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The Final Countdown

30 May

Yes, just like that Europe song (see below). Which is coincidental because I’m counting down until I leave Europe.

So yes, I am in the homestretch of my year here in Karlovy Vary. Only three weeks left of teaching then I hop on a plane June 21 to head back to the US.

This morning on my third-to-last Monday Kids Club ever (in case you missed it, read about the terrors here, here, and here) I had a very very very pleasant surprise of only having five kids in class. (Normally there are 12.) It was amazing! Nevermind that half of the kids who were absent have tonsillitis (in my defense I always tell them to take the toys out of their mouths so it’s not my fault the germs have spread). Anyways, it was a very pleasant start to the week and I can only hope the next few days are as nice.

And to answer the question about what happens after June 21…

Basically 48 hours after I land at Dulles I’ll be taking a flight to Boston because I’ll be teaching at Cardigan Mountain School’s summer session again this year. That will wrap up in the beginning of August and after spending a month and a half hanging out in VA I’ll heading back to Spain!!!!!!!!!! I’ll be doing the same program I did last year in Huelva, except in a different school in Villarrobledo, a small town in the Castilla-La Mancha region of the country. It will be a totally different experience since I’ll be in a town of 25,000 people and not on the coast, but they are in an area of wine and Manchego cheese production so that’s a nice plus!

And, in a shocking move for myself (or at least for myself of the last two years) I even have a plan for the year after! Earlier this spring I was accepted to graduate school at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. I had already received a placement for Spain so I asked for and was granted a deferral for one year. So in September 2012 I’ll be enrolling in the graduate program of applied linguistics at the Univ. of Edinburgh. Right now I’m sure you’re asking yourself “what the czech does applied linguistics even mean?” In a nutshell it’s the study of language and its functions and usage in everyday life. That includes things like studying how people acquire a second language so that you can be a better language teacher. For a clearer and probably more accurate description, see the program’s website. So what started as an experimental year in a high school in Spain is leading toward a career in the language field; it could be in research or continuing to teach English at various levels including university, I haven’t nailed down which direction I’ll head yet (I already have a plan for the next two years so I can’t get too ahead of myself haha). Either way it’s exciting and I’m looking forward to going back to school.

The main takeaway of this post for you is that now you have another opportunity to visit me in Spain (I’ll be only two hours from Madrid on the train) and then the next year in Edinburgh. Start planning now, visitors always welcomed 🙂


St. Patrick’s Day in Czechland

20 Mar

OK so maybe it wasn’t a typical St. Paddy’s Day celebration for me–no green beer, no green bagels, no excessive amounts of green beads, no nasty corned beef and cabbage (sorry, Dad, but it is nasty) … BUT Friday morning in Kids Club we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and it included spray painting kids’ hair green, painting their nails green, drawing shamrocks on their faces and stomachs, eating lots of sour apple gummy candies, and trashing the classroom like a leprechaun did it… all in all, it was a really fun day!

me painting Ondra's nails green

"can I have a shamrock on my tummy, please?"


"green spaghetti" boogers


crazy Ondra

Adam the leprechaun

Ondra again, really looking like a leprechaun

class pic

Monday Madness: A (Small) Success Story

28 Feb

You may recall back in November I wrote about a girl we have in 0ur Monday morning Kids Club who used to cry for nearly the whole four hours she was with us. The crying gradually dwindled until she was only crying when we would split the kids into two groups for their English lessons, and then she would cry only when she had to come to my class.

The first two times she did this she wailed and wailed and wailed so we just let her go with my colleague (for both lessons, instead of one with her and one with me). This evolved into a routine because every time we would split up into groups the little crier (LC) would start to sniffle and tear if we tried to make her come with me.

Last week my colleague decided that needed to change. The LC would (understandably) get bored during the second lesson with my colleague because she was doing the same things. This inevitably led to her not paying attention and distracting the other kids. So we decided that this week we would force her to come with me. Her mom agreed we should be tougher and not let her dictate what she does.

Cut to this morning, 11:00am in Kids Club. We split up into the two groups, I send the kids I had during the first lesson to my colleague. I tell the LC to come to my classroom. Cue the waterworks. And wailing. The kid has a set of lungs, I’ll give her that.

11:00-11:04 – LC is sobbing and trying to escape from my classroom. She won’t sit in a chair and keeps trying to go to the door. I am repeatedly picking her up and carrying her back to her chair. I’m not really sure what the other kids in my group were doing since almost all of my attention was focused on keeping LC in my classroom. (Note to self: Great classroom management skills! ha!)

11:05 – LC is still sobbing. Other five children in my group are sitting nicely in their chairs with their hands covering their ears. The little boy with raging ADD even came over and kissed my hand, which was sweet of him, but just proves how miserable this situation was.

11:08 – Still crying, but finally sitting in a chair LC asks to go to the bathroom. I think this is a clever ploy to try and get out of my room and sneak into my colleagues room so I open the door and basically escort her (the bathroom is just opposite the door to my room). She is still crying as she pees in the toilet, no exaggeration. Kid is sitting on the pot crying because we’re forcing her to come to my lesson.

11:10 – LC returns to my classroom, did not try to bolt for the other room, and eventually the sobs are reduced to  sniffles. After she goes to get a tissue and wipes her nose with it she gives it to me to throw away. Thanks, kid. Because your screaming and crying wasn’t enough, I also really wanted to touch your (presumably) germ-infested tissue and put it into the trash can for you. Thanks.

11:12 – Crying has finally stopped and the lesson is in full swing. LC was actually one of the best students in that group once she stopped crying and participated. I gave her multiple high-fives during the lesson because she actually did know a lot of the vocabulary.

