On “Winging It”

Yesterday was my fourth observed lesson. I was teaching the Elementary group again (on Tuesday it had consisted of 6 very chatty ladies), so I was really excited to do some fun pair-work and group activities with them, and basically my entire lesson plan from the warmer all the way to the filler was based on pair-work.

Only one student showed up.

And thus began Holly’s education in “winging it”. The good news is, it was one of the ladies who had been there on Tuesday, Marcela, and she was by far the most eager and willing student. The bad news is, of all the students who could’ve shown up, she probably has the lowest level of skill with the language. She was lovely though, and she tried so hard. I wanted to give her a big hug at the end!

Anyway, there were a couple activities I had to completely throw out – there was no way to do them with only one student. My warmer, for example, would’ve had two students sitting back-to-back, one would describe a picture I gave them, the other would try to draw it based on their description. Can’t really do that alone.

I’m actually really proud of how I handled it though. In a way, I thought it was quite nice because I got to really focus on Marcela’s needs. I played the listening activity more times than I would’ve for a group, since I could tell she needed it. Our trainers tell us to “teach to the majority” most of the time, because if 99% of your students understand something, you can’t afford to keep going over it just for that 1%. So if the whole class had been there, poor Marcela might’ve struggled more with some of those activities. But, because it was just the two of us, I got to give her more time, and at the end she really had a very good understanding of the new lexis. It was all travel themed (the sights of a city: castles, statues, museums, etc), and I had her do an activity at the end where I said, “I’m visiting Prague,” which of course she knows, so I said, “What sights should I see?” and she planned out a lovely little list of things I should visit in Prague. Many of them I’ve already been to, but she was just so darn excited about it that I think I might go see them again anyway!

The lesson was observed again, so after Emma taught (a second student arrived for her lesson – lucky!), our trainer Dan gave me my feedback. He thought I’d handled the abrupt change to the plans really well. He gave me some good tips on other ways to handle it in the future (For example, sit down with the student, which really seems like it should’ve been obvious! Duh, Holly.) and gave me another pass. Four-for-four! I have two more lessons, one of which will be observed.

After that, I literally ran up the hill to meet my 1×1 student Helena for our second lesson. We had talked quite a lot about her family during our first meeting, so I used that as our theme. I showed her a clip from the movie “About Time”, because in the first two minutes the main character Tim describes his family in a really lovely way. He speaks pretty slowly, too, without a lot of pauses, and it’s right in the beginning, so she hasn’t missed any plot or anything that would confuse her. I had her do a couple activities based on that – write down the characteristics of the family members described, fill in the blank work-sheet of the transcript, etc. Then I had her do a speaking activity where she followed the same format to describe her family to me. It went really well.

We don’t actually have proper class today. We each have a 10-minute meeting with Dan to basically progress check and talk about the grammar presentations we did on Tuesday in a bit more detail. Then I’m going to be at the school working on the big paper (about the 1×1 assignment) for a couple hours, and then Kelly, Sam, Sierra and I are going to the Globe for a study party. The paper is due Monday, but we’d all like to get as much done as possible today, since tomorrow (Saturday) we’ve all signed up for an extra seminar on teaching Young Learners, which will take up most of the day.

Apparently it’s the first time they’re offering this seminar, so we’re sort of the guinea pigs. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m more than likely going to be teaching Kindergarten-8th grade in Korea, so I could probably use all the help in the world given I have next to no experience with kids. Anyway, it should be very interesting, but will take up a huge chunk of Saturday so I really need to get a lot done today.

Haven’t taken any pictures since last time I wrote, but here’s one of my very favorites from last weekend (below).

Image

The Lover’s Bridge.

Love from Prague!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Three for Three!

I’m halfway through what is definitely the craziest week at TEFL we’ve had yet. I’m sitting in the Globe café again – I got so much done here last time! – and I’m about to begin Lesson Planning Palooza! Round 2. 

The first Lesson Planning Palooza! definitely took place on Monday night. I didn’t get a ton done on Sunday – I was pretty wiped after this weekend, so when class ended at 6pm on Monday, I really had to buckle down and get stuff done. Tuesday was a big day for us – we all had to give grammar presentations and then I was teaching again Tuesday afternoon and I was about 99% sure it would be observed (which it was). I was up very late on Monday, until about 2:30am (Tuesday morning, I suppose) getting everything done.

I got up around 7:30am on Tuesday to look everything over again, and I still needed to add a filler (exactly what it says on the tin – an extra activity in case you finish your lesson early) to my lesson plan for that afternoon. It’s a really good thing I looked everything over again, because my lesson plan didn’t add up to 50 minutes – I only had like 44 minutes or something. Apparently my math is not very good at 2:30 in the morning. So I got that taken care of, and then went to the school when it opened at 9 because I needed to print and make copies of assorted stuff.

