Only about a third of those interested will be able to study here. At the end of the school year, Botek retires at his own request.
You joined the principal’s office on September 1, 1996. Did you know the school?
For about sixteen years, I have been teaching computer science here as an optional subject. At that time, I worked at Masaryk University in Brno, where I founded the Faculty of Informatics in the early 1970s. All mathematics teachers in South Moravia took my exam. And the Minister of Education Farmers (smile). But I always knew that when the opportunity arose, I would return. I didn’t want to live in Brno.
So did you gain teaching skills in college?
I don’t know where they came from. There were no teachers in the family, but I probably had some preconditions, talent to be interested and organizational skills. When I was teaching at the university for the second year, my head of department, Associate Professor Hořejš, came to my lecture and said at the meeting: “Go see how colleague Botek communicates with students, how interested they are, how they work and how motivation makes his group results.” When I stood in front of 120 students and said something, they listened.
Is it possible to develop such skills, or can only one who has talent be a good teacher?
It is possible, it is not given to everyone from the beginning. Even my deputy came to see me once if he could get another class. That he doesn’t feel good in it doesn’t work because he missed and started badly. But very soon he became an excellent educator, when he enters the class, the students fall silent because they want to learn something from him.
Do you have more such teachers in the church?
I have 77 teachers and 75 of them I would take again. Colleagues try to prove their expertise, to master teaching at the highest possible level. It doesn’t matter to me if they arrive an hour later or if they have a correct entry in the class book. But what happens when they stand in front of students. The basis is to trust the people I have chosen. And of course check. Checking that we’re talking about it, I wonder if what they did in class was a success, how did the students react.
How are such teachers sought?
I have about thirty applications (shows the file is full). In every subject I have candidates who I lead as candidates. We know each other, we meet at Olympics and competitions. And they know that if the place becomes available, I will address them. A colleague recently retired, so we hired a new one. She taught at another school and waited five years. Our graduates come back to us a lot and I always gladly introduce them and say who taught them when they came to us. (smile)
It is logical that a prestigious school attracts students and teachers. But what does it all cost, what was your vision?
I offered a college environment, that I think was the main reason. I came from college and knew what high school graduates wanted there. We give students space and perspective, we work with them, we are trustworthy for them and we do not control them too much. They don’t come to us to graduate from high school, but to prepare for college. This is how we deal with them and direct a lot of energy into career counseling. This is the most progressive activity we do for students. But the school had excellent results before me.
Why career counseling?
It is important that they know where they are going, and we should help them, provide them with information about their opportunities. From the second grade, the class teacher and career counselor get closer to each student to what he would like to do, so that he can then make the right choice in the fourth grade. Twenty percent of undergraduates change faculty or school within two years. That is a fact. We help them not lose those two years. Recently, I was pleased with three of our graduates who discussed with the students here.
He was born in 1951 in Hluk.
After graduating from a military high school in Bratislava, he continued to study mathematics at the Faculty of Science of Masaryk University in Brno.
At the beginning of the 1970s, he founded the Faculty of Informatics here, worked here until 1996 and obtained the titles of Associate Professor, RNDr. and a candidate of science.
He then took over the management of the Uherské Hradiště grammar school, with which he collaborated externally between 1976 and 1992, where he taught computer science courses.
Talk to me.
All three are studying in England and asked if they would do anything different on their educational journey. The answer was one of them: I would choose a more demanding school. This is a joy for teachers to hear. It is very important for students to see older classmates where they have been able to move.
What is your school failure, how many students are leaving or failing?
It’s because you can choose the students you accept with the best study prerequisites and motivation at the same time?
It’s one of the arguments. But we also guarantee that those we have accepted will be able to study.
Do you have feedback on how graduates are doing during further studies?
We’re researching it, but it’s a problem. Such information is difficult to obtain, many universities do not deal with it, but Masaryk University, for example, gives it after two years of study. At that time, an average of 40 percent of those who entered one of their faculties after high school graduate.
But there are grammar schools within the republic that have a better result, and we are one of them. We then divide ourselves into which faculties the students from the graduate year apply to. When we see that they are successful, it gives us the peace of mind that we can work like this.
How do you assess the distance learning that schools have tried during the coronavirus crisis?
It was a crisis option. The teacher could provide teaching materials, commentary, but he could not build on the pupils’ reactions, when, for example, only a part would answer and the rest would need to be explained. It was better than being at home without teaching, but it’s not usable in the long run.
Do you see the difference between students years ago and today?
I wouldn’t say there’s a significant difference. The efforts of a 19-year-old student are similar in 1996 and 2022.
The director of the Uherské Hradiště grammar school, Zdeněk Botek, shows a poster that the students pasted on his study door (March 2022)
In the headquarters, you have a poster that says We love our director. How did you come to him?
I started a program of international exchanges a long time ago, pupils and teachers have experience from the United States, Spain, Austria, Germany and Denmark. Thanks to them, the students found out that they could speak English really well, they got to know a different environment. They were probably most shocked that American students stood with their hands on their hearts every morning and listened to the anthem. The teachers found out again that we were not doing anything wrong. I once suggested shortening the breaks, following the American model, so that students could go home earlier. The next day I had them here with the banners “We don’t want America here.” And then this poster appeared on my headquarters door.
This is a nice moment.
There were a lot of them. It is worth working with children like this. We had about a hundred of them in the mountains this year, we also offered ski courses to those who escaped due to coronavirus. And this came from me (it shows an SMS message on my mobile phone with thanks from the students and the assurance that they have snow and everyone is fine, as well as videos from the evening sitting with the guitar). The most positive thing is that these people want to work with me and are happy to be here. But there were also difficult moments. I was most struck when in 2012 the graduate jumped out of the window after a failed exam.
I remember it. Did he not give any signals in advance?
He had no problems studying, there was no indication that he would react in this way. After the exam, he went to the teachers to see if he could fix it right away, but the result of the graduation exam cannot be changed. Then he went to the third floor and jumped. I was thinking a lot about how we could have prevented it.