Status: Private Grammar School
Interviewee: Mgr. František Šoltész, School Principal
Country: Czech Republic
Do you think that you will still be fully employed at the age of 65 and that your ability to work will be high?
It's certainly not going to be the same as it is now, and it's also very individual. Some people are more self-motivated, others less, and some people don't care about self-development at all. But if I look purely at the physical side, if I don't do anything with myself now at 40, I won't have anything to do in education at 65. So it all depends on whether the teacher has the will to develop, not only in knowledge but also physically.
Do you, personally, work on developing these qualities?
Yes, both on competence development and physical development. I have one big advantage, which is maybe the reason why I am sitting on this chair, and that is a strong motivation for self-development and being able to set my personal goals. Everything I do has a goal, and I look for room for improvement everywhere. I can't imagine a school year in which I don't have set goals that will get me further, and that will get the school further.
Here at this school, we have a relatively young staff, with teacher ages ranging from 35-40, but in my previous position, we had most of our teachers at pre-retirement age. And there you could clearly see that those who were physically fit could easily teach past 70, and vice versa - those who were not physically fit were happy to retire.
What is it that makes you such a young collective?
Our school is young, and the teachers who work here haven't had a chance to age yet. The second reason is that as a private school, a teacher with 40 years of experience is very expensive for us. In addition, our demands on teachers are much higher; every one of our teachers, regardless of covid, has to be proficient in information technology, that's what our teaching system is built on. We cannot do it without ICT.
Although the age of teachers in your school is relatively low at the moment, you find teachers at just the right age when they still have time to work to ensure that retirement age doesn't catch them off guard. Do you ever think about it? Are you trying to incorporate that into your work with your team?
I'm not. So far, it seems very far away for everyone.
Have any events of burnout appeared in your team?
Not here at this school, but I've witnessed it in my previous position. But I don't like the word burnout. I prefer the word extinguished. Because when something is extinguished, it can be reignited. Whereas when something burns out...
But for most people, they just need to find their purpose again, and they can move on. But the goal for a teacher at school has to be the student, not the money.
So what were the reasons for the burnout?
It was the teacher's lack of authority with the pupils, where the pupils did not respect him.
And are there ways to work with that?
This depends on the basic prerequisites for being an educator, which, unfortunately, not everyone has. It's not so much about finishing college with a red diploma, but knowing how to stand up in front of a class, give them something important for their lives, and not get trampled on in the process.
Students didn't have the luxury they do now. The world is changing, it's true, but it was changing 50 years ago too. A teacher must be able to adapt to these changes. Problems arise when a teacher cannot move on and break out of the stereotypes to which he has become accustomed over 20 years. And then burnout sets in when new times demand new things and the teacher is unable to transform into his or her new roles that come with it.
I'm sure it also has to do with the fact that he didn't dedicate himself to these skills at a younger age, didn't change and stayed the same. If the teacher can't respond appropriately, the situation will catch up with him. This is one of the reasons for teacher burnout.
And what are the others?
An unwillingness to learn new things and accept the fact that times are changing rapidly. Being stuck in the past.
There are also personal matters, like illnesses in the family. And then especially the intrinsic motivation to develop. If someone doesn't do anything with himself for 20 years, the kids won't accept him.
Do you select the teachers in your team?
Yes, but in some cases it's very limited. There are some positions where I don't have a choice.
How is the continuing professional development for teaching staff going in your school? What courses do teachers choose?
Teachers have to evaluate that for themselves, what kind of training they need. We have an educational portfolio and in that we also evaluate the extent to which teachers are able to educate themselves. I don't like to mandate training. But even here we have teachers who prefer to educate themselves rather than others. I'm giving it some more time - I'm only in my fifth year as principal here, so I can't judge the longer history of training from my own experience. But in, say, two or three years' time, I'll be asking how it is that some teachers don't feel the need to educate themselves.
The National Institute of Education is the alpha and omega of teacher training provision, but there are other agencies and training companies. There really is a wide range to choose from. I think that all training leads to an increase in working ability, some directly and some indirectly. Self-education and working with yourself physically is a challenge for everyone.
For example, there are more and more kids who don't want to go to gym class. There are even voices that say it would be a good idea to abolish PE altogether. Here it is important to find a balance. But it's clear that without physical activity, we won't even make it to retirement.