We’re not in Kansas Anymore

Every year at this time, the AASA International Seminar takes superintendents and other interested parties to other parts of the world. The intent is to learn about the educational systems and cultures in the places we visit. These trips never fail to make an impression on the participants.

This year’s trip to Morocco is no exception. It’s an hour bus ride through arid, desolate land to our first school visit to a tribal school in the remote hills outside of Marrakech. A brown landscape is sprinkled with the occasional green of scrub vegetation.

We learn from our guide that the school is very excited about our visit and that they have been preparing for it for days. This will not be a typical school visit. We are in a remote area that is home to one of the many isolated tribes that have occupied the territory for hundreds of years.

AASA President Deb Kerr smiles for a selfie with school students.

As we approached the school we noticed the large tent that has been placed out front to be our reception area. As we unload the bus, we notice a throng of men coming out of the tent to greet us. We are not in Kansas anymore. There is not a single woman to be seen.

Most of the participants in our group are women, including the five AASA presidents and past-presidents that are accompanying us.

The men are startled somewhat by their visitors, particularly the female contingents that are not shy about approaching them and shaking their hands.

Soon the ice is broken and hugs and smiles predominate – a small but poignant victory in a significant clash of cultures.

Daniel A. Domenech is the executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association