age | e

in front of you in line alphabetically since 2006

Monday, September 25, 2006

september newsletter

A Long, “Last” Newsletter – Notes From the Czech Republic
September 23, 2006 (23. z
áří 2006)

This is the last newsletter from the Czech Republic that you’ll be receiving from me.

From me. Next month, be on the lookout for a newsletter from the Czech Republic from Joel and Chrissy—us! the newly-wed missionaries back for another year to teach English and be Christians-in-another-place—now together. We would be sending out a joint newsletter this time, except I thought I should update you, my friends who have supported me for the past two years in Sokolov, on what’s new in my third year, a lot of things that Chrissy’s supporters through last year probably already know about. So here goes:


The second and third biggest changes for this year (the first-biggest being we are married) is a move from little Sokolov to the big city of Prague, and from teaching at ISŠTE the past two years to teaching this year at Gymnázium Arabská. I’m in the same country, but Prague is a different world, to be sure, the first time I’ve ever lived in a big city. On the upside, Prague is an international city full of people used to living side-by-side with people from all over the world; lots of them speak English! Among the things I’m still adjusting to is how long it takes to get where you want to go, how isolated you can feel in the city from friends and teammates who live just a few miles away, as well as the noise and the pollution.

Arabská is also a different world. Whereas for the past two years I’ve been teaching at a vocational and business high school, Arabská is an academically-geared, university prep high school. I’m convinced already that some of my students know more about English than I do. This is the school where Chrissy taught last year, and largely because the faculty knows and respects her already, I’ve felt more immediately welcomed than I would have expected. I think I’m gonna like it here.

The biggest challenge so far is that between the two of us, Chrissy and I are teaching every student in the entire school. That’s one lesson per week for 21 groups of students—each. With about 15 or so students in each group, that means I’ve got about 320 new names to learn. Chrissy’s got a leg up on me—she taught half of her students last year. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do!


We were glad to be a part of ESI Training this July, our first chance to get to know the new members of our ESI team in Central Europe this year. As returning teachers, Chrissy and I were able to talk about a lot of our experiences over here, both in the classroom and just about living as North Americans in the Czech Republic. It’s refreshing for us to encounter this place and culture again, through the eyes of our new teammates, who have now been here just over a month. It’s good to catch hold of their enthusiasm, their sense of novelty, and the day-at-a-time dependence of God’s faithfulness that we who’ve been here a while can too often take for granted as “experienced” as we think we are.

This year the team in the greater Prague area is trying to meet once a week for Bible study and conversation. We’re discussing a new Psalm each week, sharing stories from the week, and praying for concerns and needs that are brought out. We ask that you’d pray for our little group, that God would help us to communicate genuinely and honestly with each other and that He would write these Psalms into our prayer lives.


On the Top 10 list of Things We Least Enjoy About Prague, coming in somewhere between #9 (Waiting outside for a tram in January) and #3 (Learning the Czech word for a strange animal body part after eating one) is: Visiting the Foreign Police. As foreigners seeking to work in the Czech Republic, we need more than just our passports—we need work visas! Applying for one of these is a rigorous process that probably in the past included animal sacrifice. Okay, just kidding about the sacrifice part. But it feels like that, sometimes. Once our visas are approved, we have to pick them up somewhere in the innards of a dank, dimly lit office building full of hundreds of other foreigners waiting for pretty much the same thing—it’s the Prague headquarters of the Foreign Police. There we will wait for at least three hours for our numbers to come up, then rush into a smoky room to get the visa glued into our passports and get a final stamp of approval—hopefully.

This year we applied for my visa at the Czech consulate in Los Angeles, and we’re happy to report that it’s approved! Weeks earlier than we were expecting! Chrissy’s application is still being processed in Prague. Please pray that it will be approved quickly and without complications.

Waiting in line at the Foreign Police. Our number was #774. Also keep in mind that we had arrived at 6am.


· So far I’m really enjoying being back in the classroom. It’s an exciting and rewarding new challenge to teach students who already have such a strong grasp on English.

· I’m struggling a bit to know how to maintain relationships with people in Sokolov, where I was for the past two years. Sokolov isn’t all that far away geographically, but as we’re building a new life in Prague, it feels more distant every day.

· Being married is great! It’s a wonderful blessing to have my teammate, my best friend, my co-worker, and my wife all be the same person.

· Chrissy and I have chosen Matthew 18:20 as the theme verse for our first year of marriage: “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” We pray that in, around and through our marriage, our teammates, students and colleagues would see Jesus with us.

We’re grateful again for your support—both financially and with your prayers. We’re excited for this new year and for the opportunities God has in store. We’re also excited to hear back from you! Please let us know about your life, what God Is doing around you, and how we might pray for you in return. It’s all part of the good work of

Making Him Important,

Joel (and Chrissy!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sound bite from Chrissy's Class

As part of the introductory lesson I've been teaching, my students have been taking learning styles surveys. You know, the kind of questionnaire that tells you if you are a visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic learner. Yep, that kind.

So, as part of the speaking activity, students have to tell me what types of class activities best help them practice their English. One student put it best:

"Well, since you are Native American, we must speak with you most."

"You mean since I'm a native speaker?" I clarified.

"Uh... yes."

It's good to be back.
- Chrissy

future perfect

Here's an excellent example of that devil of the English verb tenses, the Future Perfect:

By this time tomorrow, I will have met all of my classes for the first time.

A great way to take advantage of having native speakers of some foreign language on your faculty at a school in say, the Czech Republic, is to have them preside over one conversation/speaking oriented lesson per week as a complement to students' other foreign language (let's say English) classes that focus perhaps more on grammar, vocabulary, writing and reading and are taught by qualified Czech teachers. This is a sound model. Lots of schools with our situation use it.

So far one downside I see with this is the sheer number of different groups of students we teach. I'm teaching about the same number of hours as last year, but on an each-group-once-a-week schedule, that means Chrissy and I teach 21 different groups of students. Each. That's a lot of record keeping. That's a lot of names and faces to learn. That's 21 repetitions (each) of welcoming speeches and class rules presentations. Between the two of us, this year we'll teach every student in the whole school.

But how cool would it be if they all gave us Christmas presents? Cha-ching.


Monday, September 04, 2006

the first day of school

So it wasn't really the first day of school today. But all the same, students and teachers filled classrooms and offices this morning for an official welcome, a quick hash of announcements, and then a (I imagine it to be) chipper zatím ahoj --- "See you tomorrow!" The first year students stuck around, getting a big orientation, a tour, and, I hope, cookies.

Of special note, part of the welcome included an intercom message from the former Minister of Education distributed all across the country (including kindergartens, or so I hear). She can't get out of her job (she wanted to, it seems) because the tied-up government (both coalitions in Parliament have 100 seats) can't agree on a replacement. She sounded a bit bitter, one of my officemates said.

I was mostly thrilled that Arabská does intercom announcements. Really now, if this is a part of every morning, then I'll consider adding the American Pledge of Allegience and the cafeteria menu in English to my morning class routine. I'll have to ask Chrissy about that.

In the meantime, we'll be sending out a newsletter within the next two weeks to spread the word on our latest and about this new blog. Until then...