Monthly Archives: February, 2014

Why substitute?

It’s great when you have a regular class that you like and can look forward to meeting your student(s) every week,  but I’ve learned I really enjoy an alternative:  substitutions.


During the last week I doubled my class load from my main school by taking on as many substitution classes as I could.  I’ve spoken to other teachers and there are mixed feelings about “subs” and some teachers avoid them like the plague.

What can you expect?

There are some negatives to consider:

  • Short notice.  Most subs come available one or two days before the class, and some only the day of the class.  Flexibility is key.
  • Unpredictability.  Often you will get a sub and then have it taken away again within minutes as the class was cancelled or rescheduled.  I’ve learned it is better to lesson plan as late as possible.  Don’t expect a consistent income from these classes.
  • Confusion.  One Tuesday I got up early to make my 8 o’clock sub an hour from home.  On arrival I found the permanent teacher already there!  There was confusion about the dates and I was supposed to come the following week.  The following Tuesday I was back, setup and ready to go, when a student came in to inform me they had cancelled the class the previous week.  A little frustrating to say the least, but with the minor benefit that I still get paid for both classes as it was not my fault and I did show up.
  • Mixed abilities.  It might say “pre-intermediate” on your course sheet but don’t be surprised if you show up to find students who can barely say hello.  Your group of six people might only be two in the end.  Have a backup plan, and a backup backup plan.

But the benefits can make it worth it:

  • Extra income.  Throwing a couple of extra hours into your week can be a nice bit of padding and make up for your other regular cancellations.
  • Flexibility.  You can keep a morning or two free for yourself and only take on the extra work if you want to.
  • Interesting people.  That nice feeling of meeting new students for the first time just happens over and over!  Most of them will be happy to meet you and want to learn something about you.
  • Interesting material.  Chances are very good you won’t have to follow a text, the regular teacher will want to continue in it, so this leaves you free to do something fun and interesting with the students.  Pick something you like to teach.
  • Less lesson planning time.  If you have been teaching for a while you will have a stack of lessons to pull from.  Keep a few of your favorites for each level and use them as your sub plans.  Almost no preparation required.

One thing I have learned is if you want a substitution you have to ask for it.  Try to get on good terms with whoever manages subs for your school and talk to them so you come to mind when something comes up.

Have fun!




Biometrics appointment (AKA the ongoing saga in your long-term residence permit process)


We are almost there!  See my previous post for some important information about your biometrics appointment and the logistics of booking it and getting to it.  Arrive early, it will take some time to figure out where to go.  Bring a Czech friend if you have one, this will help getting in but your friend won’t be allowed to stay with you during the actual meeting.

Bring your notification letter and of course your passport.  You won’t need any payment right now.

The appointment itself was quite simple.  They:

  • Confirmed my name and date of birth from my passport.
  • Asked me my address – this was a test to see if you know where you live and it matches what is in your passport.
  • Took my photo with a digital camera.
  • Scanned fingerprints from both my left and right pointer fingers, they did it several times to see if they match.  Strange process.
  • Had me sign a document, in Czech, that allows them to collect all this data.
  • Gave me a document that told me when to come back for my biometrics card – for me it was scheduled for almost exactly three weeks away.
  • Gave me instructions to bring 2,500Kč in koleks as payment (payment stamps available at the post office).

And that was it!  It only took 10 minutes at the most (other than the nightmare getting into the office).

Only one more visit and I’m done.  Until next time.

So why is it so quiet around here?

First, I have to apologize: I have not been keeping up my blog the way I should.  December was busy and then Christmas holidays, I am sure you know how it goes.  Christmas was nice and quiet and then New Years in the Czech countryside was great.  My plan was to start fresh in January.

On January 4th I joined some new friends for a mountain bike ride.  I was looking forward to it!  After many many years in British Columbia I am an avid rider and miss the mountains.  We started with a simple warm up trail near the metro station Hurka here in Prague.  I recall the ride up, and then the start of the ride down and then waking up in a CT scanner at Motol hospital.

Pictures, as they say, are worth a thousand words:


I had a nasty concussion, a new experience for me.  I’m used to hurting myself and then just pushing on through the discomfort – not so with this injury.  The last month has been spent resting, sleeping (a lot), working very little and trying to adjust.  As a result of this injury I gave up about 80% of my ESL teaching schedule and am only now starting to add classes back in.

I’m no expert but what I can tell you I know now is that injuries to the brain take a long time to heal.  My experience was:

  • Week 1:  Slight headache and physical discomfort.  Extreme tiredness, disorientation, very poor short term memory and a constant state of fuzziness.  I slept almost all the time.  A second CT scan revealed that the bruising on my brain was significantly improved and I was told to just give it time.
  • Weeks 2 and 3:  No physical discomfort at all.  Moments and times of clarity and lots of time not really knowing what was going on.  The inability to filter noises so that simple things like a car horn or a tram bell scared me and being in a group was impossible.  An inability to control emotions, irritable a lot of the time and a tendency to cry at sappy movies (or even Mamma Mia if you can believe it).
  • Week 4:  Finally I am starting to feel closer to normal.  Closer, but not there yet or maybe closer to my new normal.  I’m still sleeping 12 hours a day and am no longer a morning person.  Teaching is becoming easier but I still have to focus extremely hard to do proper lessons and error correct my students.

No one witnessed my accident and I have no memory of it.  I was hoping as time went by I would get some memories back, it is weird having this missing time!  Just this weekend I picked up my bike and it is fine, no damage at all.  My helmet is cracked and has been replaced:


What have I learned?  Well, first off I will still ride – it was a simple error of some sort and I won’t let this stop me from enjoying it.  More importantly, I think I have more empathy for people with non-visual injuries.  I am tired of people looking at me and saying “What?  You look normal.  What’s wrong with you?”.  I had the choice to go back and trade this for a broken bone I would in an instant.

See you on the trails!


Long-term residence permit – the next step – approval!

Whew, it’s been a little while since I updated but it has just been a waiting game.  To review, I had my meeting and submitted my application on November 4th, 2013.

On the letter confirming your application there will be a reference number, you will need to go to this site to access the list of approved applications by searching for your number.  The list is updated every Monday.

On January 17th, 2014 my number finally appeared on the list.  Total time for approval, about two months and two weeks.  About a week later, on January 25th, I received notice of a letter to by picked up at the post office.  If you don’t get a letter within ten days contact the office you applied at.  You’ll need to go in for a biometrics appointment – where they collect all the data for your identification card and take your photo.

**Important, you have TEN days from getting your approval letter to book your biometrics appointment.  There is a nice little note on the letter mentioning a fine of up to 50,000Kc if you fail to do so.  All you need to do is book it, the actual appointment can be after the ten day window.  You will be going back to the same office you originally applied at.**

Now, if your Czech has gotten really good you can pull this off alone, but I recommend using a Czech friend.  Have them call and book the appointment (they will also need the reference number) and go with you.  You won’t have to pay anything at this appointment, they will tell you when to come back to pick up your residence card and to pay them the 2,500Kc by kolek.

**EDIT:  Important information about your biometrics appointment:  I recommend not accepting an 8am appointment as I did!  There will be 100+ people outside waiting if you go to a main office, I went to Koněvova 188/32 which is a central Prague office.  There is no system but at 8am when the doors open two employees arrived with a list of all those with appointments and attempt to get them in first.  My friend and I literally had to shove our way to the front to get in and even still I was 11 minutes late for my 8am appointment and had an unhappy biometrics employee to deal with.

As an aside, the biometrics department at Koněvova 188/32 is upstairs past where you would have had your previous application meeting – there is a sign on the door but with the door open you can’t read it!  You don’t need to stop at the main counter to get a number – go straight in to biometrics.

More updates soon!