My name is David Navrátil and I´m a teacher of English, Geography and German language from a small town in the Czech republic. I decided to be a teacher when I was studying at high school. My favourite subjects were foreign languages, P.E. and Geography, and the only way to study all of them was to attend the faculty of pedagogy. I also participated in some summer camps- I usually led small groups of children and it was awesome, I enjoyed it, so it seemed to me that being a teacher was an excellent choice for me.
It was my first-choice career, so after graduating I started at our school. Oh, I was so happy and excited (that I got the job and that I could live my dream)! I remember how nervous I was during the first days at school, the moments I was standing in front of my students and everybody was looking at me. I also remember my first impressions – they weren´t waiting for my words as a teacher, they were studying my personality; they wanted to know who´s that young guy standing in front of them, if he´s easy going, funny, friendly… that was my first step into the reality. After that, my world started to spin faster and faster – all the documents, curricula, books, laws, duties, supervisions, preparations for the lessons, different activities, and, of course, teaching – tests, exams, materials, books etc… I remember my mum called me “Komensky“ (very famous Czech teacher in the Middle Age) – she saw me when I was in the middle of all the documents. I was writing all the time. She laughed a lot… Yes, that wasn´t the reality I expected, I thought I was going to enter the classroom and teach and with a smile on my face, I would leave the classroom, happy shiny students would wave back and the world would be beautiful. Hmm, my reality was different… my older colleagues told me I should slow down, open my eyes and be openminded… and I knew they were excellent teachers; students mostly loved them; and I said to myself – oh, how did they do it? Okay, I´m supposed to listen to them because I was really depressed… I felt like an old man who absolutely didn´t know what to do, I felt lost and I thought I was going to die…
And? Well, I didn´t… It was a tough time for me, but I accepted the challenge and I did my best to become a great teacher… I started listening to my students. I had a feeling of unworldliness. I slowed down and stopped doing useless things… I focused on the main important topics, on students, on my communication with them, I found out that they are different personalities and they mostly trust me, and that was the most important impulse for me…
Now, the situation is different (I hope)… My students are calm, they usually listen to me, they know I want to help them, they trust me and they know they can ask me whatever they want. They also know that they mustn´t disturb the others in my lessons, they must learn and cooperate, participate in lessons – and they really do… And now I know how to do it – and that´s my know-how, that´s everybody’s know-how, it´s only important to hold on, be patient and – well – become a real teacher…!
Of course, sometimes I was thinking of leaving my profession (and yes, sometimes I still think of it), but then I do something interesting in my professional life – I sometimes find a new challenge, I start a new project etc, and I tell myself – being a teacher is not so bad, actually it´s great… I sometimes feel that the policymakers are not doing what they expect from us – they don´t listen to us, they don´t understand our needs, they just do their job and don´t care about us… and the ministry, their rules, our wages, the social position of teachers – I feel we should stand up and start screaming so loudly so that they will listen to us, see us, respect us, support us…!!!
At the beginning of my career, there was a man behind it, a man who appeared in my life, my former high school teacher, who told me during my first month of work – Hey man, of course, you will be a member of our trade union! You don´t want to be alone in your professional life, do you? And what did I do? I said no, I don´t want to… I trusted him and I was never sorry for that. In following months I met new friends, I became the part of the Young teachers section, I attended some lectures and started to understand what the trade union was – it´s a group of people who understand my professional problems (because they actually have the same problems), who have the same feelings (because they feel the same), who think that we should be united, fight for our future and take care of our social niveau.
I had lots of chances to be at some congresses, understand what bargaining really is, attend some national and international programmes, events etc. As a member of my trade union, I found a new dimension of my career and I´m thankful and grateful for it. I´m trying to motivate other young teachers to be members of the union.
I understand that being united doesn´t mean only words and phrases. It is something necessary who else can fight for our rights? It is not the ministry of education, it´s not the region, it´s only the union. And I´m disappointed when my colleagues don´t understand it… For me, it´s really very easy – I need someone who helps me to fight for my rights. I like to be a part of a group of people with the same problems and joy like me, I want to meet intelligent people, teachers, who can share their experiences with me. So I want to be a part of my union.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.