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 school

5 unor (feb)
I am enrolled
in an intensive TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) training program at a Prague’s biggest language school. The course is four weeks and I haven’t had much time to breathe. One more week to go.

The school promotes a well-defined philosophy of teaching language, albeit a bit extreme. The point is to get students speaking as much as possible, practicing the language in realistic conversation. We are encouraged to use fun activities in the classroom to make it lively. But they downplay actually teaching anything directly; you are supposed to elicit the concepts, rules, etc. from the students as much as possible, kind of coaxing them along. Sometimes it seems like a bit of a game, but I have heard that you have more freedom in your own classroom once you are actually teaching and can mix the techniques that work best for you.

In addition to attending classes, reading texts, observing other language classes and writing papers analyzing it all this last week, we were required to develop lesson plans and teach two classes a week to pre-intermediate and upper-intermediate Czech students. The students are adults of all ages and have been a supportive, agreeable group. These lessons are observed and critiqued, the important part being the self-criticism, so it has been somewhat stressful.

The fun part has been the weekly Czech class. Presented as an “unknown language” class, the purpose is to show us how to teach a beginning class where a language is introduced using no other languages for explanations. It also puts us in the role of a language student, provoking empathy with our own students. A side effect, of course, is that we gain some survival tools to make our way around Prague and some practice getting comfortable with the sound and constructions of Czech. Here is a Czech tongue twister composed of all consonants (shown here without the accent marks, there should be a little u over the first c): Strc prst skrz krk. It means, “Put your finger down your throat.”

There are three teachers: the almost religiously fanatical guru of the teaching philosophy, Paul; the intimidating British grammar expert, Jon (and we all chime in “Where are George and Ringo?”); and Romana, the dynamic, native Czech teacher. Paul and Jon play “good cop, bad cop” with us in alternate sessions. Romana’s classes are challenging but enjoyable, and give the course some balance.

I have committed to start work February 19th, after a week off. During the interim week I’ll be hunting for a new flat, making some arrangements like renewing my transportation pass, etc., and hope to travel for at least a few days. My work schedule will probably start off slowly and fill in as classes become available. A fine way to ease into a new job.

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