Lhou is an English instructor in Tinghir, Morocco, teaching English as a second language to students aged fifteen and eighteen at Ahmad Oubahdou High School in the Mellab-Errachidia District. At the same time, Lhou specializes in multilingual crisis communications as part of his PhD program at Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University.
His journey with Soliya’s Global Circles began when one of his colleagues shared a link on WhatsApp, inviting him to apply for the program. Intrigued, he applied and soon was connected with participants around the world to discuss challenging topics. Global Circles, which are short online dialogues around compelling current global issues, opened his eyes to the importance of cultural awareness and the value of being exposed to diverse views and perspectives. “I have become more aware of the cultural and societal differences between communities. As a result, I am more conscious of how I act and think when interacting with people from different backgrounds. This has allowed me to be more open-minded,” he reflected. The experience also allowed him to become more comfortable talking about global issues. “I am more confident in my ability to communicate and interact with people from different backgrounds, and I am more aware of the importance of maintaining an open and respectful dialogue when discussing challenging topics.”
This experience has since influenced his professional career. As a teacher, he used to think his students were too young to know right from wrong. After participating in Global Circles, he came to appreciate how, at times, there is no right or wrong, only different perspectives. Throughout the two rounds he participated in, he began to appreciate and seek diversity of views. Lhou realized the importance of giving a voice to those whose views are overlooked.
In one particular lesson, he chose the role of media in society as a discussion topic. He discovered some of his students believed that “media was always bad,” which was in conflict with Lhou’s views. However, instead of arguing with his students as he might have done in the past, he leaned in to listen and opened himself up to perspectives that were different than his own. He encouraged everyone to share their views. He made sure his students felt comfortable to contribute and express their thoughts.
“I became better at listening, asking good questions and leading inclusive conversations,” said Lhou. He quickly found that by taking this approach, his classroom discussions became more productive and meaningful. His students felt included and accepted. All of these factors, in turn, led to increased student engagement, improved communication, and better learning outcomes overall.
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Global Circles is implemented by Soliya and is supported by the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative (JCSVEI). JCSVEI is a U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs program administered by the Aspen Institute.