2020/01/27

An incredible Fulbright adventure

by Alanna Powers (current English teaching Assistant)


Standing over a bowl  in my school’s small kitchen, I ask one of my students to hand me the butter. He picks up the block of butter on the counter and reads it out loud, “maslo s rostlinným tukem.” 
He shoots me a confused look. “Well, this isn’t going to make our Thanksgiving mashed potatoes taste very good.”
“What?” I reply. “Why not?” 
“Because it’s not butter. It’s butter mixed with vegetable fat.” 
As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in the Czech Republic, mix ups like this happen at least once a week. However, it’s these messy and sometimes embarrassing moments that make the Fulbright experience so special. 
I live in Dvůr Králové nad Labem, a small town in the North-Central part of the country. For context, the town is about a 40 minute’s drive to Poland, and it takes about an hour and a half to get to Prague. About 16,000 people call Dvůr home, making it a tight-knit and friendly community. I teach at Střední Škola Informatiky a Služeb (School of Informatics and Services). It is a secondary technical school in which students ages 14 to 20 study in a variety of concentrations. Students can apply to any secondary school of their choice, and at my school they have the option to study tourism, hotel services, law enforcement, chemistry, I.T., cosmetology or hairdressing. With such a diverse range of students in this small community, each day holds its own unique challenges and joys, which makes for an incredible Fulbright adventure. 

Monday

On Monday morning, I teach a mix of first-year and fourth-year classes. This makes for an interesting day because some of the first-year students have just started to learn English in these past couple of months, while some of the fourth-years are basically fluent speakers. The fourth-years are preparing to take their Maturita exams, which they need to pass in order to graduate from secondary school. In these classes, we focus on the topics they will need to know for the test, but we also work on their speaking skills so that they are also prepared for the oral portion of the exam. In the afternoon, I teach a class of adult learners. These students are taking their first ever English class. We work on basics like the verb “to be” and the present tense. Each week I watch them become more comfortable with their English speaking skills.

Tuesday

Tuesday has become my “me” day, because it’s the only day of the week when I don’t do something extra outside of my classes. After I teach in the morning, I usually do some grocery shopping. Then, I spend the afternoon and the evening practicing my Czech, reading a book, calling family and friends at home or watching Netflix. Although I love everything that I get to do at my school and in my community, I’ve really come to value this alone time as well. Life as an ETA can be really exhausting because I feel the need to be “on” all the time. Having this evening for myself is not only great, but necessary. 

Wednesday

On Wednesday I co-teach classes with my mentor. We create a lesson plan that ensures both of us do certain tasks do throughout the lesson. We learn a lot about teaching by practicing this method, and the students enjoy it because it keeps the lesson fresh for the full 45 minutes. Once, we did a “KWL” lesson about the United States. We had the students write down what they already knew about the USA, and what they wanted to learn about the USA. Then, we had them read an article about the country. Once they were done reading they wrote down and presented their newfound knowledge to the class. Activities like this keep my Wednesdays fun and interesting.
I spend my afternoons at my American Culture club. All of my students are invited to join me as we practice English by speaking, watching a movie or cooking together. This is a great way to get to know my students outside of a classroom setting. 
Every Wednesday evening, I go to my yoga class. This class has provided me with a tightly-knit,  open group of Czech friends, and it allows me to have a relaxing end to my hump day. 


Thursday 

When I am done being a teacher on Thursday, I become the student. I grab my text book and head to a teacher’s office to have my weekly Czech tutoring session. Now, I know my right (doprava) from my left (doleva) and how to order at a restaurant. Everyone warned me that Czech is a very hard language, and they were right. However, each week I learn a little bit more and it becomes easier. 
Later in the evening, I have my weekly English lesson with more advanced adults. Each week I print out a list of questions and we practice conversational speaking. It is wonderful to watch these adult learners develop their English speaking skills. 


