Today was a good day. Today was a great reminder to me of one of the main goals of the trip. I had an opportunity to visit the Evangelical Lutheran School in Bratislava. The school itself (not the current building) is more than 400 years old and has withstood many changes throughout these centuries, including wars, occupation, etc. . .
The school, also known as the Evangeliche Lyceum, is an extension of the Lutheran Church of Slovakia, which is associated with the ELCA, as is Bethany College. Many of those who attend the Bratislava International Church, where I participated in worship Sunday and which is an ELCA congregation, are teachers and students at the Lyceum.
One of the goals of this trip to Bratislava was to do some fact finding to identify ways in which young people, possibly from Bethany College, could serve others while having an opportunity to travel internationally. Today’s meetings were incredibly helpful in this endeavor, thanks to people like Ivana Jelen (teacher at the Lyceum), Edita Prostrednikova (Director of the Lyceum), Jana Griacova (Principal at the Lyceum), and Bill and Kathy Fredell, who are lead teachers at the school. But I cannot also leave out Eva Rovenska, who has been my guide and friend the past couple of days. She is so very helpful and I could not have made these connections without her and Tom Nelson.
One thing that has stuck out to me has been the reception of the administration and teachers at the Lyceum. Not everyone can be in the same room at the same time. For that reason I had to explain myself many times over. Each time I spoken about Bethany students I have explained the focus President Jones has helped us to find, that we want to prepare young people who love God and love others. Servant leaders. Each time I mentioned that the administrators and faculty smiled and more than once they said something like, “is there anything else?”
But first, it is always important to document my outstanding meals while I am here. . .
Eva picked me up rather early and we headed for the Lyceum. The school is on the other side of the Danube river from the old town. It is in a rented building that was meant to be temporary but has become semi-permanent.
The tall building serves as dorms for those students who live on campus. This building is not all used by the Lyceum. Only a few floors are used by them and the others are used by other entities. All together, the school has around 400 students (I think, Eva correct me if I am wrong and you are reading this!). There are currently approximately 10 faculty positions, hired through the ELCA office in Chicago but in conjunction with the Lyceum administration. It is not uncommon to have a new teacher, sometimes without a degree in education. have their first teaching experience here. Thus, the turnover rate is high.
This might be a good time to (try to) outline the educational system here. As I understand it. . .
Education is compulsory from grades 1-9 in Slovakia, after which students may take 4 years of hight school. Or, they can take elementary school from grades 1-4 and then attend traditional gymnasium from 5-12.
The Lyceum is a bilingual school and the program is 5 years long. So, students may go there after attending the compulsory grades 1-9 OR may choose the option of switching to that program after grades 1-4. This is the option most take, as it allows them to matriculate one year earlier at age 18-19.
Students spend a great deal of time learning English, and since it is a school associated with the Lutheran Church there is a moral component to the education as well. Here, is a 9th grade class we attended as guests. Bill Fredell was teaching and it was really a lovely experience. The students were well-behaved and Bill is obviously good with them. The first picture is of Bill writing the students’ answers on the board to the question, “What are the advantages and disadvantages of social media?” Everything was in English. The second picture is of Eva introducing herself. It is important for graduates like her (she graduated in the late 1990s) to be seen by current students because she has been so successful as a surgeon.
The picture below is of the English library at the school.
Last June, just one day after teachers left for the summer, some pipes burst on the floor of the school and there was a great flood. Many things were ruined, and most things were replaced. Still remaining to be replaced are 50 copies of the book pictured below, an important English literature book.
So, if you have any of these laying around let me know. In fact, it’s not the cost of the textbook that is so bad. They can be found used on Amazon for pennies. It’s the shipping of 50-75 pounds of books that gets expensive!
Remember Ivana from my Sunday blog post? She has degrees in Sacred Music from Notre Dame and St. Olaf and teaches at the Lyceum. And she is a friend of Michael Hanawalt, our Bach evangelist from two years ago. It’s a small world. Here is a picture from a couple of years ago of her with the men’s choir she directs.
She and I have been conspiring, along with Eva, about how to create a music collaboration that would be beneficial to both Bethany College as well as the Lyceum and Bratislava International Church (where is is Cantor and Organist). It is exciting to have these ideas with colleagues from across the world, all in the pursuit of allowing our students to have the best opportunities.
I had two more stops in my busy day. The first was the Jewish Museum. Bratislava was right in the middle of serious difficulties during the 1930s and 40s. This was, of course, more serious for the Jews who lived here. The Jewish museum is a reminder of those times and preserves the culture that was nearly lost.
Before we met with the Bishop, Eva and I had two hours to kill, so we went to someplace for some food and drink. Here’s my “snack:”
I want to take a moment to say “THANK YOU” to Eva Rovenska, who has driven me around for two days. We have laughed a lot and learned a lot. Most importantly, I found we have a common bond:
We both play the same dumb games on our phones!
My final meeting of the day was with Bishop
He was extremely gracious and very open to ideas of collaboration.
Now I am sitting at Ruzena’s dinner table, furiously typing so I can finish before my battery dies and she serves supper.
Tomorrow I fly to Berlin in the evening. But my blog post will include some quotes and excerpts from two Bethany Alumni, Amber (Henneke) Turner, and Lynn (Ellwood) Schlosser, who both taught at the Lyceum.
Until then. . .