St. Vincent de Paul Mixed Catholic School
Status: Catholic Kindergarten
Interviewee: Adriana Lieskovská, Kindergarten Coordinator
Have you considered the condition you'll be in when you retire?
Yes, certainly. I've been thinking about it extensively, starting around the age of 45. Our kindergarten staff is relatively young, with ages ranging from 22 to 42, except for myself at 52. Realistically, as we age, sustaining the physical demands of this job becomes increasingly challenging. While I'm no longer directly involved in the classroom due to the physical strain, I manage the school's administration. I can't fathom still performing the tasks of a kindergarten teacher in another ten years.
While I can envision an exceptionally physically fit individual, perhaps an athlete, being capable of carrying out this role at my age, there are natural physiological limitations that come with aging. Women in their fifties experience a notable decline in strength. My mother-in-law, a retired kindergarten teacher, left the profession at 55 - a common practice two decades ago. She couldn't imagine continuing. This extends beyond physical capacity; older individuals perceive and interact with children differently.
We're already factoring in age when selecting new teachers, often opting for younger colleagues even if they're likely to go on maternity leave. This approach leads to high teacher turnover or frequent classroom changes due to teacher absences related to their own young children's illnesses. I've also noticed that today's young teachers tend to take longer sick leaves than what was customary during my youth.
Have you contemplated maintaining your work capacity?
Yes, we're contemplating it, albeit in a theoretical sense for now. It should involve a holistic strategy, not just vacation time. Teachers typically receive 45 days of leave, yet how those days are utilized matters significantly. Few deliberately use their leave to enhance their health or well-being.
I can envision a comprehensive plan that outlines the necessary time each year for recovery, exercise, and rest. Such a plan should be consistently implemented over the long term.
Throughout our careers, we teachers prioritize the needs of children, often neglecting our own well-being.
Are young female teachers aware of this? If so, why don't they prepare for it?
They often don't consider it at all. They continue working until issues arise, at which point they might switch to a different job.
Do you have the authority to create a development plan that prepares teachers for the long term, physically, to ensure they're ready for their 50s?
Certainly, it's quite feasible to develop such a comprehensive plan. Teachers are committed to professional growth, consistently engaging in lifelong learning. This plan could incorporate physical fitness and health through sports and regeneration activities. While we do have occasional team-building activities and relaxation retreats, these aren't systematic or prioritized. Regular activities tend to focus on enhancing competencies and knowledge rather than physical well-being.
The challenge lies in financing these activities, as they can be costly. Funding through tuition fees and budget allocations may not suffice.
Have any other factors contributed to a decline in work capacity, such as workplace interpersonal dynamics?
Yes, we've experienced periods of strained relationships arising from professional rivalries and unmet ambitions. However, over time and with the departure of the individuals involved for other opportunities, these issues resolved themselves.
Some colleagues are grappling with fatigue and contemplating which aspects of their roles to retain and which to relinquish. Financial compensation or rewards become less pivotal at a certain point. While these concerns didn't weigh heavily on us when we were younger and more adaptable, they tend to become pressing when it's often too late to make substantial changes.
I believe that if today's young female teachers in their early thirties proactively work on their physical health, engage in targeted exercise and rejuvenation, they could experience a much different reality at the age of 50.