Teaching English in Morocco
In this guest post, Sibley tells us the ins and outs of teaching English in Morocco. We were there on holiday in January, and loved it, so this looks like an appealing place to teach English.
Why teach English in Morocco?
Simply put, Morocco has everything. It’s perched on the northwest corner of the African continent, but you can look across the straits of Gibraltar and see mainland Spain. Morocco has a mix of Arab, European, and African cultures that you won’t find anywhere else. It also has just about every type of outdoor activity you could want. There are mountains, beaches, deserts, lakes, and waterfalls. You can surf in Casablanca and ski in Ifrane and hike in the High Atlas all in the same week if you want to. You can shop in the Morocco Mall at world-famous department stores or buy traditional handmade leather products straight from the tanneries in Fez. Morocco offers tremendous diversity of landscapes, architecture, people, language, and culture.
What qualifications are necessary to teach English in Morocco?
It depends on the specific job, but in general, you need a college education, a CELTA or equivalent TEFL certification, and ideally some experience to teach English in Morocco. Native English speakers are preferred, but if you have proof of native-like proficiency, most employers will consider you. For example, about half of the “Native Teachers” at my job were Moroccan or in one case Russian, but the company considered them qualified if they had completed CELTA or if they were certified C1 or C2 in the Common European Framework. Because the school or company hiring the teacher must prove to the labor ministry that you are qualified, you do need some kind of officially recognized documentation of your expertise.
What kinds of teaching English jobs are available in Morocco?
Most Moroccan adults speak Arabic and French (or Spanish if you are in the northernmost part of the country), and sometimes one of the Berber languages that are native to the mountainous or desert regions. Learning English as a child is still relatively uncommon. Therefore, opportunities to teach English in Morocco with children are usually limited to international schools, as well as some private companies that offer classes for youth. English-speaking international schools can be found in the major cities (Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, Tangier, Fez) and these schools employ dozens of English-speaking teachers of all school subjects as well as English-speaking administrative workers.
In Morocco, it’s more common to learn English as an adult to pursue higher education abroad or to increase professional opportunities. I worked at Wall Street English, one of many private language centers in Casablanca. Others include BPEC, AMIDEAST, and the British Language Academy. Wall Street English is among the most expensive centers, so our students were mostly wealthy, well-educated professionals. This meant that they were generally motivated and quick to improve, although occasionally their sense of entitlement would interfere with the learning process. Most students were Moroccan, but we also had European students and students from other parts of Africa and the Arab world who happened to be living in Casablanca.
What kind of visa is necessary to teach English in Morocco?
For passport holders of most European and most English-speaking countries (South Africa is an exception), it is possible to get a tourist visa on arrival to Morocco that is valid for 90 days. During that time, you and your employer should work together to get your paperwork submitted for your work visa or residency permit, known in French as the carte de sejour. This is a long and tedious process. If it takes longer than 90 days (and it probably will) you will need to leave Morocco and re-enter as a tourist to get another 90 days. Because Morocco is so close to Spain, this is fairly simple to do. You can take a cheap flight to Madrid or even a bus up to Ceuta, the Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast. Even if you are outside of Morocco for less than 24 hours, you can return for another 90 days. For various reasons that you can read about in detail on my own TEFL blog, it took 10 months for me to finally receive my carte sejour. The residency is valid for one year from the date of issue. After that year, you can choose to reapply for a visa duration of up to 10 years to avoid having to deal with the process so often.
What are working conditions like in Morocco?
At my job as English teachers in Morocco, we worked 8-hour shifts, which included 90 minutes for lunch and one 30-minute break, so 6 hours of actual teaching. Also, every other Saturday we would work a half day of just 3 hours. During less busy times of year, we often would not be fully booked, so sometimes even during the week I taught as little as 3 classes per day. Most of the lesson materials were pre-planned. We were expected to use our long lunch and break to do any additional preparation and enter our class results into the computer system. Unlike when I taught at a school, I found that at this kind of language center, I could easily finish all my responsibilities during work hours, so I never had to take work home with me.
According to Moroccan labor law, employees are entitled to 18 paid days of vacation per year. This was in addition to government and Islamic holidays. Wall Street English was open year-round, but my friends who worked at one of the largest American schools in Casablanca, George Washington Academy, had long summer vacations as well as fall, winter, and spring breaks.
