lessons that instructors of African languages presented during the workshop. It was a great reflection of what we learned during the workshop and most importantly the background that each instructor brought with her/him. I was able to pick up some of the useful expressions and greetings that my colleagues presented in their mini-lessons, and I used those expressions to  socialize with my colleagues and the students during the institute.

The research forums organized by SCALI every Monday created a distinctive opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to present their research papers that were mostly focused on issues related to the African continent such as the environmental, ethnographic, and linguistic ones. Of course, SCALI was not only about learning an African language; it was an opportunity of learning different aspects of the culture mainly dancing and cooking. Mmmmmm!!! Cooking was the best part; every other week three different language classes were required to cook an authentic food of the country where the language is spoken. I noticed how students were so happy to attend this activity and try to learn how to make some of the dishes. When  it was my class’s turn, I should say we blew it with different Moroccan dishes including: Tajine and couscous.

The institute had a lot to offer - in particular, the idea of how rewarding and meaningful a  group and collaborative orientation in any program could be. The more tangible benefits have been a deeper insight into broadening my understanding of teaching and an incredible amount of personal growth. My main concern at the institute was encouraging my students to learn Arabic. The whole experience in SCALI was about sharing to the fullest my language and culture. It was also about the  practical job of teaching; I was interested in building strong and lasting relationships with my institute fellows and students. Also, relationships were formed with the rest of the people at the African studies  office at Michigan State University. It was always neat to see the smiles on their faces whenever I showed up in their office.

Being a responsible instructor means being there for my students and an active  member at the program, not just looking out for my friends or myself. It’s more than just doing my job, because that’s what I was expected to do. It’s doing the unexpected to make our program, and even our students’ learning experience, a great one. The early planning of activities I made for my class, made my students well prepared for a successful and distinguished performance on the two cultural activities organized by SCALI. Indeed, I felt connected  with my students and I know I made them feel happier, busier, and quite challenged. They are not just “students at my Arabic class” to me now; they are Alex, Betsy, Caitlin, Erika, Evan, Jeff, Jeremy, and Matt.

Said Hannouchi October 24, 2010