Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Teacher Emotion, Emotional Labor and Teacher Identity

Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Teacher Emotion, Emotional Labor and Teacher Identity

Article excerpt

[I was talking to a] kid last night and I told him about my experiences, my life, and I told him this is one of the hardest jobs I have ever done, being a teacher. And he looked at me and was like, really sir, and I was like yeah I never realized how difficult it is to be teacher. And I think it's because of all those things, those emotions that you deal with. (Mr. Guerrero quoted in Schutz et al., 2012)

1 Introduction

Every year a large number of early career teachers enter classrooms around the world. Like Mr. Guerrero, these early career teachers enter the teaching profession armed with, among other things, their goal to be a teacher, the training they received, and an emerging idea of whom they are as a teacher (Schutz et al, 2001). Unfortunately, there are also a number of reports that suggest that many of those same teachers are leaving the profession at high rates (Achinstein, 2006; Darling-Hammond, 1999; Kersaint et al, 2007; Ulvik et al, 2009). In the USA these reports suggest that nearly 30% to 50% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years (Alliance for Excellent Education 2004; Ingersoll, 2003; Quality Counts 2000). Even more problematic, these attrition rates tend to be higher in schools that serve students of color and English language learners (Jacob, 2007).

A number of researchers are now suggesting the high level of teacher exodus may be related to the emotional nature of the teaching process (see Schutz and Pekrun, 2007; Schutz and Zembylas, 2009). Teaching, among other tilings, involves managing complex emotional classrooms transactions that tend to be even more pressing for novice teachers who are rarely prepared to manage the emotional events that are an endemic part of teaching and working within school contexts. Therefore, it is not surprising that many teachers leave early in their career: some are simply ill equipped to deal with the emotional transactions involved in their profession. As such, this exodus tends to be higher among early career teachers in part because of the potential emotionality of teaching, which may lead to job dissatisfaction, health symptoms, and emotional exhaustion (Jackson et al., 1986; Maslach, 1982; Morris and Feldman, 1996; Schaubroek and Jones, 2000).

Excessive teacher turnover during the first few years is problematic for many reasons. First and foremost, it hurts students. It takes years for teachers to hilly develop their craft and yet too many students (especially our high needs students) repeatedly encounter newer, less prepared, and less knowledgeable teachers. In addition, teacher turnover also results in lost revenue from the cost of professional development for new teachers; it results in the dissolution of relationships with families, the community, and the school; and, finally, high turn over makes long-term educational reform efforts difficult (Schutz et al., 2012). As such, Cowie (2011), who explored how language teachers experience their teaching environment, contended that the emotional aspects in language teaching is important to consider and a key aspect of becoming a successful teacher.

In this chapter we discuss how teachers' emotional experiences and emotional labor associated with those experiences are intimately related to their emerging teacher identities. In addition, we will discuss emotions episodes in the language classroom and how those episodes may influence teachers' identity development and their decisions to stay or leave the profession. Finally we will offer some conclusions regarding teacher emotions.

2 Teacher emotion episodes

Generally researchers suggest that emotional episodes consist of cognitive appraisals, physiological responses, affective feeling, and behavioral tendencies (e.g. Frijda, 2000; Izard, 2007; Russell and Barrett, 1999; Schutz et al, in press; Smith, 1991). Schutz et al., (2006) further elaborated on this view by also emphasizing social and historical aspects that shape an emotional episode. …

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