Top 10 Questions Asked of a Current Teacher

— Written by a Teacher in Slovakia —

1. Did you graduate yet?

No. I wore a cap and gown and walked across a stage this summer in good faith that the work I complete this semester will be satisfactory to finish with a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages by Christmas. Twice monthly until then I will submit chapters of a final language program design project. It’s a good way for me to articulate what I’m actually designing and teaching, and at the same time provide a workable product for the school to continue to modify and change in the future. Azusa Pacific University was something that I did in addition to my TeachOverseas contract, so even though my studies will be coming to an end in December, I will still continue to teach under TeachOverseas at my school.

2. Do you still raise support?

Yes. With my returning teacher discount for this year plus the remaining balance from last year, I need to raise a total of $3100 plus airfares (which are usually in the $1200-$1500 range for round trips). You can help me stay here by giving at http://teachoverseas.org/contribute.php . One time gifts are greatly appreciated, as are commitments to give $20 or $50 monthly for 10 months, or until June 2009.

3. Are you going to live in Slovakia forever?

Maybe. But right now I’m just committing to serve my school for one year at a time. Exciting news: as of this month, I have a work visa that’s good until the summer of 2010! Pray for me as I think about the future.

4. What does your ministry look like? This summer someone commented that I was “not a real missionary” in the classic sense of the word. I would agree in that I call myself a teacher first. However, some of my best conversations with students have come out of class discussions. Teaching Literature and Writing is a great way to get teenagers to really think, form and support opinions about meaningful themes. For example, once, after reading Edgar Allen Poe’s The Telltale Heart, students moved to different parts of the room based on how strongly they felt about statements about having a conscience, committing crimes, and experiencing guilt, grace, and forgiveness. One girl stayed afterwards to find out what I really felt, and I was able to share about Jesus in my own life! This year I’m excited to strengthen relationships with students, some of whom I’ve interacted with on an almost daily basis for 2 years now.

One way to do this is to continue the “coffee-time chats” that my former teammate Katie and I tried a few times last year. We announce the time and place in advance, and see who shows up for English conversation in a more informal, non-school setting. My goal is to organize one at least once a month, maybe even weekly as everybody gets into a regular schedule.

Also, most of my students are my “friends” on Facebook, which is a great way for me to be transparent about my life and faith as well as keep conversations going. Once I updated my status in Slovak and was surprised by the number of comments I got from students. So I know they’re watching me and will read whatever I write or look at whatever picture I post.

5. What do you actually teach?

This year I’m teaching freshmen General Literature and Writing, sophomore American Literature, junior British Literature, senior Elective Academic Writing, and super senior Advanced Literature for English Maturita and State Exams. The last two classes have never been taught before, as this is the first year that the school will be functioning as a complete 5-year bilingual program. So it’s still kind of crazy, but I get to be creative, and I like it. I have the coolest job.

6. How can we pray for you?

More and more I’m recognizing a theme among my friends and colleagues, in my students, and in the people I see in my neighborhood and around town. It’s simply this: they have no idea that they are known and loved by God, and they try to fill up their lives with beautiful clothes, thermal spas and perfect holidays, alcohol, a great education, a boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Living here, it’s easy for me to get sucked into the same mindset, even when I know better. Pray that my life would reflect the truth and freedom I know in Christ, and that I would open my mouth to tell about it.

7. What’s your TeachOverseas team like this year?

This will be my third year teaching in Slovakia with Educational Services International(or anywhere). I still live with my two original roommates – Karin and Jenni – my good friends, closest encouragers, and accountability partners. The larger Slovakia team includes Vic, Darla, Anna and Dominik (a family), plus an additional team of three new women (Katie, Kate, and Kim).

8. Did you go home this summer?

I WAS home (meaning western NY) for a quick few days at the beginning of July before heading out to CA for 2 ½ weeks to study. Then I was home again for 2 ½ weeks before flying back here in mid-August. Pray for my family.

9. How’s your Slovak?

Pretty good! I’m at the fun stage where I can piece together meaning during sermons and staff meetings when I know the context. I can eavesdrop on buses and students, and I can read signs and children’s books. I can carry on simple conversations with my friends and the old lady whose house we stayed at this past weekend. Slovaks are very complimenting and encouraging when they see that an American is trying to speak their heart language, which makes it very motivating for me to try. And today I ordered postage stamps to the US in the plural form with the correct grammatical declensions at the ends of 4 different words(with the help of my friend, but still, now I know how to do it). Great success!

10. Were there any Slovaks in the Beijing Olympics?

Yes, and they won 3 medals in canoeing/kayaking, 1 medal in shooting, and 1 medal in wrestling. Woohoo!

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