I have been working in the education sector for five years. It is not a long time but it is not a short time either. I have spent a lot of good time teaching students, cooperating with my colleagues and participating in trade union activities - the activities of The Czech and Moravian Trade Union of Workers in Education.
I have become a teacher by a pure chance. Since I was a child, I have wanted to devote my attention to PCs and electronics and some of my first work experience was in this area. However, six years ago I was offered a position as a VET teacher of electronics at a secondary school. As I had some previous experience as a guitar teacher and this offer combined my love for electronics and teamwork, I accepted it. I am glad for this opportunity to work as a teacher. I love to work with students, and I don't know if I ever want to leave this job. I see it as a mission to pass on my knowledge and experience.
After my first year, I was offered a position as the VET electronics lead teacher. Because leadership appealed to me and I was open to this new opportunity, I accepted the offer.
Soon, I began to be interested in trade union activities. There are many things that a teacher has to handle, and he/she should always be happy with his or her private and professional life. At our school though, there were several problems with the management. It was necessary to find a way to protect and support school employees. Together with my colleagues, we established a local branch of the trade union and we learned how to deal effectively with issues related to working conditions. Thanks to these activities, I was elected the leader of the national committee of young unionists. This position gives me an opportunity to meet young teachers from different schools, understand their problems, and support them. I also have had a chance to listen to views of young teachers regarding their work at schools and trade union activities. I would like to share with you some of these views.
Though most young people have neither negative, nor positive opinions on trade unions, they often have misleading and inaccurate information about the unions and their work. That is a pity.
One of the surveys I have carried out with my colleagues from the young trade unionist section has shown that young male teachers consider the insufficient salary to be one of the major shortcomings of working in the education sector. For women teachers, excessive bureaucracy and administration are perceived as the biggest problems. Our trade union is trying to improve the salary situation. Our campaign called #KonecLevnýchUčitelů (#TheEndOfCheapTeachers) and continuous negotiations with the government have proven to be successful. Nevertheless, young teachers do not understand that it is the work of trade unions that is behind these positive changes. They take it as an initiative of the government itself, i.e. they take the progress for granted and many do not care what is going on behind the scene.
It is, therefore, necessary to make sure that trade unions are perceived as partners that help teachers improve their working conditions. Without trade unions, collective agreements could not be concluded, there would be no possibility to deal effectively with problems at work. Everything would be based on the decisions of school directors and the government. The voice of teachers would be silenced.
I remember that, as a beginning teacher, I had to figure out a lot of things myself and did not have complete and accurate information. I believe that many young teachers are in the same situation. I am working with my team of young unionists to raise awareness of trade union activities by distributing leaflets, displaying banners, cooperating with other schools and communicating inside the community of teachers. There are not many young teachers in the Czech Republic. However, if we address them directly at pedagogical faculties and through social networks and provide them with accurate and undistorted information, I believe that union awareness will grow. That should also increase union membership over time. Clear and simple ideas need to be communicated: Trade unions provide support to all teachers. Without trade unions, the work of teachers would be much more difficult.
The theme of World Teachers’ Day 2019 is “Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession.” To mark the occasion, we are launching a mini-series of blogs featuring the voices and experiences of young teachers and Education Support Personnel. This is an opportunity to hear directly from young education professionals and young unionists and discover their stories: what drew them to the profession, the challenges they face and their plans for the future.
If you are a young teacher or Education Support Personnel, or if you recently joined the profession, do not hesitate to contribute to the series and have your voice heard. Please get in touch with Sonia at [email protected].
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.