Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Returner

Theo Willems in his classroom, seated before a makeshift backdrop to have a portrait made for a report in the Dutch newspaper NRC-Handelsblad (Published November 28, 2009)

In the photograph on the left you see a retiree who has returned to his class room. 67 year old geography teacher Theo Willems responded to a programme initiated by Dutch government to alleviate the need for teachers. He returned to the classroom.

The call for teachers

It has been estimated that within a couple of years in Dutch education there will be a shortfall of thousands of teachers. Of course most initiatives which face this problem, target at young people. A new academic minor in education has been piloted for example, an other programme copies the successful British Teach First.

Out of tune?

What struck me in the article in which I found this information was that people interviewed about Theo Willemsen's performance acknowledge the quality of his teaching but nevertheless comment on his style. Students seem to appreciate his use of language, which they find strangely correct and rather formal though, but they regret him being out of touch with their sense of humour. According to the headmaster Willemsen's teaching of course is based on rich experience but, as Willemsen talks a lot in the classroom, he does not epitomize the school's ideal teacher, he could allot more time to independent learning.

What happened?

Willemsen's return to his former job occurs only a couple of years after his retirement. Apparently he must have liked his job all his career and missed the kids at school after his retirement. Now what has happened in education during these two years of retirement to make him seem outmoded, I wonder.

Don't retire!

I am over 60 now, and this little story tells me not to retire at all. They will have to kick me out.

They will do that, shove me out firmly and politely, for unfortunately there will not be a lack of young art teachers at all in the years to come. A flock of young artists now studying at an academy of art will discover after their graduation that the world at large is not very empathetic with their ground-breaking works and that they need a steady income for their bread and butter. They only have to attain a minor in education which is not difficult to come by, it will take only half a year of study and training. In my days it took five years.

I will have to change subject. I will head for a qualification as a maths teacher. :-)

Photograph: © Peter de Krom
Marieke van Twillert, Derk Walters, Gezocht: juffen en meesters, NRC-Handelsblad, 28 November 2009.


Urban School Teacher said...

This is a lovely, well-written and thought-provoking post.

Having said that, my goal is to retire at 55. 55! 55! 55! Please!

Joep said...

Thanks for your comment.
I understand your wish completely.

I do not know how retirement is dealt with in your country.

In the Netherlands every elderly Dutchman gets a paltry state funded retirement fee, which is barely enough to live on. Of course every one has contributed to these national funds for the elderly by paying taxes annually all his life.

Any additional amenity in life has to be provided for by participation in a retirement fund personally, for which you also have to pay monthly all your working life. Or one can choose to invest or save money at one's own risk.

Recently Dutch parliament has agreed to change the retirement age of the working population from 65 into 67. Given the remuneration teachers get for their work no Dutch teacher will be able to save or invest enough money to bridge the gap from 55 to 67, unless he wins a major prize in a lottery.