The French class was not so different from what I've experienced in IHS, except this was the students' 6th year of French and they speak it every day, so they're pretty fluent. Today they were studying a Moliere Play, "Le Bourgeois Gentil Homme." The teacher showed a video of one particular scene and the students were discussing the use of humor. (Side note: the school has exactly one computer projector; the teacher had to schedule its use well in advance.)
The math class was taught in Arabic. The good news is that I understood the math portion, which was integration by parts. It was brought home to me that most of the world, including us, uses Arabic numerals (shhh, don't tell homeland security), so that part was easy. The students were extremely competent. They don't have calculators so they're pretty fast with their calculations (is that a paradox?). For most of the class the teacher called students to the board and then, as far as I could tell, yelled at them in Arabic while they did really hard math. It looked like a lot of fun. Arabic is a really cool language, I just want to say. It's written from right to left, so that means that as the students move from one class to another they alternate from writing right to left, to left to right. I'm convinced that has to be good for your brain.
The English class was amazing. They never actually got to the lesson, which was infinitives vs, gerunds -- just as well, I was terrified of being called upon to explain the difference. Instead they started with a discussion of drugs (bad). Then they said that someone who uses drugs wouldn't go to heaven. Then they wondered about people who aren't Muslims: do they not go to heaven if they use drugs? Do they go to heaven even if they don't use drugs? This lead to a discussion of sin, and whether only Muslims have sins or whether there are universal sins. This road carried us to sex (of course, drugs and sex, the ubiquitous adolescent topics). A discussion of adultery versus prostitution ensued (which is worse? and what about male prostitution?), and finally, is it okay to take pleasure from sex?
I kept waiting for class to break down into snickers and giggles, but amazingly they just kept going. The teacher, my host, Mohammed, occasionally asked for clarification, but mostly he just facilitated. I guess what most amazed me -- in addition to the fact that this conversation was going on in English, their 3rd language -- was their open-mindedness and maturity. Their perspective was: these things are forbidden for Muslims, but are they inherently bad?
Anyhow, it was a pretty humbling day. I would have had a hard time competing in any of these classes. They don't have a lot of technology here, but they definitely have the discipline and the brains. Here's a link to a very brief VIDEO clip. Unfortunately I was so entranced by the English discussion I failed to record it. You just get French and math.