SUCCESS!! I won! (Kind of, if you don’t count the first 10 minutes of wailing and the cold I surely picked from her snot rag as a loss.) Booyah, baby!!

And after that morning I had to cover for another colleague who was sick so I ended up teaching four more classes after Kids Club and didn’t get home until 5:30pm (I started with Kids Club at 7:30am). Ouucchhh. I am tired. But confident that after my triumph today LC will be less tearful and more productive in my lessons.

On a unrelated note, the Photos page has been updated if you wish to czech it out.

What the F … in Czech

24 Feb

Remember those students from my last post who were taking off their shirts and yelling “Duffman!! Ohhh yeahhh!!”??? I described them as “funny and crazy.” I neglected to include “little jerks” in the description…

Last year I had some funny stories about my students using the F word in front of me. In all those occasions the students were just trying to be funny and test out the usage of the curse words/phrases they had learned in English. In general, they weren’t trying to malicious, or at least not towards me. Last year I also understood their native language, Spanish, so I would have known if they were ever cursing about me in Spanish … which is not the case this year, where I can’t understand Czech so my students could be saying anything in Czech and I would have no idea. In most of my classes there is a Czech teacher present, and most of my students are under the age of 7 so the odds of them saying anything inappropriate is low. But, I have a few classes of students older than 8 where there is no Czech teacher present.

Which brings me to yesterday afternoon’s class with the 5 wild boys. There is no other teacher present, just me. And we’re in our office, not in a school where I can send the kids to a principal’s office or something. In the first 5 minutes of class we were starting to do an activity and I had given all the boys a flashcard and told them to put it on the floor in front of them. “Duffman” student wasn’t listening so I told him again to put it on the floor. He responded, “yes, kurva.” Here is your Czech lesson for the day: “kurva” = “bitch.” And, according to Google translate, it can also mean wh**e, sl*t, hooker, prostitute, strumpet, harlot, streetwalker…

Luckily for me I had just learned this word not more than 3 weeks prior, when Jess and I got a  lesson in Czech curse words from a friend of ours KV. I thought it would be funny if I learned some of them, not anticipating that they’d be useful in the classroom. This episode just made me wonder what other things they’ve been saying that I didn’t understand… but now the joke is on them because Duffman’s parents were getting a call from my coordinator on Wednesday night…

Crazy Kids Continue

21 Feb

I realize I haven’t written that much about teaching lately (or written that much in general lately, apologies). Two funny stories from the last week that I thought I’d share.

1. This morning in my Monday morning madness that is Kids Club we were doing a lesson on food: banana, apple, biscuit and milk. When I was showing the kids the flashcard of milk and asking “what is it?” one little kid kept responding “pivo, pivo, pivo.” What is pivo? you ask. It’s Czech for beer. Nice.

2. On Wednesdays I have a crazy (and thankfully small) class of 5 boys who are between the ages of 8 and 9. Some days can be really fun because some of them are quite good at English. For example when I made them ask each other questions practicing the structures “are you a _____? … yes, I am …  and no, I’m not” they would say things like “are you an elephant? are you a table? are you a door? are you a skateboard?” etc etc, but they actually understood the structure and were able to use a lot of vocabulary. This may seem like a minor achievement, but believe me, it’s crucial (when compared to the comprehension and speaking abilities of the bulk of my students).

So anyways, they are funny and crazy kids as evidenced this past Wednesday when one of them for whatever reason started saying in the beginning of class “I’m Duffman! Ohhh yeahhh!” — a line from American’s finest family cartoon, the internationally popular Simpsons. I actually did think it was funny when I first heard him say that so I laughed. I think I laughed as much out of surprise (to hear him quoting a Duffman line) as I did amusement. In any case, big mistake. That only encouraged him. So he continued yelling, “Duffman!! Ohhh yeahh!!” and then took his shirt off and whipped it around his head. That sparked his little friend in class to follow suit so soon there were two shirtless skinny Czech kids in my classroom yelling “I’m Duffman!! Ohhh yeeahhhh!!”  

More Monday Madness

22 Nov

I’m beginning to sense that Monday’s class will yield a lot of blog fodder for me. As an update to last week’s disastrous class, today was another eventful day at Kids Club. There was some improvement in the crier, I think today she cried for only 3 hours. But the boy with raging ADD took a turn for the worse and bit the little devil boy’s ear. Yes, pulled a Mike Tyson and bit his ear, though there were no chunks missing. During playtime we heard screaming in the other room (and I was holding the crier so I knew it wasn’t her) and it turned out to be the little devil. Another little girl who was in the room with them also said that the one with raging ADD hit her as well, and there were red marks on her head to prove it. Awesome. I love Mondays.

Manic Monday

15 Nov

Good afternoon! I just got home from my Monday morning Kids Club, the 4-hour English-language preschool we teach in our office/classrooms. The kids on Mondays are beginners, ages 2.5 to 5. Some of them are really cute and sweet but today was just an overall disaster. My head is pounding and I’m not sure whether it’s from:

  • the little girl who cried for 3 hours and 45 minutes of the 4 hours because she wanted her mom,
  • telling the boy with raging ADD to sit down or listen or put away the toys because it’s not play time,
  • the door (that was off the hinges, leaning up against the wall) that a little girl sent crashing down, breaking a trash can and scaring the hell out of the kid standing next to it, sending him into tears,
  • the little devil boy who did a raspberry and spit all over my face, or
  • the same little devil who clocked me in the face while he was “biting” me with the crocodile puppet

I will now pretend I’m in Spain and take a siesta… possibly until Tuesday.