Reflections from a Year in Dačice
At the end of the year a student asked me what the hardest thing I’ve ever done was. In all honesty, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done was moving here.3 minuty ke čtení vloženo před 6 měsíci
Ten and a half months ago I walked into my fourth floor flat for the first time, wondering why I wanted to move 6,000 kilometers from my friends, family, and home in New Jersey. I didn’t know anyone in Dačice when I first arrived. I had spoken on video chat to my mentor Petra Uchytilová and started taking Czech lessons with Petra Mašátová, but I didn’t have any prior connections to Dačice. I expected it to be challenging, but I didn’t anticipate how much, and in how many ways.
I had never taught a full class on my own before. My first time doing so was in the Czech Republic, with students who I was unsure if they could understand me, an education system I was unfamiliar with, and customs I was unaware of. Throughout this year I continuously asked myself what it took to be a good teacher. I’ve made a number of mistakes, spent a lot of time observing and getting inspiration from veteran teachers and colleagues around me, built relationships with students, and experimented with planning unique and engaging lessons. I spent many hours on long walks around Dačice questioning if I was making a difference – in the classroom and in general – and whether I was growing as a person.
However, I also quickly learned that it wasn’t a walk in Dačice unless I saw at least three students/neighbors/friends on my walks. Instead of being caught by surprise, I learned to expect and enjoy my random encounters with students around town. After months of different obstacles (teaching during a pandemic, a war, etc.) I got more comfortable lesson planning. Dačice feels like home, and I feel a part of the community in a lot of different ways. I’ve been welcomed into stranger’s homes for meals and coffee, my very kind neighbors invited me to a fire in the garden and to play volleyball, and I spent countless hours with students. On school trips, walks, and going to different events around town I have been able to spend time outside of school talking to students, and I value our conversations about their lives, ideas, and goals.
I learned a great deal about different traditions throughout my year here as well. The three kings visited my flat and I got to hear them sing on Three Kings Day, I was able to go to a few different homes to join in baking some Czech Christmas cookies and gingerbread, and I went to the town square to see the Dačice Christmas tree lighting. In the Spring I was able to dye and decorate eggs with some teachers, experience Czech Easter - something very new for me - and the burning of the witches. And throughout the year I saw different sporting events in floorball, football, volleyball, and fire sports. I saw students perform in concerts and joined them for different festivals and events around town. These traditions all brought new surprises and lessons, but helped me better understand the people here and the community I was living in.
Connecting with the people in this community has been the most rewarding experience I could have asked for. The friendliness, openness, and helpfulness of the people I’ve grown used to being surrounded by has shown me the benefit of continuous challenge and getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Ten months ago I was overwhelmed with feeling lost and disconnected from the world around me. Now, I feel overwhelmed in how to properly say goodbye, and thank the dozens of people around me who made Dačice home.