Friday

Fridays are very different than any other day at school. That is because I teach a first-year double-lesson with a teacher who is still attending university, so we are roughly the same age. He executes a debate method of teaching. Each week, we have the students take a side on a certain issue,  creating arguments and counter-arguments all in English. Our goal is to have the students engage in a full debate like the ones they see on TV by April. It is fascinating to watch how quickly their English skills have improved from participating in the debates. 
In the evenings, I usually go to a nearby town called Trutnov with some friends I met at  a nearby university. We will spend the evening at a pub, or out for dinner or bowling. I have found that some Czech beer and good company is the perfect way to end a wild week.     

  

Saturday/Sunday

Just like weekends in the United States, I use Sundays in the Czech Republic as a way to relax and recharge for the week to come. I am a member of a women’s running club in my town. On weekend mornings we meet somewhere in the town and run together for an hour or so. In the afternoons I spend time with my mentor and her family. My mentor and I make lunch together (which is the big meal of the day for the Czechs), and the whole family will eat together. Afterwards, we go on some type of adventure. It might be a walk through her village, or other times we do something bigger like drive to Mlada Boleslav, a town about an hour from Dvůr, to go to the Škoda museum. On Sunday nights, I plan for the week ahead. I usually pick one theme to teach each class every week, and I vary the lessons depending on the students’ skill levels. Finally, I write up a lesson plan and send them to my co-teachers so that we are both prepared for the week. 
Whether it be buying the wrong butter or some other blunder, there is always some sort of chaos involved in my weeks as an ETA. However, my weekly routine helps me stay stable and accepted at my school and in my community, which makes even the moments of disorder seem beautiful. 

me teaching at my school
my Mentor’s son and I baking cookies at their house

ladies from my running club



2019/11/22

Konference Mediální gramotnost 

(napsala Pavla Hubálková)















V Praze se 18.-20. října konala konference o mediální gramotnosti, kterou pořádala Česká Fulbrightova komise. Přijelo na ni 50 ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) z České republiky, Slovenska, Polska a Maďarska; 27 mentorů (čeští a slovenští učitelé angličtiny) a 11 členů Fulbright komisí. Cílem konference bylo americkým ETAs představit místní mediální prostředí, jaké jsou hlavní  rozdíly a také jim nabídnou mnoho praktických informací a zdrojů, které mohou využít při výuce na evropských školách. 


Program začal v pátek v CAMP (Centrum pro Architekturu a Městského Plánování), kde se konala panelová diskuze na téma “Literární Gramotnost v Centrální a Východní Evropě”. Své zkušenosti a pohledy sdílel Ondřej Soukup (Hospodářské noviny), Lenka Kabrhelová (Český rozhlas), Michal Kaderka (Svět médií), Jonáš Syrovátka (Prague Security Studies Institute) a Markéte Supa (Katedra Mediálních Studií UK). 


V sobotu program pokračoval v NTK přednáškami a diskuzemi na téma mediální prostředí v České Republice, Polsku, Slovensku a Maďarsku. S účastníky diskutovali novináři, učitelé a také zástupci projektů Transitions Online, Nenech to být/Face Up, One World in Schools, Zvol si info/Choose Your Info a Critical Thinking: Crash-course in Bullshit Detection. Ve hře Game of possibilites, si ETAs osobně vyzkoušeli, zda a jak rychle uvěří desinformacím. Mentoři si pro ně připravili netradiční předměty a ETAs měli určit, zda uvedený popis použití (často smyšlený) odpovídá realitě. 


Neděle patřila workshopům, kdy si ETAs a jejich mentoři měli možnost vyzkoušett získané znalosti v praxi. Setkali se tak detailně s projekty Fakescape, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Svetmedii.info, Media Literacy in English Language Classes a In the Era of Information Chaos. 


Konferenci doplňoval bohatý kulturní a společenský program, kdy účastníci navštívili aktuální expozici “Rohanský ostrov-Nový Karlín” v CAMP, užili si komentovanou prohlídku NTK, poznali Prahu díky projíždce v #Architram, na workshopu si uvařili tradiční česká jídla, a také se učili tancovat swing. 