When class started at 10, our trainer Dan had us line up in alphabetical order by the name of our first-ever pet. He’s always having us do stuff like that, so no one questioned it and it turned out to be the order we would give our presentations in. I was second – damn you Bun Bun! (Just kidding, Bun Bun. I hope you’re very happy in bunny heaven.) We all gave our presentations, and after each one Dan went through and it talked about what was good and what could be done better, etc. Mine went pretty well (I was teaching gerunds and how they are used to express likes and dislikes), and I got some good tips on things to improve my presentation. Dan then assigned us yet another grammar presentation for next week, which we be very similar to this one, but we have to find our own material this time. That took us all the way to lunch, and then after lunch I was up first to teach!

Emma and I were teaching the Elementary level, which is the lowest level at our school. We had 6 very chatty ladies to contend with. I was teaching my first full-on grammar lesson, and I was pretty nervous about it since I was pretty sure we were going to be observed. I knew I had really put a lot of work into it though. I was teaching the Present Perfect (I’ve been/I’ve never been) and they seemed to understand the grammar pretty well once I went through the presentation. The tough thing about grammar lessons (vs. the other lessons I’ve taught so far), is that you have to do a lot of the talking. There’s really no other way around it. In a speaking lesson, you just need to get them speaking really, but grammar has to be presented. I had mapped out how I was going to put things on the board beforehand, and had pretty much scripted my entire lesson, which was very useful to me. I snuck in a speaking activity at the very beginning as a warmer before they had to read some text, and I got a bit in at the end as well. I had a lot of pair-work activities to check their understanding of the grammar as well, so that broke it all up nicely.

After Emma’s lesson, our observer Karin (she’s the third trainer, but she doesn’t teach any of our lessons, she just observes when we teach) did our feedback. Since we’re in week 3 now, we get our feedback individually, so Emma left the room while Karin and I talked about my lesson. She asked what I thought of it, and I said that I thought it went pretty well. I stuck to my lesson plan almost to the minute, and I used all of my scripts, and thought they had understood the grammar. Karin said she thought overall my grammar presentation was almost perfect (I’m like, really?!), and that she could tell how much work I’d put into breaking it up and using language appropriate to the lower level. I’d managed to elicit all of my model sentences (which is when you ask a series of questions about the text they read and get them to say the exact sentence you want, which you then use as a model for the grammar on the board), which she said sometimes new teachers have trouble doing with the lower level.

There are things I need to improve on – the biggest problem Emma and I both had was that the students were speaking a lot of Czech when they were doing pair work during the lesson. I asked them a few times to speak English, and they did for a minute but they then went back to Czech. Karin said she wanted me to be more authoritative about that on Thursday, so we’ll see how that goes. She said it’s really difficult with the lower level because they don’t know as much English, so they slip back into Czech quite frequently. The trouble is that even if they’re talking about the lesson, they might very well be giving each other the wrong information and I’d have no way of knowing.

At the end, she let me know that I had passed. I did a massive internal victory dance (I’m three-for-three, bitches!), and felt a huge sense of relief because I’ve officially met one of the criterion for the TEFL certificate. I’ll still be observed and get trainer feedback in two of the remaining three lessons, but even if it’s somehow a complete train-wreck and I fail, it won’t really matter. Of course, I won’t let that happen – I’m damn determined to pass all five observations! – but it’s still a huge sense of relief.

Karin also said some really cool things that I didn’t expect. I hadn’t actually talked to her before now, and the consensus amongst my classmates is that she is an exceptionally tough and picky observer, which I really didn’t find to be true. I thought she was really nice. Anyway she said that she could tell that I was really enjoying myself during the lesson. She said I have a really natural ability to build rapport with the students, and it just makes the whole atmosphere very comfortable, even when we don’t quite understand each other. She asked if I had been nervous while I was up there, and I said that yes, I was, but mostly because of the grammar presentation which I was pretty worried about. She said she couldn’t tell at all, she was pretty impressed with how natural it all seemed to me. Personally I couldn’t believe that when she said it, but later that night when I thought about it, I realized that there is probably some truth to it. When I’m teaching, the inside of my head is a pretty quiet place. It’s not like high school or college where every time I had to give a speech of presentation I would basically be shouting internally the entire time. I don’t know how to explain it, but everything about this just feels so right to me.

Anyway, it was nice of her to say that. Dan and Kenny both keep their feedback pretty lesson-oriented. They don’t really ask things like “how did you feel during your lesson?” so it was kind of interesting to get a chance to stop and think about it, because I really hadn’t up until then. How did I feel? Focused. Intent. Entertained, even. I mean, the people I’m interacting with are really interesting and often really funny as well.

After we were done with the feedback, Karin gave me the material for my next lesson. I’m teaching first again on Thursday. My lesson is talking about experiences, and my topic is travel! I’m really excited about this one, I think we’re going to have a bit of fun with it. I’m about to get started on the lesson plan once I’m done here. I’m also meeting with my 1×1 student tomorrow, so I have to lesson plan for that as well. It will likely be another late night, but I’m ok with that. I think when you’re doing something you enjoy, the late nights don’t seem so late.

Oh! It finally snowed here. Just a dusting, but I thought I’d let you know winter has finally gotten to Prague.

No pictures today but, as always, lots of…

Love from Prague!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Visitors! And Other Stuff!

