Wednesday, April 26, 2006

finals, part i

Well, it's still April, but it's already over. Sort of. Because Spring all but finishes off many students' already semester-worn attention spans and because issues like grades need to be sorted out before maturitas kick off in less than a month, this week I'm giving finals in English class. And, as I realized yesterday as two classes I've taught for two years now walked out the door after handing their copies in, this IS the final---not just their last English test in high school, but my the beginning of my bow out from ISŠTE.

Like old sit-coms looking for an elusive boost, I like to fill my tests with cameos from friends and family from home and abroad. This 4th grade final features James Pierce, whose right eye really is red like that. One of James' recent conversations with me provided excellent source material for that curmudgeon of English grammar, the pestilent-but-pedestrian Reported Speech.

Jířina provided the most amusing mis-execution when she reported James said, "I'm living in Dana Point now." as James said that he had loved in Dana Point.

Good night, everybody.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

april newsletter

Elephants in April – Notes From the Czech Republic
April 19, 2006 – (19. dubna 2006)

Dobrý den!

It's been quite a while since my last eNewsletter update (and for that I do apologize), and there's lots going on as the school has started to wind down. To wit: next week I'm giving eight rounds of final exams to my graduating students, and in three weeks we'll all sit through maturitas—the big, scary graduation tests. For all the other , non-graduating students the school year ends June 30th—and as almost all of my students this year will graduate, when maturitas wrap up at the end of May, I'll have a month of just six lessons a week. It'll be a hard month. But don't accuse me of laziness just yet—there'll be much to do in that "light" month, and, of course, getting there is an uphill climb.


NEW ON THE BLOG
If this newsletter just doesn't satisfy your thirst for stories about crazy students, new travels, and new thoughts about interacting with Czech culture, be sure to check out these posts on the blog, including...

· more about the field trip to London

· a delicious recipe for Czech honey cake

· training for the Prague International Marathon

· life and teaching at ISŠTE


LONDON
This month one of my Czech co-workers and I lead a week-long field trip to London for 15 ISŠTE students and a group of 5 adult students. We boarded a bus (yes, a bus) on Monday afternoon and drove through the night (as well as through Germany, Belgium and France), passed under the English Channel and arrived in London town just in time for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Mostly the trip was a lot of walking (about 8 miles per day) and photography (probably 800 per day all together ;-), but it was also a great opportunity for the students to flex their English muscles in the capital city of English itself.


BETTER MOUSETRAPS
Sometime last fall I taught a lesson on brainstorming to a few groups of graduating students. After lecturing each class on the value of coming up with creative solutions for problem solving, how this skill can benefit them in their future work and studies, and after going through some vocabulary and procedures, we make a practice run, our brainstorming topic being the classic problem of "building a better mousetrap."

During the brainstorm I sit in the back to watch while student recorders write all kinds of imaginative suggestions from the class on the board, from using tastier (or poisonous!) cheese to training smarter cats. More extreme solutions are usually given as well, like using dynamite or lasers, and somebody almost always mentions flamethrowers (poor mice!).

We had spent half of the allotted time in 4TL when I saw Ludék suddenly brighten up and reach into his bag for a dictionary. He flipped a few pages, found his desired word, took a moment to formulate the grammar in his head, then raised his hand. His suggestion: "We should have brave elephants."

I hesitate to moralize this story into some "don't sweat the small stuff" reminder. I also shy away from spiritualizing the story into some "we are elephants in Christ" sermon. But this story has stuck with me—it made me laugh—as has the irony that a big elephant would be so stymied by a little mouse.


NEW CHAPTERS
As you may have already received my newest support letter in your mailbox, you probably already know that I've decided to return to the Czech Republic for a third—and very different—year. Chrissy and I, as you also may know, are getting married this August, and after thinking and praying a lot about how to begin our marriage well and how to be faithful servants to the communities God has placed us in this year, we've decided to be a missionary pair in Prague, where Chrissy teaches now.

Marriage is a huge new chapter in our lives, as is starting a new year in a new city and a new school for me. I'll miss the people that I've met and taught and shared with in Sokolov over the past two years, but I trust that God is the one (and not me) who plants his love in hearts. And I know that he loves these people much more than I can. I hope that you'll join me in praying for these people God loves, and also for the new ESI teacher who will take my place at ISŠTE next year.


IF YOU'RE INTERESTED...
...in teaching English and following Christ far from home, among many great opportunities you probably have, ESI is still diligently seeking out new candidates to be serve as teachers for both summer-long and year-long programs in China, Morrocco, Central Asia and even the Czech Republic! All programs currently need positions to be filled. So if you're interested or if God has been leading you this way, or even if you just have a hunch, try following this link http://www.teachoverseas.org/ or email me with any questions you might have.


PRAYER REQUESTS
When you're talking to Jesus these days and asking him to bless us in the Czech Republic, we'd love you to remember...

· ESI recruitment, which has been low in every program this year—for God to send workers to the field! (and soon!)

· the close of the school year, especially that we would finish well and faithful

· my students, and especially Koudy and Petr, with whom I've shared many conversations about faith and Christ this year

· our schools in Sokolov, which will start with a fresh crop of ESIers next year—the first time that there hasn't been a 2nd or 3rd (or 4th!) year teacher returning here in seven years—for a strong transition

· our friend Grant, another American who lives here, who asks many questions and whom God is seeking—for significant conversations about Christ

· Chrissy and I as we continue to prepare for a wedding and a marriage


Thank you again for your prayers and support this year. Spring has finally broken through the lingering winter gloom, and with it comes a reminder of God's faithfulness through the cold and gray and his way of creating green new life in us. And as we move out of the Easter season, I pray that Christ's love would stick in your mind and that his cross would call to your heart as we think and as we live towards

Making Him Important,
Joel