Third Week of TEFL

Halloween! In my past travels, many people have told me that their country doesn’t celebrate Halloween or at least to the extent of the United States. For those around my age, the previous weekend was full of costumes at the different nightlife locations, but that can be attributed to my age and partying. It can also be attributed to the large number of expats from America. This I understand.

On our daily morning run and going to school several hours later, I noticed even the little children dressed in costume. Fake blood from their mouths, black dots on their noses, and fairy wings to name a few. I don’t think they are being influenced by the American nightlife as they seem to be only 10 years old. Some parents were even dressed up as well as if to support their child’s costume. But I really think they are just letting their inner child out.

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Street in the Jewish Quarter

This week was quite busy as well. Let’s face it, the whole four weeks of TEFL is busy as you have a lot to cover, but this week I had two group lessons, a private lesson, and I observed a lesson. Not to mention, the struggle of finding an apartment and worrying about visas.

My lessons went well. I had a speaking lesson, the whole lesson dedicated to speaking, for the level of pre-intermediate. This level doesn’t really want to speak that much to begin with as they lack confidence in their language abilities or they don’t have the vocab to support their thoughts. For all my lesson planning and in class, I try to remember how I was when I was at that level for Spanish and I can say that I didn’t like speaking that much. I totally understand the feeling of frustration towards my small vocab and my self-consciousness. Now, at an advanced or proficient level, you can’t get me to stop talking in Spanish or English (haha)!

It was a hard class. I had them write out sentences to say later and one student asked,

“Can you read this first to make sure it was correct?” I tried consoling him that it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to speak, but he wouldn’t say it until I corrected it first, which it didn’t need much correction anyways.

My private lesson went well and she enjoyed the clip of the Golden Girls. I then had the pleasure of having her in my second group lesson. I think it helped the other all class that I had rapport with one student- it made them relax around me. H was also teaching in this class and we both had trouble with one student. He was not very responsive and very quiet. This was an intermediate class and we think that he just doesn’t like to speak in general- Czech or English. This lesson was grammar on past perfect simple (I had done something).

Grammar is a bit difficult to teach especially when you are not comfortable with it in the first place. I do have a handle on past perfect simple, but it’s hard as an American. Apparently, Americans (versus those from Britain) don’t use the past perfect simple. We just use past simple (I did something). When we were learning it, our teacher had me discuss some things in the past in order to get me to say the tense. I didn’t know that was her point until later. When I didn’t produce the correct tense she turned to G and P,

“Is that correct?” G shook his head and responded with the appropriate tense. They said it sounded weird that I didn’t use it, but using past perfect simple sounds weird to me. Sounds too fancy and too many words.

Our teacher said it was a common thing with Americans that we don’t use it. So when a student asked me if one uses it in daily conversations, I had to tell him the truth,

“The British use it.”

“But do the Americans?” I shook my head,

“I do not use this tense. I use the past simple.” This particular student asked earlier why he couldn’t use the past simple to begin with and with this answer I think he decided to throw out the whole lesson from his mind.

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Can’t have too many pictures of the castle!

With language, at least for me and Spanish, I want to improve, but if one can understand me or I can understand the other person well enough, then that’s a good level. If this student were to use past simple around me or around my British friends, we would be able to understand even if technically it is grammatically incorrect.

In terms of learning a new language, I feel that at a certain point, you can’t really learn anymore from a classroom. You have to start learning from the world, by immersion, by practicing for real and not in a comfortable setting. To get comfortable in Spanish, I spent three months in Spain on my gap year, but to achieve the high level I am at, I spent about five months taking real academic classes at a university in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Talk about jumping head first into water.

And, for jumping head first into water, many of us are swimming as fast as we can to get an apartment to get our visas. As an American, we need an apartment first before we can apply for the visa. Seems a bit strange, but those are apparently the rules. I am keeping my options open and, it looks like at this point, I will be traveling for a little bit first. It is also tricky because the visa can take longer than what we have left on our tourist visa so there are several options, one being staying in country without an active visa (just one in process).