I’ve officially and successfully made it halfway through the TEFL course. Hurray! The next two weeks are going to be absolutely crazy. I’m just taking deep breaths and putting one foot in front the other. And for once in my life I haven’t even face-planted.

Image

Old Town Square.

Where did I leave off? Let’s see. Last Sunday I went out and did quite a lot of exploring on my own. I was in the city for several hours, and took the pictures I posted here last time. Here’s one more of Old Town Square during the five minutes the sun came out (pic below). I was at the Lennon Wall for quite a while, which I absolutely love. It’s probably one of my favorite spots in Prague. Anyone can write or graffiti that wall, and it’s all really positive and lovely. I just think it’s such a neat idea.

Monday we were in class all day. They assigned our grammar presentations which are due this coming Tuesday. Each of us has to teach a 15-minute grammar presentation to the rest of the class. It sounds silly, 15-minutes after all these long lessons we teach to the students, but I’m actually quite nervous about this one. Teaching to our peers is much harder, because we all understand each other and they’ll know if I get completely lost or something. I won’t let that happen, but it definitely adds to the nerves a little bit. It is part of the criteria of getting our TEFL certificate, so it’s important to do well on this.

Tuesday was our prep day, so my group had regular lessons in the morning and then the afternoon off to prepare for teaching on Wednesday. I met my 1×1 (individual) student on Tuesday afternoon for our first lesson. Her name is Helena, I’d say she’s probably in her early 60’s, and is learning English because she writes to a bunch of pen pals and stuff. She’s really sweet, she took me out for a drink during our lesson. I’m looking forward to our next lesson this Thursday. I have to do a full, formal lesson plan for this one (the first one was informal, just getting to know about her needs as a student), so it’s quite a bit of work. I also have to write a really massive paper about this project, which is due the final Monday of the course. It’s about 10-pages and goes really in depth, so I think a big chunk of next weekend will go to that.

Wednesday we had our lessons in the morning again and then were teaching in the afternoon. First thing we noticed was that Matt, my third group-mate, was not there, which was really odd. He was supposed to teach second. Before we broke for lunch our trainer told Emma and I that it would just be the two of us for the rest of the course. Apparently Matt pulled out of the course. I guess it’s not for everyone.

Emma and I were not observed when we taught on Wednesday. It was a relief in one sense, that we were able to just do the lesson without worrying about that element. I actually found it really discomforting. As scary as it is to have someone watching you and grading you while you teach, as a new teacher I need that. I don’t know what I’m doing yet, I need someone to tell me if it went well or not. After our lessons Emma and I exchanged feedback with each other, and wrote a reflection of our own lessons. In general, I felt like mine went OK. I got them to understand what I was teaching, which was the goal. I guess I just wanted someone to give me a definitive “yes, that was good” or “no, that was crap”. Overall, I felt like it probably would’ve been a pass, so that’s good enough for now.

Thursday I had the afternoon off again, so I took the metro into town and went back to the Globe Café to have a nice lunch and do some lesson planning. My server saw me working and asked if I was doing some sort of program here, so I told him about TEFL and it turns out they give a discount for that. Victory! So I was there for a few hours, had a couple cups of tea and a pivo (pic below), and did some good work.

Image

Studying at the Globe.

During our Friday morning lessons we were divided into three mini-groups and given an hour to prepare a grammar presentation to be given that same morning (basically a practice version of the grammar presentation we all have to give on Tuesday). We didn’t know which person in the group would have to actually give this spur-of-the-moment presentation, so we all had to know the material well enough to be able to present it. The victim presenter was chosen using dice and, go figure, of course I had to present Future Simple to the class. It went alright, I’d mapped it out really well in my notes, and our trainer Dan said it would have been a pass if it were graded which is good.

Then that afternoon we all taught again. This time Emma and I were observed by our trainer Kenny. Emma went first., and then my lesson was after the students got back from their 10-minute break.

My lesson was teaching the different uses of the word “back,” which was actually really interesting to me. As a native speaker, you never think about all this stuff. I mean, you have your back, physically. But then we also “go back” to places, like I’m from the Wisconsin, but I’m currently in Prague, and then I’m going back to Wisconsin. And then there’s all kinds of phrases like back streets, back gardens, back rooms, back pockets, etc. I had fun with it. I managed to do the whole lesson without ever making them open their books, which as a student I think is a nice vacation every once in a while. I had a lot of activities, and my production involved them all getting up and mingling around talking to each other which went really well. They all used the word back in a bunch of different contexts, so I was really pleased with that.

I was a little nervous at feedback time, because I’d burned through my activities really fast and at the time that it was happening I was like, oh god, this is going too fast! I’m going to fail! but luckily that was all in my head. Kenny said my lesson actually went really well. I just have to remember that I got them exactly where I wanted them to be, and that’s what matters most. They understood what I taught them. Kenny said I had really great rapport with the class, and that my speaking speed and language grading were really good. And he was impressed with how much I got them to speak, which is pretty huge. Basically the last 12-15 minutes of my lesson was them walking around talking to each other, and I just monitored and corrected a few things. I have a couple things I need to work on (correcting more, which he said is always particularly hard for North Americans for some reason, and “boarding” which is basically the way you present things on the whiteboard, which is just something to practice and get used to), but the most important thing is that I passed my second observation and am currently two for two!

