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 working life

25 unor (feb)
Two weeks ago
I finished the TEFL course and was looking forward to spending a week off looking for a new flat and traveling for a few days. After my last practice lesson that Thursday afternoon, I was asked to wait for a few minutes for a brief meeting. The three experienced teachers, which happened to be my two roommates and me, met with the program director and the head of class scheduling. Apparently the school was desperate for teachers. There have been classes waiting to start for weeks and, since we were all experienced teachers, could we start right away? How can you say no to that?

So I have been teaching for the past two weeks. I’m not quite up to a full load yet, but will be in a week or two as new classes are added. Most of my classes are at businesses with small groups of two or three, several are one on one, and one is a regular classroom class. In most of my classes, I have interested learners who need better English for work or just for their own personal education. The sessions "in company" are generally in meeting room sans whiteboards and are not very conducive to using many of the teaching methods we were trained in, but are workable and enjoyable just the same. I have three young men at Nikon who offered to take me to a jazz club when I expressed an interest in finding one! And all have had helpful suggestions for getting around and getting things done in Prague.

The school, as with most language schools in this city, has a large business clientele. English has become the de facto language of the business world. Most of the people my students communicate with are other Europeans, not native English speakers, so there seems to be evolving an international English used across the globe. My company students range from a bank employee struggling to form simple sentences to IT people translating or writing technical manuals and reading web pages in English. Because of the communicative nature of learning English –classes are conversation based – I am getting to know these people, and possibly making some new friends. I have found many Europeans travel in their younger days by working as "au pair", what we would call a nanny, living with a family, and a few have lived in England briefly. I tell them that teaching English is my way to work and travel. "Lucky for you!" many of them have said with a grin.

I just moved into a new flat a few days ago. It’s wonderful to have my own space! It’s small with just two rooms: kitchen and living room with a futon sofa/bed, but in an interesting old area reasonably centrally located called Vinohrady. Housing is quite expensive in these older neighborhoods. Surprisingly, inside these old buildings there is usually very modern furniture. Newly redecorated, it looks like I’m living in an Ikea showroom. I am a block away from a square with a park, metro and tram stops, and a odd looking, wide church with a huge clock. When I pulled up in a taxi with my luggage, the driver stopped on a nearby street to wait for someone to park. The church loomed in front of us, filling the space between the apartment buildings. It was noon and the church bells started ringing, clanging loudly, and lasted about five minutes, joyfully announcing my arrival! Fortunately, I have since discovered that the church bells don’t chime like that on every hour, they just seem to mark certain times of the day.

Both of my roommates are leaving Prague after just a week of teaching. I had expected the younger teachers to be the ones that wouldn't stay long. They didn’t seem to find the job a fit, each for their own reasons. Sad to see friends go, but I'm happy to be living alone these days and settling in. I have one friend, another new teacher, who is a former musician and music teacher with an arm injury looking for a new career, at least for a while. He has become a concert partner. We have already enjoyed an evening with the Prague Symphony Orchestra and another with the Prague Philharmonic Choir. His taste tends to the modern and disharmonic – including several Stravinsky pieces so far and some local composers – and is thrilled to find this genre performed here. I have found the music fascinating, but I’m certainly still learning. In one choir piece, almost two hundred voices sounded like the increasingly louder chatter of birds; it looked and sounded as though each member was singing a different part. It’s worth going for the theatres alone – the venues are elegant, dazzling halls. I have gone on my own to a few of the more traditional concerts scheduled for tourists, sort of greatest classical hits medleys, but superbly played just the same. After one concert that I attended with two other teachers, we walked across the Charles Bridge in a light snow. All the vendors were gone; the only people left were beggars or lovers. It was mysteriously beautiful with the enormous sculptures along the bridge coming into view then fading as we passed, the castle brightly lit and gleaming in the distance.

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