Saturday, April 12, 2008

STORY OF JOB -- 2 of 3

May 2007 – July 2008

Spring semester 2007, and we were busy making plans for more improvements and more growth in Agadir for the 07-08 school year when the bomb was dropped… our proprietor was backing out. Moulay Said told us in mid-May that he was having heart problems and would have to be gone much of the year for treatment in France. He just could not take the stress of worrying about the fate of our fledgling school. Fair, but utterly disappointing… not to mention we suddenly had no jobs. So, we began to feel out ways we could keep things going. We spoke to the parents and told them we were going to try to open a school on our own. We visited the Center for Regional Investment with our business plan, we visited villas with a real estate agent, we spoke to the parents and other local educators, all trying to make it work. We contacted a school in Casablanca that we had previously visited for advice, and spoke at great length about the option of franchising their school. We had one parent interested in investing the money we needed for start-up. And in June, our boss asked us to stop trying. He was still stressed out over the whole shebang. As Denise and I had started with him, he felt that anything we did on our own would ultimately be traced back to him. Turns out he didn’t so much have all of the appropriate permissions to do what we were doing in Agadir, and he was terrified of someone asking too many questions. So, in June 2007, Denise and I accepted that we were jobless, gave up the exciting and terrifying thought of beginning our own international school, and started to consider… what next?

We began the “Shannon and Denise International Job Search.” Very organized and efficient, I must say. We created a form on which to record the contact name, details about the job, what we had sent in application, etc. We had both just been married at that point, and the boys are limited in their easy options for travel. They could go to Turkey or Tunisia with no special visas, so we applied to schools there. We also hoped that if we got a job in a middle east country or Egypt that perhaps we could sort out visas easily enough, so we applied far and wide. We contacted that Casablanca school just in case, and they did have a few openings. So, we began talking to CV, the Principal, and HT, the Director. Bit of foreshadowing for you: Little did we know that by the time we visited the school to sign contracts, both of these men would be gone.

We were torn. We got replies… several from Turkey. Something in us wanted to venture outside of Morocco (and the boys were keen to see other parts of the world). However, in the end, my father’s practicality lives strong in me, and we began focusing on our possibilities with the school in Casablanca. One of the greatest benefits of choosing to go to Casablanca is that we had the opportunity to sign contracts for the 2007-08 school year before we went home to the states for a summer 07 visit (Our previous boss in Agadir honored his part of our contract to buy us a ticket home in the summer). On late June, we knew that the principal in Casablanca, CV, was leaving for the summer. At that point, our dealings began to be with the Business Manager, AG. We negotiated our contracts with him by phone, and traveled to Casablanca on July 7, 2007 to sign contracts. Denise as a music teacher, and me as an elementary classroom teacher. We travelled overnight by bus/train, and arrived in Casa at 8:30ish am. We found a bathroom in which to freshen ourselves, and then we took a taxi to the school.

Side note: If you notice my hesitancy to type the name of the school, that’s because I don’t want anyone associated with the school to be able to search the internet about the school and find this site. I’d much rather keep it a secret and be able to talk about my co-workers without worry!

Back to the story. We arrived at the school in Casa, and we met with AG and the founder of the school, SK. At this point CV, former principal, and HT, former director, were gone for good, and they had already hired a new Principal, a woman named Jodi, to be delivered in late July. We chatted about our experiences in Agadir, and what they were looking to do in Casa. They also want to franchise the school into other cities, so that’s one reason they were very interested in us… our experience in starting/running the school. They discussed the possibility of sending us to another city in Morocco in the future, perhaps back to Agadir, to open a new school. So, as we discussed the plans in Casa, they let me know that they had considered my experience and now envisioned my role with them as working with the administration in the area of student discipline, etc. That sounded interesting to me, and we continued talking as they gave us a tour of the school. They also showed us the apartment upstairs, as that is what they were proposing for housing. They said they were out of apartments, and that if we were both to receive school housing the four of us would have to share once again. We walked downstairs to fill out contracts, and when it came time for AG to type in my job title, he turned to the owner and asked what to call me. SK thought for a moment and replied, “Assistant Principal.”


STORY OF JOB -- 1 of 3

Jan 2006 - May 2007

Most of you know this story… So here’s a very brief recap. On New Year’s Day 2006 I got a call from my friend Denise who had recently moved from Ireland to Morocco. The tiny start up school that she was working for was losing one of two teachers. On January 24, 2006, I arrived in Agadir, Morocco to teach for the spring semester. It was a one-room type setup with seven students aged 3 – 6 years. I usually get really involved in projects, and this was no exception. By the time the end of the semester rolled around in June 2006, I had decided to return for the 06-07 school year. Perhaps my involvement with Hassan helped make that decision.

So, I went home for 3 weeks in the summer of 06, and I returned to Agadir to teach the massive 1st grade class… 3 students. Our overall enrollment had grown from 7 to 11, and we had 2 preschool students and a kindergarten class of 6. The proprietor of the school, Moulay Said, was the director of the Moroccan private school which housed our operation. As his trust in us grew, he was more and more hands off. He would wander downstairs once a week or so and ask us what we needed. That left us, Denise and me, to manage and operate our little school. We began the process for accreditation, we wrote promotional material, we visited the governor of the city and spoke with personnel from the US embassy on behalf of the school. I remember the most challenging aspect being our daily dealings with the parents of our 11 students. One was very down to earth, a few were always late, one drank too much, a couple were vicious gossips, one was an elderly single dad, and one…. oh, that one… very opinionated, very prejudiced, very controlling, very concerned father. I thought he was going to drive me to drink before my experience with him was finished. I wish I had kept a record of my dealings with him. There’s no way I could piece it all together at this point and convey the real madness of it.

I just can't count the times he said something that left me staring at him in bewilderment... blink... blinkblink.