K and I saw a lovely three bedroom apartment this week and though she wanted to jump on it, I wasn’t sure since it was the first one we saw ever. It was really nice, but things changed and we had to decline it. I was thinking of living with H, but due to changes in situations, I encouraged him to take a shared apartment he found online. It sounds like a great deal and now he is just waiting for the lease to fall into place. A and D are scrambling for an apartment. It sucks because apartments go really fast here. You need to see it and give your money within the same hour. They had to postpone looking at an apartment due to class and it was gone the next hour.

Now that the days are winding down, I wanted to explore as much of Prague as I can. I was originally going to see the castle on Friday since the ticket is good for two consecutive days so then I can see it on Saturday. I also wanted to see the Old Jewish Cemetery, which is a must see. The ticket for the cemetery includes other synagogues and is valid for a week. I couldn’t finish the ticket in one afternoon so I ended up finishing it on Friday; therefore, postponing the castle. The synagogues were really cool. They have now been converted to museums- having display panels and artifacts on the Jewish religion/culture as well as the Holocaust period. I learned quite a lot. My favorite was the Spanish Synagogue. Prague is really wining on beautiful interiors.

The cemetery was pretty cool. It stopped being used in the 15 century, so a long time ago, and the grave stones are all leaning and in disrepair for the most part, but it just added to the history and how old it is. Some people lived into their 60’s, which during this time is pretty old and impressive. I wasn’t allowed to take photos 😦

While everyone was finishing up assignments over the weekend, I ventured out to see several sites: The citadel, Letna Garden, the John Lennon Wall, and St. Nicholas Church.

The citadel is an old fortress from medieval times and it also has an old cemetery with famous Czech citizens. The church next to it is also quite beautiful, it was 30 crowns to enter for a student. Letna Garden is a huge park that would be amazing in the summer. It was quite beautiful with the changing leaves, but it is becoming quite cold and sitting on a park bench isn’t the most enticing thing.

The John Lennon Wall came from the communist era. The peace generation painted his face on a particular wall to promote love and peace. Even when authorities tried to re-paint the wall, his face always appeared. Soon communism fell and more messages of love and peace joined Lennon’s face. Now, the original painting can no longer be seen, but the message remains. It is pretty cool to see. Finally, St. Nicholas Church was absolutely beautiful, it was 50 crowns to enter for student. You are also able to go up to the second floor, which gave you better views of the fresco ceiling painting. Like I said, Prague is a winner with interiors.

Friday night was a lot of fun. We met a bunch of alumni from our TEFL school at a bar called The Pub. Each table has beer taps so you can pour your own beer. There’s a computer screen that keeps track of who poured what. Mi joined us. It was the first time drinking with him.

“I can’t have another one because I will be dancing on the tables.” He stated and then said goodnight to a chorus of laughter.

Later we ventured to Café Popo again. We had such a fun time. Some of us then went home as the rest of us went to Hangar. The music was a mix of current pop music and old goodies from the 80’s and 90’s.

It ended up being G, K, and me returning home. It is always us. The regular transport don’t start till 5 am so we waited for a night tram. However, it eventually became 5 so we just got on a metro for home. The night trams don’t come as often as the regular ones apparently.

I got invited to get some drinks by a British woman I met the previous weekend. After some miscommunication, I eventually found her at Once Upon a Time, a very chill bar with cheap drinks. I met her Russian friend and I had a great time talking to them about a variety of topics. Near the end of our time there, two friends of the Russian woman came and it was interesting to talk with them as well.

Now for some jokes that we have found hilarious:

The first Wednesday of the month, Prague tests its warning sirens. Most of us were not prepared to hear it and were quite confused.

“They are just testing the sirens. It happens the first Wednesday of the month.” Z stated.

“But why?” I implored. Someone else asked if it was for tornadoes. Finally someone said,

“Germans, let’s be frank.”

In a different lesson, we were talking about a sword and our teacher asked,

“P, a sword is a what?” P looks up from her notebook and promptly goes,

“A physical activity.” We died laughing.

We were talking about different types of verbs and synonyms. One word, to rise, was mentioned in relation to getting out of bed.

“But the sun rises.” I state.

“The sun doesn’t rise, the Earth spins.” Z stated calmly. I gave him a look, but it was such a funny correction that none of us could keep a straight face.

As people finished up their work Sunday night, A, D, H, and I went to get a beer from Beer Geek. The three of them also got wings too. It was nice getting a drink and unwinding after the week and after a busy sight-seeing day.

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