The scary part is, a lot of people do fail lessons, and it’s people I would not expect to fail. So even though I’ve passed both of mine, I’m certainly not comfortable yet. I have three more observed lessons, and one more unobserved lesson ahead of me. The good news is, I only technically need to pass one more to meet that particular criterion for the TEFL certificate. Personally, I’d like to pass all three. 🙂

After feedback was done I went back to my flat and another classmate Kelly and I were at my neighbor Tony’s apartment hanging out for a while chatting. Then the three of us went to a different pub near the school (you walk down an alley that looks like it belongs in a horror movie and it’s sort of behind this random building) which was bright orange and filled with hockey stuff which is apparently big here. We had a couple of pivos (beers) with Tony, and then Kelly and I left to meet two more classmates, Sam and Sierra, and the three of them went with me to meet Heather and Benni in town.

Heather and Benni’s bus from Nuremburg got in around 8:30pm, so we met them at 9:15 near the Namésti Miru metro stop and walked over to a Mexican Restaurant called Las Adelitas, which is fantastic. I’d been there with the family last time we were in Prague, so I was pretty pumped to go back. Apparently most of the “Mexican” places in Prague are more like some weird Czech variation on Mexican, but this place is authentic and seriously delicious. There were several pivos, pitchers of margaritas (chili lime might be my new favorite flavor), and bottles of wine (Benni the German, ladies and gentleman) and it was basically a ton of fun (pic of Heather and Duck below, for those who don’t have Instagram), and we were there until they closed after midnight. Since the metro was closed by then, Kelly, Sam, Sierra and I got to take the special “night tram” home which is basically a tram full of drunk people. It took longer since it makes more stops, but was an entertaining ride nonetheless, and I got home around 2am.

Image

Duck enjoys a drink with a friend.

The next morning I met Heather back in Vinohrady while the German slept in. We went and had breakfast at a little cafe, and went and got Benni about an hour later. We did a bunch of sight-seeing. It was quite foggy, but Prague is gorgeous no matter the weather, so I was excited to stop by one of my favorite picture spots (below) from the last time we were here. I couldn’t remember where it was! We spent most of the afternoon wandering, and then met Heather’s friend Andrea (they took the TEFL course together) and her boyfriend for dinner at an Indian restaurant which was also delicious, and then we went to another bar for drinks. I left shortly before midnight so I could get home before the metro closed.

Image

Sisters in Prague!

This morning I met Heather and Benni again, and we went up to the train station their bus leaves from so they could put their bags in a locker (they’d checked out of their rented flat), and so I could see where to catch the bus when I leave in a couple weeks. Afterwards we went to a local Czech restaurant (another one we’d been to last time) for some nom-tastic Czech cuisine in the form of the most epic potato pancakes ever. It’s the size of the a dinner-plate and covered in ham and cheese. I ate about a third of it and took the rest home. After lunch we said goodbye since I needed to get home and be productive. I hopped on a tram and made my back back to Vysočany to get some work done.

I’m so glad they came. As much as I’ve enjoyed the super-charge I get from being able to explore on my own, it was nice to have some company for the weekend. I’m looking forward to visiting them in Germany next month.

And here we are. I talked to my parents for a bit and caught up here, which was basically a warm up activity for the work I need to do tonight. This week is going to be so crazy, but I know it will go by fast. I can’t believe this month is already half gone. I have no idea where the time goes until I sit down and write it all out!

Well I think that’s it for now, my friends. You guys are in my thoughts everyday, just so you know. 🙂

Image

The Charles Bridge.

Love from Prague!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Photo Dump!

Because let’s face it, pictures are the best part.

Image

View of the city while walking up to Prague Castle.

Image

Swans! And the Charles Bridge.

Image

Stumbled across this on accident, thought it really summed up how I’ve been feeling since I got here.

Image

Left my mark on the Lennon Wall.

Image

World Traveller Holly at Prague Castle.

Love from Prague!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ještě něco?

Well I successfully made it through my first week of the TEFL course. I meant to write on Thursday but I was so busy, there just wasn’t time! Let’s see if I can back up and fill you in on the highlights of the week.

I taught my first mini-lesson Tuesday afternoon. I had the last part of our 50-minute lesson, so my teammates (Emma and Matt) taught for about 15-17 minutes each, and then it was my turn. The topic/theme of our lesson was  gift-giving customs in different countries (ie giving flowers or wine to your hostess, etc) to an Intermediate-level group.  The first two parts were OK, but a bit pretty quiet. The students were mostly working quietly by themselves, when really our goal is to get them talking. When it was time for my part, I got up there and wrote my name on the board and just smiled and said, “Hi, I’m Holly,” and they all smiled back and said hello, so that gave me some confidence. They had been working on some writing activity when I took over, so I went through that and then asked them about what gifts they would give to a hostess here. They all said things like beer and wine and chocolate, so I joked about how they would all be welcome in my home then, and they thought that was pretty funny. I had them all change seats to talk to different partners, and got them all talking quite a bit, and then we were out of time so I thanked them for listening and sent them on their break. I couldn’t believe it was over!

