Friday, September 21, 2001

Elves and Smurfs

Hope things are going well back in the US of A. Things here are currently going well. It's nice to have one more busy week behind us and to be preparing for a relaxing weekend. I'd like to spend some time writing about my students now. I've told you I'm teaching English, and that my students are great, but I haven't told you much else about them. The majority of the students here are between 19 and 25. I have several who are in their 30's, but most are around my age. I made the mistake of telling my beginners that I was born in 1979, and their mouths dropped open and they shook their heads and said, "So young..." But they respect me.

The students want to learn English for various reasons. Many of the males are here to avoid military service because as long as they are in school they do not have to partake in their year of required service. They feel that that year is simply a wasted year because they don't get paid for it, and the country has no money to fund proper training so even though they may be in the army they might get to fire one bullet in target practice. I only have two students who have openly admitted to this reason for being here, but they do just as well or better in class than other students, so it's not a problem. Most of the students are here because when you know English in this country you can get a much better job. That's both because of the large number of American tourists who come through, and any international business done here is done in either the English or German languages.

There is no problem with discipline here because the students are incredibly well-behaved. Czechs are generally mild-mannered in the first place, and given the building we're in and the respect that it demands, it's easy to understand why everyone is so good. (Editor's note: The previous statement was made during a time of utter naivity about the nature of Czech students. While there are some who are very well-behaved, there are some who are sheer terrors.)

Students are required to either wear silly looking cloth coverings over their shoes that make them look like elves and smurfs (and therefore never cease to crack me up when I pass them in the halls), or bring shoes to change into when they arrive. The teachers also have a pair of shoes here to change into when we arrive. This requirement is for the protection of the carpet, which is generally pretty cheap in America, but it is very expensive here so it's seen as a luxury.

Anyway, I've got to go buy food.