Hello from Prague! I started my job here at Akcent International House Prague in May 2015 and have been enjoying it ever since.
I did my CELTA with IH Belfast back in December 2014 and after a brief period at home in Northern Ireland I accepted my first teaching position with IH Prague.
I’ve always been fascinated by travelling and seeing new things. I grew up in the kind of town that would make you want to travel! Prior to doing the CELTA I worked in various positions at summer schools in England and Scotland and developed a real aspiration for teaching and working with young people. Luckily for me, IH Prague has a lot of young learner classes!
Having never been to the Czech Republic before (or should I be calling it Czechia now?) it was certainly a daunting experience moving here but I actually found it a rather easy transition, maybe a little too easy. For example, on my first day in Prague I went for a coffee in Costa, picked up a SIM card from Vodafone then did a bit of grocery shopping in Tesco and Marks & Spencer. It’s just like being at home! But jokes aside there was plenty to get used to here.
If you’re going to be working at a busy school like mine, be prepared for an information overload, kind of like your first days of CELTA all over again but don’t worry! After a few weeks I was settled in and getting to grips with living life in a new country and importantly, trying to understand the language which includes the notoriously hard to pronounce letter Ř.
Around 90% of my timetable consists of teaching children or teens. My first few days were terrifying, but once you start to build up rapport with your students and get your classroom management procedures in place then it‘s plain sailing. Everyone here has a different timetable, some travel a lot to different places (if teaching in businesses for example) and some people have most of their classes in the IH building. I usually teach in the mornings at various pre-schools in Prague 10 and then spend my afternoons and evenings back at IH Prague for in-school classes so it’s a good balance for me personally. I don’t mind the travelling as the public transport network is amazing for a city of this size and I can get to most places around the city in about 45 minutes at the most.
My timetable varies from day to day but I’ve put together a diary of a typical day for me.
08:00 – 11:00 I am definitely not a morning person. No matter how much sleep I get, I still feel awful in the morning. However, I much prefer having a proper routine to stick to.
Today I’m up at 6.40am to get the bus out to Prague 10. This is where I will go to a pre-school to teach a group of lively six year olds!
These classes are part of a local government programme that runs in all pre-schools in Prague 10. The idea is to introduce children to English in a fun and positive way so as to encourage them to continue studying English in the future.
We don’t do any grammar with the children and we don’t do any reading or writing. This is because Czech children don’t start to properly read and write until they enter their first year of primary school. Each week we teach them a new set of vocabulary through various activities and games. All I have with me is a set of six flashcards, a story and some worksheets for after. It sounds scary at first, but once you get into a routine with your students and find out their likes and dislikes it gets much easier. The actual teaching part lasts 60 minutes.
The other two hours will be for play time with the children where you’re supposed to talk to them in a natural manner and encourage them to practise their English. This can be hard when some of the children may not have fully grasped their native language yet, but you can ask them questions about what they’re doing/playing with or trying to elicit and revise old vocabulary. You also get to play too, which is great fun. I’ve made some beautiful Lego creations in the past.
12.55 – 13.40 After lunch it’s time for me to head to a local primary school. In fact, it’s literally beside IH Prague so I can leave about five minutes before the class starts and still be on time! The teaching we do in this school is to supplement what the children learn with their normal school teacher. These lessons are very communicative and I usually use some kind of fun activity or game to practise what they have been doing in their normal school lessons. As an outsider coming into their class to teach, the children have a tendency to misbehave because they are not under the watchful eyes of their class teacher. Thankfully, my grade 4 class that I have are actually really lovely.
Recently we’ve been looking at can/can’t for ability and creating our own superheroes!
14:20 – 16:00 This afternoon I am teaching a group of eleven year olds back at IH. Afternoon young learner classes are very popular here and the children come straight after school.
My students are at elementary level, which I really like because I find it satisfying to see their progress throughout the year.
In the young learner classes, we use various course books depending on the age and level of the students. This is good for me as a new teacher because it gives the lesson a much more solid structure. You can follow the book and supplement it with your own relevant ideas to keep the students engaged and motivated. In this particular classroom there is an interactive whiteboard, which I’ve used quite a bit. I often find some sort of online game to practise the language that we’re studying in class. It’s a lifesaver when the students become restless!
16:00 – Late! At four o’clock the students go home and I go back to the staffroom.
I don’t get to finish at four every day so my question now is, do I get some planning done for the rest of the week… or do I take the tram down to the river for a 90p pint of beer in the sun?
As much as I do like spending time by the river, especially during sunny weather, I often stay in school for an extra hour or two to get planning finished. This makes my life so much easier for the following week and I don’t have to cram everything in at the last minute.
Doing the CELTA and moving here has definitely been a life changing experience. Despite not having any young learner teaching experience when I started here, I feel that it is something I have learned over the past year. As long as you’re enthusiastic and willing to learn as you go along then you’ll do great. Wherever you go there will always be experienced teachers who are willing you give you some help. A word of advice for new CELTA students… do what your tutor says and you’ll be fine, it’s that simple! Major thanks to IH Belfast who helped to make all of this possible!
Daniel Crawford, English Language Teacher