What's the hardest part about getting older

"The most difficult job in the service sector"

Ulrike Burgwinkel: Is it good like that? Klaus Hurrelmann is Professor of Social and Health Sciences at Bielefeld University. In your opinion, what are the consequences of the high average age of teachers?

Klaus Hurrelmann: Well, that is a service occupation, being a teacher, a high proportion of communication, thousands of contacts every morning, a high proportion of knowledge and information intake, which is also characteristic of this occupation. And I also have to be up to date with technical developments. So these are very, very high demands, and that means the older teachers will certainly have a little harder time than the younger ones to keep up. And for me that means that we have a lot of experience in the colleges. However, we have to make sure that the older teachers are really brought up to do their demanding job justice through good support, supervision and further training.

Burgwinkel: Won't they be at the moment?

Hurrelmann: Well, it cannot be overlooked that there are difficulties. The teachers themselves put this on record in all investigations. The statistics of applications for early retirement also speak a very bitter language. Very few teachers today manage to hold out for up to 65 years. This is a signal that too little has been done, that too little has been invested in maintaining professional and physical skills, not to mention mental health. Because it is such a demanding service, communication and knowledge transfer profession, this psychological side plays a major role. And I have to say critically that the school authorities and the ministries have not paid any attention to it in recent years.

Burgwinkel: What suggestions would you have, Mr Hurrelmann, as far as advanced training or "survival training" for teachers in the classes is concerned?

Hurrelmann: Just as we try very hard below with the newcomers to get them into this new profession, so we must also think with the older ones. A rethink is now required. And for me that means above all that further training for teachers is always in agreement with the wishes of the teachers, this must not be imposed as an obligation, should be binding, but must be coordinated with the teachers. In other words, further training for teachers, in terms of content and method, but also of a technical, communication-related nature - dealing with computers, modern media - is part of the regular program. And a professional supervision at the same time. So experts who are turned off and can tell an older teacher that you've been making the same mistake over and over again for some time now, don't make it, I'll advise you. And here you wear yourself out, here you invest too much, here you invest too little. We need such technical feedback, which is energy-saving, and finally, in my opinion, much more flexible working hours so that older teachers can reduce the lessons and elsewhere in their school or in the school system administratively, organizationally and what do I know , maybe can also be used for the external presentation of the school.

Burgwinkel: In the last issue of "Zeit" I found something that might fit into the canon you just mentioned, namely: Five professorships are advertised in Bielefeld alone for educational sciences, five in Giessen. Would that be a chance too?

Hurrelmann: Oh yes, now the professorships are finally being renewed, so we have the same thing. My generation, I'm over 60 too, until recently made up half of all professors in Germany, including in education. Now the renewal begins, and I fully agree with you, there is a huge chance that new impulses for the initial teacher training will now also be set, with fresh impulses and just taking into account all these specific requirements but not entirely insignificant and not entirely easy demands that this profession brings with it. Today it is probably the most difficult job in the service sector that we have at all, and thinking accordingly, a lot more energy has to be put into initial training and then further training, into supervision than before. We owe that to the students, and of course also to the teachers, who otherwise burn down too early, burn out and be exhausted.