Since the mini-lessons were just about getting our feet wet as teachers, we were able to leave for the day once our group was done teaching (Matt and Emma and I will always observe each other, throughout the whole month). So once we were done I was so elated that I basically floated out the door, down the street, and up the four flights of stairs to my flat. I can’t even explain the feeling properly, but it was really fantastic. I nailed it!

We taught another mini-lesson on Wednesday afternoon. This time I was I was teaching the first-third of the 50-minute lesson to an Upper Intermediate-level, which is the highest level we have at our school. Their English is really quite good – they speak pretty naturally, with really good flow and vocabulary. Our topic was a newspaper article called “The Party from Hell” about a teen who threw a massive party when her parents were away. I had to teach the vocabulary (I basically picked out tricky words in the text), and I had to try and elicit them from the students. I thought it was much harder than the lesson on Tuesday, because I wasn’t sure what the upper-level students would know or not know. It went OK. I was successful, but I didn’t feel like I’d  built as much rapport with the students, and I would have liked to get them talking more.

After Matt and Emma had taught the rest of the lesson, our trainer Dan came around and gave us the topics for our first full-length lessons, to be taught on Friday. Afterwards Alexa and I went for a drink at the pub downstairs, before going back to the flat to start thinking about our lessons.

My group had Thursday afternoon off (the 11 students in other group taught their first full-length lessons on Thursday, and then had Friday afternoon off while we taught), so Alexa and I went to the mall up the street and spread our on a couple tables in the food court to work on our lesson plans. My lesson was a reading lesson for the same Upper Intermediate group that I had taught on Wednesday.  I was actually pretty nervous, because my lesson with them  on Wednesday was OK, but it just hadn’t gone as well as I wanted it too, so I really wanted to do better with them. My topic was cross-cultural miscommunications (ex: tipping in America vs. tipping in the UK), and how they can cause embarrassment or confusion when someone behaves inappropriately for whatever country they’re visiting.

(P.S., if anyone reading this has an education background or experience in teaching, sorry about the long-winded explanations. I’m just personally finding this all so fascinating because I never at all thought about it as a student!)

Emma taught the first lesson, and then the students had a 10-minute break while I got set up for my lesson. When the break was almost over, I walked around and asked each of them their name so I could take attendance. I even used their names during the lesson and was pretty proud that I managed not to butcher any of them.

I had some vocabulary in my lesson: delighted, mortified, baffled, appalled, out of place, and intrigued. I spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out how to introduce them when I was lesson-planning, because they’re sort of feelings/emotions and it’s not like you can print out a picture the same way you can when you’re teaching the word house or boat or whatever. I did end up starting with pictures. I knew they weren’t going to get the vocabulary words, but I wanted them to think about words similar to the new vocabulary I was about to give them. So for mortified, for example, I put up a picture of a guy picking his nose. I said, “What can you tell me about this picture?” And then said some of the obvious things, “man picking nose, dirty, etc.” And I said, “Would you like to sit next to him on the bus?” and “are you a little bit embarrassed for him?” and so on, and then eventually gave them the word mortified and wrote it on the board and spelled it phonemically. So I did that for all six vocabulary words, and then had a few extra pictures and said, “So which of the new words on the board would you use to describe this picture?”, and they got those all correct. I picked pretty funny pictures, so I got them all laughing right away which made things much more pleasant, and it gave me confidence. I’ve always felt that if you can make someone laugh that makes everything better.

After that I had them do the reading in their book which was fairly short, and had them summarize the three short stories about these cross-cultural miscommunications (basically, a Canadian guy was appalled when his English friend left a horrible tip at a restaurant, a Korean was mortified when their Italian friend showed a lot of PDA in public, and an Australian felt very out of place at a party where nobody danced or played music). They had a couple activities in their book to do, so I had them do those in pairs and just monitored while they did that.  We did some discussion after that, and then for the final stage I wanted them to write about their own miscommunication. I gave them an example and told them a story that my dad told me, about a time he visited a Buddhist temple in Thailand and saw another guy get physically thrown out of the building because he’d been lounging on the floor of the temple and displayed the bottoms of his feet to the Buddha statue, which is horribly offensive there. So I told them the story, and even went and sat on the floor like that and asked if they could guess why that would get someone thrown out of a building, and it was fun listening to their speculations. After that, I set them to writing, and we had just enough time for four of them to share what they’d written before my lesson ended. I thanked them for listening and sent them on their break so Matt could get set up for his lesson. They were all really lovely and thanked me for the lesson in return.

Matt taught last, and then we each spent about 5 minutes writing down reflections on our own lesson before our trainer Dan came and went through feedback with us. Dan had observed our lesson (5 of our 7 lessons are observed but we do not know which ones in advance, and we need to “pass” at least 3 of the 5 observed lessons as part of the criteria to get our TEFL certificate at the end). Since Emma had gone first, we did her feedback first. Dan asked Matt and I to give her some positive things she did well, and some suggestions for improvement, which we did. Then Dan talked about her lesson for about 10 minutes, let her know how she did overall, and the moved on to my lesson since I had taught second.

