Yesterday I forgot to set my alarm clock (‘Figure it out’ by Royal Blood) but, I woke up at six in the middle of a dream. A jewish girl living next door was asking me about Dutch lessons. Yesterday I saw a horrible video of men stoning a young girl to death, and she looked a little bit like that. The feeling I had in the dream? An almost painful desire to help the girl develop… I watched the girl walk to school, but like I was floating above the scene, somewhere up in the sky.

I quickly prepared a class for today, 20 questions, (see below) and I lifted some weights, but too little to make any real difference.

I ate some Brazil nuts and drank coffee and water.

Then I ran off to the tram. To my great surprise there were a lot of free seats. I sat down and tried to focus on a book am reading, Lincoln’s melancholy, but I couldn’t. I was all the time worrying if I had a regular teaching day or if something special was up that I forgot to check. I know that tomorrow we are going to the cinema and on Wednesday we are visting some faculty for lectures. But now I was getting very nervous and wondering if perhaps there was something special today as well. We have something called ‘maturita’ in school this week. These are some special kind of exams that Belgian schools do not have and the regular schedule doesn’t apply.

So I was in stress and constantly upbraiding myself for being so chaotic. Upbraiding myself is putting it very mildly. I have an inner critic that is almost always ‘on’ and its goal is to kill me. It has the viciousness of the most seasoned Vietcong unit anno 1968 and the cruelty of ISIS militants who have just found out that there was pork in the soup the captured UN cook served them.

When I finally arrived at work, I was relieved to spot my students gathering in front of my classroom. So we did have a regular day.

During the lesson I noticed that the handbook we use is too easy for my guys, so I tweaked the course material just a tiny bit to make it funnier. When they were still bored, I showed them which curriculum I had when I was their age. And I also impersonated some of the teachers I had back then.

When these guys left, I went to copy the 20 questions below.

The next group was uncharacteristically quiet while answering the questions.

While they were working I told them that if they wanted I could write an adjective describing them for every letter in their first name and last name. I wrote this on the back of pictures I have printed with quotes on them, similar to the ones I put in my blogs. One result went a little like this, for example, Jakub:

-Kindred spirit
-Unusually polite

To my surprise it was one of the more school-averse guys who asked for it first.

Then I had two ‘free’ hours, during which I did some administration and tried to find out what exactly is expected of me during the next two days of maturita testing.

I cheered up a colleague by writing her a limerick. At least I think that cheered her up. She was a bit annoyed by some bureaucratic stuff.

The Limerick went like this, it’s lame, but it took me only three minutes, I write lameness faster than my shadow:

There once was a lady named Lucia the lean teaching machine

She was the best teacher teenagers could hope to have ever seen

In every interaction she was thoughtful and prudent

She cared deeply about the progress of every student

To the school she brought all meaningful material she could glean.

Then I had my oldest guys. They will have this maturita test this week and I was very concerned and wanted them to really practice which they did.

One of them always cheers me up, because he’s always in a sweet, playful mood. He has the Slavic root ‘rad’ in his name, which means something like ‘happy’, so nomen est omen once again.

An other one really moved me when he showed me he remembered something I had said months ago… What an impressive memory.

One guy amazed me with the quality of this answers.

We also talked about a play they had seen, called ‘innocence’, the theme they remembered was ‘suicide’ and they thought the play was very difficult. They had no idea what it had been about.

I noticed again that lots of students are worried about immigration and multiculturalism. I don’t always know what to answer to their questions. I don’t think Slovakia should swing its doors wide open, not at this point anyway, because they’re not prepared for it and multiculturalism has more challenges than the politically correct wish to recognize. It’s a sensitive topic and even this statement could get me labelled ‘xenophobic’. It would certainly have gotten me in trouble at the extreme left wing propaganda leaflet I used to work for.

Now I’m sitting in a homebound tram. To be completely responsible about my job I should correct tests and prepare new tests for at least three more hours and that due to some technical error I can’t grade half of my students… I will have to contact the IT-department.

And I have arranged to meet one my students from my Dutch class.

Am considering cancelling this because my head is about to start hurting from drinking almost no water and eating only about ten Brazil nuts. And also because I have the feeling she’s used to dealing only with rich people and next to her I look like a bum who reads too much and am not feeling very bohémienish today. I’m mostly concerned about my students right now.

A guy in the tram says I have a ‘hezky uces’ (= a cool haircut), which makes me suspect two things: he’s Czech and he’s on speed. He has the kind of behaviour of someone going in overdrive from German marching pills. ‘I say thank you’, and he smiles. I think he may have meant the opposite of what he said, but this affects me very little, there is nobody who can pour more scathing or more brutally flailing comments on me than my own inner critic, so when I’m under attack from the outside it actually makes me smile…

A considerate and nuanced American based in Bratislava has just pointed out a typo in something I wrote, which I like, because I could definitely use an editor.

Betka has just hassled me into teaching her English at 10 euro per 90 minutes, which is a ‘starvation wage’ better known in Slovakia as ‘a wage’.

Right, going to look for my least cheap looking shirt so people in the coffee bar don’t think they are looking at a social worker and her client.

The ‘hezky uces’ can’t be helped at this point.


Today’s class:

1. Describe your favorite celebrity. What is he/she famous for? What are his/her personality traits? Why is he/she your favorite?

2. What is your favorite TV-series? What makes it so good?

3. What are some differences between the UK and the United States?

4. What are some differences between Slovak and Czech People?

5. What is your mother like?

6. What is your father like?

7. What is your favorite game? What makes it so much fun to play?

8. Describe yourself in 10 different sentences

9. You can go on a holiday for two weeks. You can do whatever you like. You have a budget of 2,000 euro. There’s only one condition. You can’t use any digital devices, no phone, no laptop, no I-pads, no electronica whatsoever, where will you go, how will you have fun?

10. Describe the perfect first date

11. What would you change about our school?

12. You want to convince an American friend to please come and live in Slovakia. How do you persuade him/her? What positive things can you say about Slovakia?

13. Who is the best person in history? Why?

14. Who is the worst person in history? Why?

15. What are you like as a friend? What can friends expect of you? How do you treat your friends?

16. Describe your happiest memory.

17. If you had a time machine, what would you change about your life?

18. Tell us a joke:

19. Where does money come from? What is money?

20. Ask your teacher a question: