'I need to juggle workload with Czech cultural FOMO'

In Prague, this expat needs to juggle teaching three subjects with all the gigs, festivals, plays, ballets and markets on offer

Charlotte Ward

Prague sunset

There's something about living abroad that encourages you to make the most of the opportunities around you. FOMO (fear of missing out) means I have a pretty good work-life balance, as I try to juggle getting my work done with attending the many gigs, festivals, plays, ballets, markets, events and trips that always seem to be happening in Prague. Generally, better-than-average weather (except in winter) means that you want to get out of the house for walks in the park or drinks by the river. 

My journey to work takes around 40 minutes, and involves a tram, metro, bus and a walk. Luckily, public transport is regular and efficient: metro trains arrive every two minutes. I usually get to school for around 7.30am, so I can catch up on emails and do my photocopying before the day begins at 8am.

Lessons begin at 8.30am, and continue until 3.15pm. Our students are lucky that they get a 30-minute morning break and an hour for lunch. There are always lots of extracurricular activities at lunch and after school that students can join in with – the sports ones are particularly popular. I run two lunchtime clubs: humanities catch-up club and wellbeing club. 

As a British international school, our curriculum is based on the English national curriculum guidelines, but we have a lot of leeway to tweak our topics, and this allows us to give our curriculum a truly international feel.

Local culture

We like to include local history, geography and culture into our humanities teaching. This is a fantastic opportunity for our Czech students to share their expertise and feel proud that their history is been taught to a wider audience. It also allows our international students to learn more about local culture and history, and to feel more connected to the place they currently call home. 

My favourite thing about my job – and probably also the hardest – is teaching three different subjects to a variety of year groups. I have to be able to change gears quickly, and to remember a lot of things. This year, I'm teaching history, geography and global studies to key stage 3 students, which means I'm teaching seven different topics at once. 

Today, my day will start with a briefing at 8.05am. Hopefully, it'll be brief as sometimes they run right up to the first lesson bell. I'll spend the morning teaching Year 8 about the industrial revolution and Year 9 about the rise of Hitler.

After break, I'll be discussing the ultimate question with Year 7: does God exist? This will be followed by a Year 8 geography class looking at sustainable tourism.

Then it'll be time for lunch. I'm on outside duty for the first half, so I'll be making sure everyone is playing safely on the equipment. Then I'll take some time to relax, eat lunch and probably update the departmental Twitter feed. After lunch, it's tutor time, so I'll check in with my tutees, give out any notices and discuss our PSHE/SRE theme of the week. 

Responsible citizens

The humanities subjects are incredibly important, allowing our students to understand the world around them, to learn more about the different cultures our students come from, and to become responsible, culturally aware citizens of the world.

For the final lesson of the day, I'll be teaching our new-to-English students about the Benin kingdom. This will probably be my most challenging class of the day as all the students are very shy and also come from different educational backgrounds, where they may not have had much opportunity to speak in class or work things out for themselves beforehand.

The class size fluctuates throughout the year, as new students start at school and others graduate from the class, so it can be hard to build rapport. It is always brilliant when a student makes progress and is able to move into the next class. Watching them transition from non-English speakers to English speakers – and knowing that you helped them to get there – is great. 

If I could change one thing about my job, I would be to teach in more than one key stage. While I love teaching key stage 3, and while being head of key stage 3 humanities has really enabled me to focus on a key stage that sometimes gets forgotten, I do miss teaching older students and getting involved in the extracurriculars that are offered to them, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award. 

Charlotte Ward is head of key stage 3 humanities at the Prague British International School, Czech Republic

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