First he asked Emma and Matt for feedback on my lesson. They were both quite positive, and Emma even had a couple of small suggestions which I appreciated. Dan asked what I thought of my lesson, and I said I felt it was a solid first attempt. I liked what I had done with the pictures at the beginning – that was actually really fun for me – but it took nearly twice as long as I anticipated, so I cut a different activity that was in my lesson plan. I also thought that I had gotten them where I wanted to go – they successfully understood the reading and were able to write their own version. I didn’t like the activities I assigned them sort of in the middle, they were kind of boring and my instructions were basically, “Now please do activity 3A on page 63,” and I wished I had a more creative way to do that.

Dan talked about my lesson for about 10-minutes. He agreed that it was a solid first attempt. He liked the pictures I used at the beginning, thought it was a good way to break the ice and intro the vocabulary, but I should have cut it off at the time in my lesson plan, rather than going over. He also said it ended up being more of a writing lesson than reading, since I had them write at the end. Maybe I just default to writing. He suggested I just have them talk/share in pairs instead of writing at the end.  There were some other small bits of feedback, but in end he told me that overall I had passed. I was so relieved!

We moved on to Matt’s feedback after that, and then we were done for the night. It was about 7 o’clock by then, and most of our class was planning on meeting at 8:30 on a corner up the street to get celebratory We Survived! drinks. I went back to the flat with Alexa for a while, we ended up in the hallway with all four of our neighbors Julie, Helena, Tony, and Kevin.  They had all passed as well, so we were all really excited.

We met the rest of the group at 8:30, and it took us a couple tries to find a place that could handle us (there were 17 of us, which is almost the entire TEFL class). Eventually a waitress from one restaurant had us follow her to a place two-doors down with a huge back room, and we converged on two big tables there and had a grand ole’ time. A few people left, but when they closed at 12:30 there were still 11 of us there, having far too much fun.

I’m just so elated that I passed.  It’s a seriously fantastic feeling. For once in my life, I’m not doubting myself. I’m not worrying if I’ve made the right choice. I’m just jumping in with both feet and actually giving it my all. And I’m doing well. And it’s fantastic.

My god, this is a long post. I suppose this is as much for my benefit as anyone else’s. I hope I keep up with this so there’s some record of all the silly little details of this experience. It’s tough because I’ve been so busy all week, that when I finally do get to write it ends up being a massive amount of information.

No pictures for you just now. I’ve decided to take Saturday to not think at all about the class. When I’m done here I’m going to take the metro to Prague Castle and explore on my own again for a while. There’s something really magical about that for me. Anyway, maybe I’ll have some pictures to post before the weekend is over.

Oh – and if you’re wondering what the title of the post means, it’s “anything else?” We learned it in our second Czech lesson, and I just think it’s fun to say. It’s pronounced sort of like “yesh-jay knee-et-zo,” but you have to say it really fast. Go on, give it a try.

You know you want to.

Love from Prague!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dobrý den!

Every time I sit down to write, I feel like it’s been weeks and weeks. How could all the things that have happened possibly happened in only two days?!

As I mentioned in my last post, I was on my way out to meet one of my classmates whose name is Julie. We met near the Hotel we all arrived that (though it turns out she’s actually right across the hall from me), and took the train into the city. She had never been to Prague before, so we went and checked out the Christmas markets. We also sampled some Grog (which I didn’t realize was a real thing), which is hot rum, water, and lemon, and was actually super delicious in a boozy way. For some reason they had a stage set up in Old Town Square and there was a group playing what sounded like folk or maybe local music (pic below). I definitely heard their national anthem at one point, so maybe it was some sort of holiday. There were also some live goats and sheep nearby, and I’m not really sure why. I guess that’s Prague for you.

Image

Live music in Old Town Square.

We also sampled some Trdlo, which is a sort of pastry that is covered in cinnamon and almonds and wrapped around a piece of metal and cooked over hot coals. It was super good. We mostly just wandered around quite a bit and chatted.

The next day Alexa was finally feeling better (yay!) so we both went to meet the rest of our classmates for the orientation tour. There were about 16 people there, and a Russian tour guide who took us up to Prague Castle and then down into Old Town Square. It was raining/misting (pic below) the entire time so we all looked like wet dogs by the end. The tour was about 3 hours, and gave us all a chance to meet. When the tour was officially over, about half the group went home, and half of us went for drinks at a pub the guide recommended. Good times were had by all.

Image

Rainy Prague.

Anyway, class started this morning, we all met at our TEFL school around the corner. They split us into two groups (there’s 21 people total), so I’m in a group of 10 people during the day. Our first lesson was a “Survival Czech” lesson. A guy walked into the room, introduced himself as Kveto, and spoke only in Czech. It was amazing, but in about 30 minutes, I learned enough Czech to at least not sound like a complete asshole when checking out at the grocery store. We were all up and having conversations with each other by the end of the 50-minute period. It was insane. Kveto then said farewell (or, more accurately, “Nashledanou!”), and left the room. About 10-seconds went by before he walked back in and introduced himself as Kenny and spoke perfect English.