Pro více informací se podívejte do naší fotogalerie: Den 1, Den 2


Media Literacy Conference



On October 18-20, the Czech Fulbright Commission organized a Media Literacy Conference. In total, more than 80 participants arrived in Prague. The invitees were made up of 50 ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary, 27 mentors (Czech and Slovak English teachers), and 11 members of Fulbright Committees. The aim of this conference was to introduce regional media perspectives, spot the main differences, and offer many practical tips and resources that can be used in classes at European schools. 


On Friday, the program started at CAMP (Center for Architecture and Metropolitan Planning) with a panel discussion on the topic “Media Literacy in Central and Eastern Europe”. Speakers from diverse backgrounds discussed their experiences and opinions. Participants heard from Ondrej Soukup (Hospodářské noviny), Lenka Kabrhelova (Czech Radio), Michal Kaderka (The World of Media), Jonas Syrovatka (Prague Security Studies Institute), and Marketa Supa (Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Media Studies, Charles University).


On Saturday, the program continued at NTK with lectures and panel discussions about media perspectives in the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. Participants discussed with journalists, teachers, and representatives of the following projects: Transitions Online, Nenech to být/Face Up, One World in Schools, Zvol si info/Choose Your Info and Critical Thinking: Crash-course in Bullshit Detection. In a “Game of Possibilities”, ETAs tested if and how easily they believed disinformation. Mentors prepared descriptions of rare things (very often fake) and ETAs had to decide if the description was true or not. 


Sunday was devoted to workshops. ETAs and their mentors used their new knowledge in practical applications. They experienced projects such as Fakescape, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Svetmedii.info, Media Literacy in English Language Classes, and In the Era of Information Chaos


Last but not least, the conference was also accompanied by various cultural and social programs. The participants visited the actual exhibition “Rohansky Island - New Karlin” at CAMP;  enjoyed the guided tour at  NTK; experienced Prague through a guided tour on #Architram; they cooked traditional Czech food; and they learned how to dance swing. 

For more details check our photo gallery: Day 1, Day 2.

2019/10/01

Fulbrightista v USA: Jak najít školu pro své děti?

Sdílíme článek naší absolventky Hany Kolesové


















Your kids will probably go to public schools, which are free of charge(unlike private schools, where you need to pay tuition). 
There are huge differences in quality of public schools in the USA in various town districts or towns. 
If having kids, living (renting a house or appartment) in good school district is beside the commuting distance to work main important thing to consider. For you similarly as for the US citizens this is the main criteria for finding a rental place, so school rating and school boundaries are oftern link together on the home rental websites. 
Every public school in USA is rated from 1-10 (10 highest) score. The scores are saying how good is the school in particular state. The score reflects the scores in read, math and science, but it also reflects how the students are making progress and how the school is able to incorporate various needs of students (with english as a foreign language this is going to be your child as well).
All informations about all schools is possible to find at:
you can also find there race overview of the students attending the school (which also tells you a lot about the population in particular school district), boys-girls ration, teachers and general info about the school and after school activities. (We have spend a year in US with primary school kids and as the school is ending at 3-4pm kids were pretty tired to do any afterschool activity, even in CZ they have plenty. Lot of the activities are included in normal school curicullum - for our school instrument playing etc.)
Finding a good school district means spend many hours browsing the web, but it is really really worth it. 
Other similar aggregator of school rating is 
From our experience school rating really reflects the overall quality of the school. There is big difference between school rated 10-8 or 3. 
When looking for a home or apartment, both Zillow (even with the map of the school district boundaries) 
and Realtor show you rating of schools in the area. The information are not always 100% accurate, but are enough to get the idea. If on border, one side of the street can belong to one and second to the other school district with very different school rating. 
Generally speaking, based on where you live, your kids can go only to schools in that particular school district. In general, school district is the same as the city where you live. However it is always better to check with local school district which school your chosen home belongs to, before you sign the rental contract.
In some school districts parents can ask any school to take their children. Again, check with your School District Office.
Kids would walk to school or school bus will be stopping in front of your house or appartment house to pick up your kids, so there is usually no need to drive your kid to school. 
School offer for primary school kids Before and After Care (for extra fee) before and after the school. Than you need to pick up your kid at school from it. Also from after school activities, even organised at school you need to pick up your child. 
As your child is probably not fluent in english, he or she will need to attend extra English classes (English as a Foreign Language - ESL classes) as a part of his/her everyday school day. Many schools offers ESL in the same building but not all, in this case your child would need to transfer for ESL to other school. School automaticaly assign ESL classes for the children, with no additional costs. Just another thing to consider when choosing a school, if the school is providing ESL and if your child would need to travel for it. 
We have chosen a school with rating 10-8 little bit farther from work and we were really really glad that we did.

