Depressed by student cheating
I have been teaching in Slovakia since May 1995. I thought I was adjusted, used to the culture, things like that, even though the language has remained a mystery to me.
But yesterday [January 31] at school, one student, a good-looking young man, eloquent and confident of his position in life, occupied over three hours of my time. His position? That even though he had been caught cheating, this should not colour my thinking on the grade he receives for the course. He wanted a top mark of "excellent": I proposed the lowest passing grade, a "good."
Regardless of the outcome of this latest skirmish, I am done teaching in Slovakia. I don't need the hassle... or the heartache.
I came here and fell in love with the people and the country in May 1994. My stay was only one month, but it was enough to bring me back. Sharing with the students what I know has provided me with an enormous amount of "juice" - satisfaction and joy at participating in the changes in this part of the world. For the record, I am not supported by any kind of grant or subsidy or programme. I am here because I want to be here.
So, stubbornly, I have insisted that my students not cheat in my class. Yes, I know how it used to be, and I know I am swimming against the stream. But part of my job here, as I see it, is to present the American culture, to explain how I think, to talk about building shareholder value and adding to the productivity of a company. Perhaps the students do cheat in their other classes, but I don't want it. The issue has come up over and over. When this time I cried on the shoulder of a Slovak friend, a fellow teacher, she reminded me that we have had this conversation every semester. Enough! It is the students that are used to "getting by" and getting their way that remain the problem. They just can't believe that the situation cannot be "fixed" to their satisfaction. Most of the students do take me seriously, and stop talking when I ask them to. It is the few, now, who spoil it for the rest.
I am no longer willing to deal with the hassle. My student, who reminds me that I am in Slovakia and must bend to the will of the Slovak way, wants this higher grade so he can study in America! Well, guess what? I don't think he is a good enough candidate to be going to the United States. I think the US has enough cheaters of its own, and doesn't need to knowingly import more. If this student is so eager to apply Slovak mentality to his situation, he had better stay in Slovakia, where this is not such a big problem (yet).
Best wishes, všekto najlepšie, to all my former students. Hope they do well.
Tourism hurt by red tape
In a recent article ["Tourism figures please ministry," By Keith Miller, Vol. 6 No. 3, Jan. 24-30], you note that tourism figures have actually declined since the mid 1990's. Wouldn't tourism possibly have gone down partially due to the  restrictions put on people from other countries trying to live and work in Slovakia for a period of time? I'm not sure of the details, but I have read that it has been quite difficult to obtain a work visa in Slovakia for a few years now. I lived and worked in Slovakia under the auspices of the now-defunct Education for Democracy programme in 1993-94.
I know that that agency alone brought many travelers who were visiting their US relatives and friends living and working in Slovakia, not to mention the American dollars we all spent there as a result of living there and bringing our own money with us to supplement our incomes. Perhaps Slovakia should rethink its red tape and work restrictions on foreigners.
Farmington, New Mexico
P.S. I also married a Slovak man when I was there!