Kenny then went onto explain that the whole purpose was for us to understand what it feels like to be taught in a language that we do not understand at all, which makes perfect sense. And it was super easy to follow him even though we didn’t know what he was saying. We then broke the lesson down piece-by-piece, which was possibly the most fascinating thing I have ever done in my life. The whole time we were doing this, I was just sitting there thinking, oh my god, I can totally do this!

We had a short break after that and got to catch up with the people in the other group. The other group hadn’t had the Czech lesson yet, but Kenny made us swear we wouldn’t spoil his surprise, of course. After the break my group went to a different classroom where another trainer named Dan gave us a good breakdown of what to expect over the next four weeks. It really is going to be a lot of work – they weren’t lying when they called the course intensive – but I’m so looking forward to it. Even things that normally scare the shit out of me (public speaking, anyone?) suddenly seem appealing. The more he talked, the more I felt I could really do this. I know it’ll be a lot of work, but… I’m just so excited about it that things that normally scare me suddenly don’t seem scary…

We had a lunch break after that. There’s a pub in ground floor of the building I live in, which is right next to the school, so I walked over there with a bunch of people from both of the groups. The menus were entirely in Czech (words that weren’t covered in our “Hello, my name is…” conversations that morning), so we all pretty much ordered at random. I wound up with chicken penne, which was delicious.

After lunch we were back with Kenny who gave us our first “demonstration lesson,” which is basically where we sit through the type of lesson we’re about to teach to real students. We played a game, talked about movies, and then wrote up a review of a movie we’d seen and somebody else had to guess to the movie. It was a writing demonstration, because it ended with us using some vocabulary and a model of another movie review to then write our own movie review. When we were done, we broke down the lesson like we’d done that morning, and Kenny explained why he had us do each step, and how it all led to the final product of our writing. Again, super fascinating to me.

We had another short break, and then Kenny assigned us our groups and set us to planning our first lesson that we will all teach – tomorrow. To real-live Czech students.

Each of us will teach a mini-lesson tomorrow and another one on Wednesday. It’s “mini” because we are in groups of 2-3 people. I’m in a group of three, so I teach one-third of the 50-minute lesson tomorrow. We spent of rest of the day lesson planning, and then at 6 we were done for the day.

(After these two mini-lessons, we will each teach two full-length lessons, which are 50-minutes each, to real students each week. We will also each teach two 50-minute grammar lessons, but those will be to our peers so they can critique us. A number of them will be observed by the trainers which is part of determining whether or not you pass the course at the end, among other things.)

Once class was over, Alexa and I went for beers and desert (pic below) with two more of our neighbors, Tony and Kevin, which was a lot of fun. Afterwards we came back here where I did a bit of homework and looked over the notes for my portion of the lesson tomorrow, and now I’m catching up here.

Image

“Hot Passion” aka nom nom nom.

Part of me thinks I should be nervous for tomorrow, but somehow I’m just not. It just feels so right. I feel like I found a limb that I never realized was missing, but now that I’ve found it I wonder how I ever got around without it.

I’m probably just babbling.

But then again… 🙂

Love from Prague.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Prague, Prague, Prague!

The last few days have been… crazy, wonderful, exhilarating and surprisingly empowering. I don’t know how to describe how I feel right now to you, but it’s really amazing. I’ve tapped into a very confident and resourceful part of myself that I didn’t even know existed. I’ll call her World Traveller Holly.

My journey to Prague was very smooth, all things considered. The most harrowing part was undoubtedly the bus ride from Brookfield to O’Hare, which was basically in the middle of a blizzard. The roads were bad in Brookfield and got worse as we went south. The bus was about 45 minutes behind schedule by the time we got to the airport.

The flight to Istanbul was great. Turkish Airlines was actually super nice. Really good food, lots of entertainment options on the touch screen seat backs. We had to wait a while after we boarded while they de-iced the plane and plowed the runways again (they had like 50 snow plows, it was actually really cool to watch), so the flight attendants brought around Turkish Delight and hot towels (which I thought only happened in movies) while we waited to take off. The flight was about 11 hours total, once we got in the air. I didn’t even watch movies; I just popped in my iPod and dozed off and on for most of the flight.

We reached Istanbul just as the sun was setting. I saw all of about 8 minutes of sunlight on January 2nd, which was kind of weird. We landed about 5pm, and thus began the longest layover in the history of all layovers.

Luckily, Istanbul Araturk is a MASSIVE airport, so there was lots to look at. I wasn’t really excited about dragging my heavy backpack, purse, and coat around for 16-hours and unfortunately they didn’t have lockers (I asked), but I found a tiny cart to put my stuff in and that made my time there infinitely more enjoyable. I have zero cell service abroad, so I bought a Wi-Fi card at the airport so I could let my parents know all was well, and spent about an hour doing that. I spent a lot of time wandering over the next several hours. Had a beer at one of the airport bars, wandered, had a latte, wandered some more, and so on. There were so many people there, during the busier times of the day was something akin to trying to walk through the main thoroughfare at Summerfest, only with baggage. Around 3am I found a quiet gate to sit and read at for a while, and then later watch the sun come up.

