Our first day of EFL begins with testing. Each student, ranging from elementary school to adult professionals, completes a short exam that will enable us to place them in the correct class based on their language skills. We scramble to quickly correct and correlate them, forming four classes by age and skill. The students are a little nervous, so it’s our job to mingle as the process is completed, say hello to returning students, introducing ourselves to first timers. Eventually we settle into our classrooms. As a table leader in the advanced level, we have five to six students to interact with. The lead teacher gives instructions; table leaders engage the students with the assignment and conversation. Class room learning takes shape around movies, skits and grammar lessons. Somewhere in our day comes the favorite assignment “walk and talk”. Leaders and students stroll around the Martin city “square”, exploring the open air mall adjacent to the classrooms. Of course, first stop is to buy a cone of Zmrzlina, and then we can work on English! By the end of the week, we have developed friendships that extend beyond the class room. It is common for leaders to meet with former students from past years, catching up with their lives and meeting their families during our visits.
Year after year many of us are drawn back to this land, building special friendships with the warm hearted Slovaks. I’ve come with great anticipation of seeing friends again and making new ones as well. While I hope to discover more about my grandfather Stefan Diviš, I am learning that this is a slow process of sowing seeds and turning over a lot of Ebenezer stones, looking for clues. This is a unique opportunity to get to know the Slovak people – my people!