Loděnice is a little town about 30 minutes outside of Prague, with nothing particularly interesting. It is, however, home to a school with an English teacher who has a friend who went to CIEE. Aka, a perfect place for an exchange. So that’s exactly what we did.
On Friday, my Czech class took an all-day excursion to Lodenice, where we went to English classes with four different grades, taught some English, practiced some Czech, and played some games.
When we first arrived, the sixth graders were standing at the bus stop waiting for us, with a giant sign that said „Welcome to Lodenice!“ It was absolutely adorable. As we walked from the bus stop to the school, we were supposed to introduce ourselves. Most of the kids were too shy, but a few were adventurous enough to talk to us in twos or threes. I met a very cute girl, Maria, who was 11 years old. Her favorite animal is a dog and she has two sisters. We also discovered that there is a pair of twins in their class. (Who knew that knowing dvojčata means twins would be useful?) They also kept stopping to tell us things about the city – the kids were all in pairs, with a few sentences each about random things – the city, the history of the school, their cloakroom, their classroom, etc.
It was funny to me to see how surprised the Americans were by the cloakroom. Perhaps because I’ve been to Japan and seen students taking their shoes off at the school entrance, perhaps because I wore slippers myself in middle school, perhaps because I’ve already been to Emma’s school many times, I was not surprised to see the cloakroom. Kids show up to school, take off their jackets and outdoor shoes, put on indoor shoes, and their stuff gets locked during the school day so it doesn’t get stolen. It makes a lot of sense, actually. Less dirt tracked through the building. No bulky jackets to deal with in the classroom. Plus, the kids have to keep it tidy or they get extra homework (that there is some of the best incentive I’ve ever heard of…)
After the 6th graders gave us our tour, we met the 4th graders. They were, unsurprisingly, excited to meet us. I was in a group with two girls, one of whom was full of questions, and one of whom was extremely shy. We were given a sheet of paper with categories, and our task was to fill it in with words in English and Czech. For example, one category was Rodina – Family. We had to write as many words as we could think of that had to do with family. Mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, aunt, uncle, etc. Part of our oral exam on Tuesday is like this – we get a category and have to give at least 8 words in the category. Our teacher was shamelessly getting us to study, but it was actually quite fun and I learned some new words. Plus, they made copies of the sheets, so all the kids will get the lists with some new words for them too.
Our next class was with some younger kids. I think some were in 3rd grade and some were in 1st grade. Regardless, we sang some songs and played some games. We sang a colors song in English, and then in Czech to the same tune. (Although it only kinda worked, because the names of colors in Czech are longer than in English). Then we sang „Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes“ in both languages. The Czech version has a different tune, though, which was confusing. But now I know some body parts…
- Head – hlava
- Shoulders – romina
- Toes –prsty
- Eyes – oči
- Ears – uši
- Mouth – ústa
- Nose – nos
We finished with a playground game in Czech that loosely translates to “Mr. Stork lost his hat. He’s looking for something colored…” And you say a color, after which everyone has to touch something that is that color.
Our last class was with the 9th graders – the oldest class in the school. As such, their English is actually quite good, and we were working on grammar. We were put into pairs, and each person got a sheet with the beginnings of sentences in their non-native language. For example, “on the weekend, I like to…” or “In five years, I …”. After we filled it out, we checked each other’s grammar, fixing spelling or adding missed articles. We finished with two quizzes – one about the Czech Republic and one about the USA; we again were given the assignment about our non-native country. With a bit of help from my buddy, I got 10/10, and he also got 10/10 with a little help from me. Unsurprisingly, though, the majority of the Czech students knew all 10 answers about the Czech Republic, but the majority of the Americans only knew 7 or 8 questions about the USA. (The youngest president in history, anyone? Was he 40, 43, or 50? Bonus: who was he?)
We finished our day with a late lunch in the cafeteria at the school – real chicken and mashed potatoes. The lunch wasn’t great (nothing compared to dinners at home), but it vastly exceeded anything I’ve seen at an American elementary or middle school.
All in all, the day was pretty awesome. We got to meet a lot of kids who were very excited to speak English and meet real Americans. We got to see a new village that I can’t imagine I would ever have any other reason to visit. And, I got to sleep in! Even though we met at 8:15 on the outskirts of Prague, we met at the end of the metro line closest to my house. Via tram and metro, it would have taken me over 40 minutes to get there, not unlike my daily commute to school. BUT, the buses are not restricted by where the rails are, and it took me just 8 minutes by bus to get there. I literally left my house at 7:55, walked to the bus stop (a little further than my normal tram stop – about a 10 minute walk), waited for the bus, and arrived in Zličin at 8:16. It was great. Anyway, chances are I have the same teacher next semester for Czech, and will thus have the same trip to the same school. It’ll be interesting to see the difference as to how much conversation I can actually have with the kids when I’ve got another four months of Czech classes under my belt.