Surpr@ise Day in Košice: How the magic happened.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Vlaďka Michálková (@vladkaslniecko) and Chuck Sandy (@chucksandy) (both at iTDiInternational Teacher Development Institute) did just that and organised an unforgettable event in Košice.

Vlaďka and Chuck’s passion and willingness to make a difference created enough gravitational pull to allow magic to happen – the magic of planting seeds in unexpected, surprising places, allowing motivated teachers to motivate teachers to motivate other teachersand so on, ad infinitum, so that teachers could make a difference themselves, too.

Yes, far too many teachers consider themselves as far too ordinary to be able to make a difference.

What Vlaďka and Chuck showed is that making a difference is in everyone’s capacity. They planted a seed – almost at the borderline of interest of the mainstream ELT world, by inviting teachers in and by letting their inspiring energy do its magic.

For a day, Štátna jazyková škola in Košice turned into a beautiful garden where professional development by teachers and for teachers happened in a way that was previously unavailable, even unheard of, for most teachers in the region. It would have remained unavailable, had it not been for the willingness to plant seeds of inspiration by a couple of teachers who decided to change things for the better.

From the eloquent, enthralling and intimate opening by Luke Meddings (@LukeMeddings) on the power of visual arts in the classroom, right down to the moving, mesmerizing closing talk by Chuck on the power of planting seeds of motivation, the day was an incredible experience that still feels almost unreal.

With contributions from Lenka (@LenkaPelikan, Czech Republic), Barbara (Hungary), Alexandra (Russia), Terry (UK), Katerina (SK) and, of course, Vlaďka and Chuck, a couple of weeks ago, it would have all seemed like wishful thinking.

I wouldn’t have imagined meeting these wonderful people in person, in Košice, let alone dream of sharing a spot in the same programme with them.

Click to see the programme and list of presenters at the Surpr@ise Day Košice

My poor phone camera does little justice to the reality of this weekend, but I don’t suppose any camera would capture its beauty anyway.

Some things will stay in my mind for a very long time: the intimate and warm atmosphere and the magic of our “non-stop Pension” accommodation, hidden away in a quiet street in the heart of Košice. Meeting Chuck at the Košice bus station and sharing a pre-event evening walk and dinner with Vlaďka, Lenka, Barbara, waiting for Luke and Alexandra to arrive.

The fact that Alexandra made it to Košice all the way from Moscow, despite all the impossible administrative obstacles getting visa to Slovakia and that we could all sing her a happy birthday, sharing a meal after the event in a homely little restaurant with traditional Slovak cuisine.

Above all, the conversations. The feeling of a connection, of meeting with people for the first time and yet, feeling like meeting good friends and doing meaningful, or silly things. Seeing how we all prepared our items in the programme alone, and yet, feeling they were all connected with a common thread that bound them together.

There will be more photos from other sources, soon, I’m sure, but I’d like to share these three. I took all of them at night, with my poor old phone camera. Their grungy, underground feel is telling and it creates a wonderful contrast to the glorious, sunny Saturday when the Surpr@ise Day took place.

This was guerrilla teacher development.


The front of the nocturnal “Non-stop Penzión”. Chuck Sandy ‘behind bars’.

The seeds have been planted, with infinite possibilities.

Many thanks Vlaďka and Chuck for making it happen and many thanks Luke, Lenka, Barbora, Alexandra, Terry, Katerina and everyone at Štátna jazyková škola in Košice for an incredible day of Surpr@ising in Košice.

Hope to hook up again soon;)


6 Comments on “Surpr@ise Day in Košice: How the magic happened.”

  1. Vladka says:

    Thank you Marian! Beautiful …and it all could happen only with such amazing group of people.
    Spring is definitely coming after this weekend! :-)


  2. Luke Meddings says:

    Hi Marián, this is a great account of a memorable day – and your own workshop made a huge contribution. It was beautifully structured and presented. As you say, we all seemed to echo one another, and the sense of these echoes becoming one was palpable – I have a feeling these seeds are going to grow. Love the grainy pictures, too!


    • Many thanks, Luke! Loved every second of it. I can think of many ways I could have done better, but had lots and lots of reasons and strong desire to do it well. I loved the feeling of talking to fellow teachers, seeing them react.. Plus, for me personally, having you in the audience, seeing a nod of appreciation of a point I was trying to make… – that was almost unreal!! Enjoy the rest of your stay in Košice, Luke. Till next time, and another evening with music and Mr Jack, perhaps ;)



  3. Josette says:

    What an amazing story of inspiration and connection! I’m in awe of the energy that can be created when passionate communities come togethere. It’s invigorating and incredibly motivating. Thank you for writing this Marian! Hope to see you at such an event one day.


    • You’re absolutely right, Josette. Such is the power of meeting fellow teachers. It’s quite magical. Exactly as you write, bringing people together results in amazingly inspiring energy. These three days in Kosice were as unexpected as they were amazing. A spontaneous decision to take part that lead to one of the most memorable experiences. I do hope we’ll meet one day, too!


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