Moroccan work culture is a little more laid-back than in some other countries. Punctuality and efficiency are still important, but not to the degree that is customary in the U.S.
How much can you get paid as an English teacher in Morocco
Naturally, it depends on the job. In general, English teachers in Morocco are paid a sufficient salary to live a comfortable lifestyle within Morocco, but savings will be relatively modest. I made 12000 dirhams per month, or about $1300 USD. Because the cost of living in Casablanca was fairly low, I was always able to put away 30-40% each month, occasionally dipping into those savings for travel around Morocco and short trips to Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Credit cards are accepted in some places, but it’s generally best to carry cash for most purchases in Morocco.
What’s it like living in a Muslim country?
If you are from a non-Muslim country, some things will stick out right away. The prayer call is audible five times per day, including very early in the morning. Most large businesses have a designated place for prayer. Many people, particularly older men and women and those in rural areas, wear traditional long robes called djellabas.
However, most differences are much subtler. For example, holidays are slightly unpredictable, because they are based on the religious authority’s observation of the phases of the moon. My manager might say “We are off for the Eid on Wednesday… or maybe Thursday. We will know for sure by Tuesday. I’ll text you.” On rare occasions, if you are a woman, a man might politely decline to shake your hand. PDA is considered highly inappropriate, so you won’t see couples hugging or kissing, although a kiss on each cheek is a common greeting among friends regardless of gender.
Alcohol is somewhat expensive and less common in restaurants, but it’s still readily available in bars, hotels, and some grocery stores. During Ramadan, work hours are shortened, and if you are not a Muslim, you are expected to eat and drink in private as a courtesy to those fasting around you, but in the evenings you will probably be invited to a festive ftour, the breaking of the fast.
In general, Moroccans are tolerant and respectful of other religions. However, it is illegal for to seek to proselytize Moroccan Muslims. Major cities have French-speaking and English-speaking churches where foreign Christians can worship, but outside evangelism is not permitted.
Do you have to dress differently?
For men and women, the standards of professional dress are generally the same as in the West. As for everyday attire, for men, it is uncommon to wear shorts except for working out. For women, a little more modesty is the norm. Some women, especially older women, only show the face and hands. However, young women in urban areas often wear the same attire you might see in Europe or America. In Morocco, it is a Muslim woman’s choice to wear the hijab or not. It’s common for married women and women in rural areas, but relatively rare among young, single women in urban areas. As a foreigner, as long as I did not go out with bare shoulders, short shorts or skirts, or low-cut tops, my normal clothes were acceptable, and I was never expected to cover my hair.
Is Morocco safe?
In general, yes. While there is a risk of pickpocketing in urban centers, violent crime is rare. As a woman, you can expect significant street harassment when you are alone in unfamiliar areas, but it rarely escalates beyond passing comments of “Bonjour!” and “Beautiful!” A couple of times, I was followed for several blocks, but I was never physically threatened or touched. The catcalling can be somewhat mitigated by wearing dark sunglasses and walking with a sense of purpose. I personally felt safe by myself during the day through 9 pm or 10 pm in most areas of Casablanca and in well-populated touristic areas of the other cities I visited. If I wanted to go out late at night or venture off the beaten path, I would usually try to enlist a friend for company.
How is the food in Morocco?
Excellent! Traditional Moroccan foods include couscous, tajine, pastilla, fresh fruit juices, and a variety of pastries. My personal favorite is msimen, a crepe-like breakfast or snack food commonly served with honey. Everything is halal, even all the food at McDonald’s! For special diets such as vegan or gluten-free, you will encounter some difficulties in rural areas where meat and bread comprise large portions of the cuisine. In major cities, it is easy to accommodate all kinds of dietary needs.
Read more about Moroccan food in our post What to eat and drink in Marrakesh
Final thoughts on teaching English in Morocco?
I loved my time teaching English in Morocco, and I predict that I will find my way back somehow. Want something new, diverse, and challenging? Something with modern amenities and traditions that date back centuries? An opportunity to learn Arabic or French? Take a look at teaching English in Morocco. I’m glad I did.
If you are thinking of teaching English abroad, we have lots of posts with experiences from real TEFL teachers in countries like Ukraine, Colombia, China, South Korea and Taiwan on our page Teaching English abroad.
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