Belly flops, beers with students and teaching grammar to a man that clucks: Mark Pickering tells us about a typical day in the life of an English teacher in Prague.
Teaching English is a boring, mundane existence where each day dribbles lifelessly into one. That’s right, isn’t it? Well, actually no. Not at all. As an English language teacher in Prague, my days are full of intrigue, entertainment and above all, variety. That’s what makes it so hard to talk about a typical day. No one day is typical; each brings with it its own unique and surprising set of odd and brilliant encounters. So I won’t try. Instead I will just talk about yesterday. It was as typical as any day, and a pretty good one at that.
It started at 8.30 when I awoke, hastily gobbled a croissant and legged it Usain Bolt-style to my classroom, a student-filled fortress which stands rather conveniently 100 metres from my flat. Yes, I live right next to the classroom at Hradcanska, near Prague Castle, nice for the view and perfect for duvet addicts like me. Anyway, I was teaching a group of 19 and 20-year-olds – actually my favourite age for teaching. They’re past the acne-headed, whiney phase and haven’t reached the beard-stroking, talk-about-nothing-but-your-kids stage. So I like them; they’re fun. In this particular lesson, we had a interesting discussion about transsexuals, brushed up on a bit of grammar, then, at their request, I taught them a few bits of British slang (‘belly flop’ and ‘nipple cripple’ were particular favourites).
My next class was a few tram stops round the corner in Holesovice, in a company that sells both the washing powder and the deodorant that I buy (not that they’re too open-handed with the free samples, mind). My students, Marta and Ludek, are great and I’ve been teaching them for a good couple of years. Ludek’s English is pretty solid but occasionally he comes out with an absolute classic. For example: “I remember watching Amadeus at the cinema and when it finished, everyone was so moved, they all stood up and starting clucking!” Brilliant. In yesterday’s class, we went over their conditionals homework, revised some irregular verbs then finished the lesson with a card-grabbing vocabulary game. Marta won but only, so Ludek said, because it was her birthday and he let her. A likely story, especially from someone who clucks as way of applause.
Luckily, as is often the way with English teaching, you get a few pockets of free time during the day. I sometimes go to Svetozor, a little independent cinema near Wenceslas Square to catch an afternoon movie. But yesterday, I only had an hour so I ate a late lunch in Letna – a beautiful park that overlooks Prague – and read my book. After 60 minutes of tuna mayonnaise and Raymond Chandler, I went to my final lesson of the day, which was located, rather nicely, in a pub.
You’ll find a lot of students want purely conversation lessons to improve their speaking, so where better to converse about the topical issues of the day that in a local drinking establishment supping a nice cold pint of Pilsner. My student, Ondra, is a gem. He loves talking about football, enjoys British comedy like Blackadder and Fawlty Towers, and is really motivated to learn English. A winning combination in my book. Yesterday, amongst other things we talked about the Rolling Stones and whether bullfighting should be banned. It was a really interesting chat, and even better was that after the 90 minutes was up, he thanked me, paid for my beers then gave me money for the lesson. Not a bad way to spend an hour and a half.
Evenings in Prague are great. The city has really come on in the last couple of years with a crop of hipster hangouts, good gig venues, and lively beer dens to hang out in. Naplavka is a real fave – a laid-back space by the Vltava river where couples, students, and teachers like me chill out with a beer and listen to a DJ. I met a couple of mates there, then when it got a bit nippy, we headed to a brilliantly dark and smoky pub round the corner called Sucha Dasen, for a couple more and a tasty plate of pickled cheese. After that, it was the last Metro home and back to bed.
Thankfully, my day started at noon today, so I could take it easy in the morning and write this. Like I say, each day is different. I thought it would get boring. But six years in, I’m still here, teaching English and enjoying the city’s many delights. If you’re at a loose end or simply fancy a change, you could do far worse things than head here.