2019/08/29

Jak si sbalit kufry na 10 měsíců na jiném kontinentu?


Přečtěte si příspěvek naší ETA (english teacher assistant) Courtney, která se balila na svůj roční pobyt v Českém Těšíně!

Hello! Or in Czech, Dobrý den! I am happy to share that I have arrived safely in my new home for the next 10 months, Český Těšín, Czech Republic. I am currently writing at a little table in my apartment overlooking the garden and several colorful houses in the neighborhood after spending the afternoon exploring the Polish side of town.
Since Český Těšín is located quite far from Prague (about a 4 hour train ride), I decided that it would be best to pack in one large suitcase and carry-ons. After learning the hard way at London Heathrow during my semester in England that lugging two big suitcases is exhausting, I knew that it would be better to pack light and buy things in the Czech Republic if needed. 
My biggest piece of packing advice is to lay out everything that you want to pack in one central area. I set up a folding table and in the two weeks prior to my departure, I began to lay out items. Using this method helped me both to determine what I still needed to pack or purchase and where I could cut back.
When packing for the trip, I chose to pack lighter in categories of items that I knew would be relatively inexpensive and easy to purchase once I arrived (toiletries, shirts, decor, etc). I was more strategic with things that are either expensive or fit in a specific manner (think jeans, electronics, coats!) 
The packing master (my mom!) helping me roll clothes

Luggage

For luggage I brought one large suitcase, which ended up weighing in at 49 pounds, one large backpack to put in the overhead compartment on the flight, and a black tote bag for my personal item that I plan to use as my work bag here in the Czech Republic. 
I packed the heaviest items like shoes and sweaters in this backpack so that my suitcase would not go over the weight limit! 

Carry-on items

From left to right: Laptop, important documents, small lock, water bottle, camera, portable charger, computer charger, kindle, airpods, regular headphones, snack pouch, various chargers, journal and pens, tic tacs, chapstick, money belt, passport + cover 
Small purse and wallet 

Tops

4 graphic t-shirts for working out, sleeping, traveling
3 workout shirts – one short sleeve, two tank tops
2 plain short-sleeve tops
Three long-sleeve layering tops (navy, dark green, black)
6 blouses (1 did not make the photo) 
2 cardigans
4 dresses that all can be paired with tights in the colder months 

Pants and shorts 

Black jeans, blue jeans, black work pants, navy work pants
3 pairs of workout leggings 
Sweatpants, pajama set, tights, spandex shorts
Two pairs of shorts

Shoes

Flip flops, sandals, black booties, workout shoes, sneakers, work shoes

Winter gear 

6 sweaters of various weights 
3 scarves
3 pairs of gloves, 1 hat, 1 umbrella
4 jackets: Medium weight coat, rain jacket, winter/cold rain jacket, light jacket

Random 

1 swimsuit 
Small daypack and travel towel 
Pillow case (not the pillow), sleep mask, pillow pet
Mesh laundry bag
Small jewelry pouches with versatile jewelry 
Thank you for reading and for supporting my new Fulbright adventure! If you’d like to continue to hear about my Fulbright adventures, please follow me on WordPress or like my Facebook page, @CourtneyTasteTravelTeach where I’ll be posting photos and sharing my blog posts! Soon, I’ll be posting more about my first impressions of my town and about Fulbright training in Brno, Czech Republic. 
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This post is not an official Department of State publication. The views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Department of State, the Fulbright Commission, or the host country.