Relationships of power: exploring teachers' emotions as experienced in interactions with their peers.




Martin, Judith Violet

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Emotions play a significant role in the lives of teachers, especially in their interactions with their workplace peers. This research uses a case study approach to explore this topic through the medium of an asynchronous on-line discussion group. Twelve public school teachers, eight women and four men, from BC, Canada, volunteered to participate anonymously in a 12 week on-line forum. The study was guided by three research questions: 1) How do teachers make sense of their emotional interactions with their peers? 2) How do these understandings change through discussion with a group of peers over 12 weeks? 3) What understandings of the emotional processes of school culture emerge when teachers discuss and reflect on these emotional aspects of their work in a collaborative setting? The participants responded to weekly focus questions and also initiated their own discussion topics. They were introduced to alternative perspectives of emotion, including the social constructionist, feminist, and discursive. They were asked to focus on everyday interactions with their peers and to suggest what the emotions they experienced and observed achieved within the group. They were also encouraged to pay attention to the feeling rules in their staff meetings and to notice which emotions they thought were deemed appropriate to be expressed and which were deemed inappropriate. Initially the participants used a number of strategies based on the individualized and psychological perspectives of emotions to make sense of their interactions. During the discussion group they were able to discuss their interactions in a safe non-judgemental setting and to reinterpret them in light of new information. Competition, patriarchy, and neo-liberal education policies were seen to influence the dynamics of the workplace. Two mechanisms which appeared to link the teachers’ individual, private experiences of emotions with the culture of the school were the use of the words “positive” and “negative” and the norms embedded in the feeling rules of each school. These mechanisms both constrained and allowed the expression of certain emotions, opinions, and points of view in the workplace, thereby highlighting the political role of emotions. Symbolically the forum represented a collective space within an individualized world.



education, emotion, teacher, interaction, peers, asynchronous, on-line, workplace, collectivity, culture, school, feeling rules, norms, competition, patriarchy, positive, negative, staff meetings, social construction, discursive, feminist, collaborative, Canada, BC, process, neo-liberal, politics, individualized, collective, emotional process, experience, public, discussion group, case study