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A tricky first day on a TEFL course in Prague

Its been quite an experience here just in the past 5 days I have been in Prague. I arrived Friday morning, got my taxi to the school to where they showed me to the apartment complex I would be sharing with other students from my class. The apartment complex, or what we refer to as “The Villa”, is just a short uphill walk from the school, metro station and small mall in Prague 9 which is sort of a suburb of downtown Prague. The Villa sits in a quiet, little forested area surrounded by other houses where my room windows look out across the city’s rooftops and smokestacks. Ive got a small, simple room in a little apartment I share with 4 other students. It is the perfect place to be as a enthusiastic student and traveler. We’ve all become good friends here in a short amount of time, going out for some simple dinners (there are only 19 students in my class), cooking together at our homes, exploring downtown Prague and whatnot.

Saturday was my first day to explore downtown Prague. The school gave us 4 free metro passes to get us started, so I hopped on one to go to Old Town Prague. The place is like something out of Pinocchio or a storybook, I just have never seen buildings like these, they are almost cartoon-ish, like they were painted with bold colors onto the background sky. The entire downtown is all cobblestone (which is a good reason not to wear high heels). I read in my guidebook that the best way to experience Old Town Prague was to get lost in it. So thats what I did. I put my guidebook and map away, and let my feet do the exploring up and down winding cobblestone alleys. I eventually ended up at the places where I wanted to end up (the St. Charles Bridge, Old Town Square etc) but it gave me a chance to soak up my surroundings without being consumed of finding the right streets or directions. The day ended up with a tour of the Communist Museum in the downtown area, which I found absolutely fascinating, just the hatred the Czech people have towards Russians/Communism and the bitter history of the Communist rule that clouded up Czechoslovakia for so long.

Sunday was our schools orientation walk where all of the remaining students we hadn’t met got together and explored the Castle district across the river. The students that make up the course are Americans, Canadians, Australians, English, Finnish, Romanian and even one native Czech citizen. All of us come from different walks of life or different points in our life. Some, like myself, are recent college graduates who want to travel before settling down, while others are a few years older who had been out in the work force and decided to quit their jobs and go exploring for an adventure.

Yesterday was the first day of class – boy was that terrifying!!! Class goes from 10-6ish every day, with lessons in the morning and teaching in the afternoon. No, there way no wait time to get us adjusted, they threw us in the lions cage right away to start getting us experiencing hands on teaching (to my schools credit they are absolutely amazing in helping us learn to BE a teacher and not just someone who stands up in front of a room) As I sat in class all yesterday and the first part of today I was just MORTIFIED. I kept thinking “What have I done! Whyyyy did I move half way across the world to do something I hate/have never done before!” It was the feeling of pure dreading, that sick to your stomach, I don’t want to do this, I cant do this, feeling. But then suddenly it was like a light sparked in my head and everything came together, the weight lifted off and it actually started to become more fun.

Shortly thereafter, my group (3 of us) had to teach our lesson plan to our class. On day 2 we have become actual teachers. The school offers cheap classes for English to the people in the area. Today we were teaching an elementary-level course on reading. So with our teaching notes and lesson plan in hand, we got up in turns and taught out real-life class our English reading lesson. The people were so nice! There were 9 ladies (just so happened no men signed up for the class) most in their late 50′s. So for our 45 minutes we gave our lesson plan and they did so well! There were a group of 6 of the elder ladies who sat up in front who were like the peanut gallery, they just loved what we were teaching them and were so talkative and excited. It was a huge wave of relief for me, being someone who had never gotten up and taught anything before, let alone a reading lesson where I was having them repeat vocabulary words and helping them understand reading an article. There was something very fulfilling about the feeling of helping these ladies. They weren’t there because they were forced to be there, they wanted to be there and were excited to learn and wanted us to help them be corrected in their English speaking skills.

So at the end of the day, I grabbed my workout gear to go blow off some steam at the local “gym” I joined. I say it in quotes because its this bodybuilding dungeon-cave with some weights and nothing but sweating, fanny-pack wearing beefcake, terrifying Eastern European, -im going to drink my vodka and be in a fight club-, men in it. I am pretty sure I am the only girl that has ever stepped foot in that place. While listening to my Lady Gaga in my headphones I got to reflect on the past couple days. I am still shocked I am over here. Its just beginning and I am nowhere near the end. Its going to be a tough 4 weeks of school and job searching but I know something great is going to come out of it all. I don’t know by how or what it will be but as long as I keep my eyes, ears and heart open, I’m sure I’ll find it.

Much more by this author – and her later life teaching in Russia – on her personal and very touching blog.

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