This past Monday evening I attended my students' Maturita Ball. Maturita is the name of the exiting exam the seniors will take before graduating; this exam really is the prerequisite for university. And, unfortunately, much of it is to test the students' English, if they comprehend it or not. That's why I've been hired. To teach them "real" English, to speak with them at a natural pace, and to have them speaking and understanding quickly as they form sentences.
Enough about the test, on to the amazing Czech cultural night I experienced. There are more differences to the Czech Ples and the American Prom than there are similarities. First of all, at the ball itself, parents and teachers are encouraged to come. Not as chaperones, but as participants. The adults in the ballroom were just as rowdy as the students. Secondly, dancing is strictly ballroom. There was a live band playing all sorts of dances, while students and parents and teachers danced with one another. Apparently, in Czech schools dancing lessons are a part of the curriculum, because everyone knew what they were doing. While I did not. A brave student asked me to dance and showed me two different steps to use. He's quite the comedian in class. And a fellow teacher asked me to dance and led me around the ballroom. Thankfully following is easy when the leaders know the steps. ;)
The night wore on while the honored students received Maturita sashes and roses, had many professional photos taken, and had professional dancers perform on the floor. I felt like I was watching 'Dancing with the Stars,' only live. One of my students was one to perform. He doesn't say much in class, only smirks and tries to play on his phone. While I give him a hard time. He's in my class of all boys, which I hate, because they talk more than girls and always seem bored, but I know some of them understand more English than they let on. Well, he danced with his partner like he was a contestant on 'Dancing'. I was floored. Now I know, he's at least passionate about something, be it not English.
Here is a short video from my seat on the balcony. Two seniors are singing a song they made up about their 8 years at school while the others sway below. Those are about half of my students down there on the floor. I see about 200 kids on a weekly basis.....so many hard names to memorize....
(not sure why the sound isn't working, but you get the idea)
Later in the night the students honored their homeroom teachers who have been their "head" teachers over the years and performed funny skits and dances as a surprise for the parents and teachers. The "midnight surprise" is a kind of rite of passage, all of the seniors participate in some way. And the night wouldn't be complete without the "throwing of money". The classes gathered parachutes while the people from the balconies threw money to them for their drinking activities at the afterparty. Just another subtle hint that Ples is much different than Prom. Parents and teachers who encourage drinking...what!? Well, remember that the drinking age is much lower than 21. Ahem, Americans.
At midnight, everyone left, teachers and parents to their beds and students to the private club. Everyone was invited, but only the brave show up. I guess I am brave. I was one of two teachers who braved the afterparty. I stayed until 3am and danced with the kids and watched their slideshow of past memories in the background.
Can I just say how much I love my students!
I think they were a bit overly excited that I showed up and played games and danced with them. The whole night they were asking me questions, dragging me here, and there, asking me to do this or that, "play foosball with us, Hannah, come dance with us, Hannah"....
I only left at 3am out of duty for the next day. But really I wanted to stay until they closed the doors at 5am.
I had so much fun; I can't wait for next year's Ples.
Teaching in a foreign country is the best job in the world!