My next flight left at 8:40am, and I got into Prague about 10:15am. Went through customs, grabbed my luggage (always excited when that works out – I blame England), and found the taxi stand I needed in the arrivals hall. They didn’t speak English, but they had my name on a piece of paper so I pretty much pointed at it and went, “That’s me!” A driver came and took my luggage, and then we went on a slightly terrifying drive through the city. Let’s just say he did NOT brake for pedestrians.

He took me to Hotel Pivovar where a girl named Tanya from my TEFL school was waiting to meet me. My flat was not ready yet, but she gave me some information about class and Prague in general, and then I wandered the area near the hotel for about an hour before going back to find my flat around 1pm. It was about 45-degrees and sunny and gooooorgeous. Oh, and there’s no snow right now. 🙂

My very, very tiny flat is in a building right next to the Hotel, and about 200-feet from the TEFL school. I’m sharing it with a girl named Alexa. We both opted for the slightly cheaper shared-room experience, which means we share a bedroom. We have a tiny bedroom, tiny kitchen, and an actually decent sized bathroom. Go figure. Sadly, she doesn’t seem to be feeling well so has pretty much been sleeping since I met her.

I, on the other hand, was absolutely dying to get out and see the city, so I changed clothes and freshened up a bit, popped in my iPod, and then headed out again. I headed up the street to the metro stop, purchased a 30-day metro pass (which involved a fair amount of gesturing and pointing because the lady in the ticket office appeared to have no idea what I was talking about) and took the metro into the city. I got off at Wenceslas Square, which is sort of the heart of the touristy part of the city, but it’s soooo beautiful.

They still have their Christmas market up, so I grabbed a cup of hot wine and wandered around Wenceslas Square for a while, basking in the sun and my own personal proud-of-selfness. It was wonderful. I wandered for a few more hours until the sun started to set and it started to cool off again.

I got back to the flat and spent some time checking in with the family and debating if I wanted to head out again to find food (I hadn’t eaten since the plane that morning), but exhaustion was finally setting in so I put on PJ’s and passed out shortly after that.

Not too bad considering I was running on about 7 hours of sleep in 48 hours.

This morning I woke up feeling much refreshed and was glad I had gotten properly caught up on sleep. I was once again dying to go out and see the city, so I asked Alexa if she wanted to go check out the Charles Bridge with me, but she still isn’t feeling well.

So off went World Traveller Holly again. I was going to try and find this expat café called Globe that my sister recommended for breakfast, but the metro stop I needed to get off at is closed for construction, and my phone doesn’t work without internet here, so I wasn’t able to get there. (I mapped it when I got back here, so I’ll try again tomorrow or something.) I did make it to Old Town Square and the Charles Bridge. I grabbed a croissant and a latte from a little place along the way – delicious!

I came back about an hour ago – and used the Facebook group the school set up for the people in our TEFL class to see if anyone else had arrived yet and wanted to explore with me, so I’m heading out in an hour to meet one of my classmates.

Whew! This has been a much longer post than I anticipated, but I suppose I had a lot of ground to cover – literally. HA! Bad travel joke. Anyway, I think that’s all I have to say for now. I don’t know how frequently I’ll post in this thing, but I’ll do my best to keep it up to date.

Love from Prague!

Image

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Tick-Tock

As I sit down to start my very first blog post on a shiny new blog, it’s exactly 9:45pm on December 31st, 2013. I’m counting down the minutes – to midnight, sure – but also to 10 o’clock so I can log into the Turkish Airlines website and complete the online check-in and hopefully score myself a window seat for my flight(s) tomorrow.

All day, I’ve been really… really surprised by how calm I am. I have literally been working towards this goal for over a year. Now it’s here – I leave tomorrow, and I am so calm. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a year to think about this, but I am just so completely and utterly ready. I’ve done everything I could possibly do to prepare. I’m packed. I have my tickets. I have my passport. I have my iPod. What else could a girl need?

I’m taking a bus to the airport. The weather is complete crap at the moment, and being New Year’s Day, I wanted to spare my parents the (potentially) stressful drive to Chicago. I think it will be easier for me, too. I can take the bus ride to unwind before I have to navigate O’Hare. I’ve never travelled alone before, but I’m not even nervous about it.

Maybe someday I’ll write about the hows or the whys that inspired my decision to drop everything and take this new path. Frankly, they’re not that interesting. I know, without any doubt or hesitation whatsoever, that this is the right move for me right now. My friends and family – my wonderful friends and family – have been so fantastic and supportive, and I really think that has made all the difference. I don’t think I could do this without their love and support. It’s so hard to leave people behind, but everyone knows how important this is to me. They support me. They’re my heroes.

It’s 9:57pm now, so I’ll wrap this up. As first posts go, I’m afraid this was pretty unexciting. I feel like a diver poised at the top of the diving board, waiting for the bell to sound. Tick-tock, my friends. Tick-tock.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment