Sunday, July 19, 2009

Perseverance in Prague (I can keep these p-words coming)

As Paul Pierce once wrote to me: "Perseverance pays." Let's see.

10pm on a Sunday night. So long weekend #2.

I have to say I still struggle to gauge the passage of time here…seems like my body still remembers the time warp of Boston-to-Dublin-to-Prague.

The weekend could not have come sooner. It was, to say the least, a bad week. After clocking around 3 hours of sleep last Sunday night, I came down with a nasty cold that I didn’t really kick until late Friday. I was so busy with school and exhausted from being sick I did nothing but get up, go to school from 9:30-6 (some days as late as 7 or 8), go home, eat, do work, go to bed, and then do it again the next day. I joked to mom and dad that on that schedule, I may as well have been taking the course in Boston. I hardly knew I was in Prague.

The course is really kicking my ass. As of this moment, I find myself on the borderline between passing and failing. When we deliver lessons to our Czech students, we are observed and graded according to a very harsh rubric that demands we teach exactly how they have instructed us during their lectures and demonstrations. I “passed” my first lesson (any score over 60/100 is a pass) on Tuesday. I “barely” failed my lesson on Thursday. Mainly, because I did not get my students to participate more, I used a few colloquialisms (not teacher language), and I did not manage to fit what I had planned into 45 minutes. During both lessons I was in desperate need of Dayquil and a nap, but instead I had to enthusiastically teach under the stifling pressure of being observed. It was delightful.

Sometimes the instructors are less concerned with whether or not the students learn and more with whether we do precisely what they tell us. I’m not here to question it, I just want my certificate. And even though I’m not in terrific position, I’ll get it. I’ve already made a list of things that I need to accomplish in my next lesson Wednesday, and I’m excited to teach healthy.

The basic philosophy they preach follows a “communicative” model. This is an educational theory label for student-based learning. The approach is highly researched in psychological language acquisition, cutting-edge in English pedagogy and challenges the tradition of teaching-based lecturing and explaining. In truth, their methods are excellent and if I did things the way they’ve asked, I would be a great teacher. The difficulty is that not only am I inexperienced at teaching, I’m still in the process of learning their approach.

I am not afraid of failing; many of my peers are in even worse shape. My sense is that as one of the top ten TEFL schools in Europe, they won’t just hand these degrees out, and for that, I don’t blame them. My only issue is that you are not really aware of how difficult this is and how seriously each person risks failing until you’ve already tanked a lesson and put yourself behind the 8-ball. The scathing criticism that follows borders on belittling sometimes, but they are accurate in their evaluations. I’ll pull through.

SO. I think we start to understand why I haven’t seen much of Prague. It’s a shame, but I won’t see anything anywhere if I fail, so I guess I can handle seeing a little bit on weekends only for the last two weeks of the course. It will have to do. For now, I’ll share what I’ve got:

I snapped these while wandering around last Sunday evening. Let me preface by saying this is but the tip of iceberg. To lead off, it's Chuck the emperor!
This is right next to the Charles Bridge - the bridge featured in my the header picture - is probably one of the densely tourist-y parts of Prague at any given moment. It's overwhelming. Here's my attempt at a similar shot:

One thing that is unique to Prague is the cubist architecture. It's one of the only places in the world you can find buildings like this.
Crazy. On the other hand, Baroque style and influence is not unique to Prague, but it is no less gorgeous for it. This is just a sampling of one of thousands of street corners in this style:

Perhaps I should show some pics of "home" - a place I've spent much more time in than I would like to have, but so it goes. Below, my concrete slab of a bed. I made the bed just to take the picture...

Here is our hallway. First door on the right is the shower/sink, and the second door on the right is the toilet. They are separate, and this is usual here. They also love to position the toilet so that when you close the door, your nose is practically touching it when you've seated.
The tiny kitchen. It's not so bad, but I could use a little more room to move. It would never work for more than just my roommate Anders and I.
We have a fridge and a washing machine! This must be the post-Soviet era!

But seriously, it's nice having a washer, even if it's cleaning abilities are suspect at best. I've resolved not to put anything "nice" in there.

Week 3 starts tomorrow. Better things, people, better things.


  1. Back on line after a computer shutdown. Hope this message gets to you. Keep the blog coming. Interesting.

    Miss you,

    Ethel & Pa